• Ethics investigations ramping back up after director's resignation for allegedly watching porn

    By: Richard Belcher

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - The chairman of the state ethics commission says he hopes misconduct accusations against the commission's former executive director will not hurt the commission’s reputation.

    Chairman Jake Evans told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher that the commission is now moving forward to investigate ethics complaints that had been slowed down.

    When Channel 2 Action News and our investigative partners at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the story that the director of the state ethics commission was, himself, the target of complaints, with much of the attention focused on the accusation that Stefan Ritter was watching porn on state computers.

    But far more damaging was the charge that Ritter intentionally obstructed investigations.

    On Friday, the commission interviewed nine candidates who want to replace Ritter. Belcher spoke with Evans before that meeting.


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    “Do you think the (commission’s) reputation is damaged in the long term?” Belcher asked Evans.

    “I hope not,” Evans said.  

    Ritter was placed on paid leave then resigned after accusations that he'd spent time watching pornography on state computers.

    Among those filing formal accusations against Ritter were deputy directors Robert Lane and Bethany Whetzel.

    Both accused Ritter of intentionally holding up an investigation into the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams or related groups supporting her campaign.

    In her complaint, Whetzel wrote: “Mr. Ritter was visibly disappointed that the violations we uncovered related to the Abrams campaign and directed us not to proceed.”

    Lane wrote that Ritter ordered work to stop on the Abrams investigation because “Abrams was going to be the next governor."

    Lane and Whetzel also charged that Ritter slowed investigations of unnamed Atlanta mayoral campaigns.

    “All of our investigation notes are out to the public, so I’ll let the public evaluate. I think that some of the investigation findings did confirm that some of that did take place,” Evans said.

    “Is everything that needs to be investigated being investigated?” Belcher asked Evans. 

    “Yes, absolutely, and the cases that will be investigated and that have merit we'll pursue going forward as far as prosecuting, and they'll likely go before the commission,” Evans said. 

    In a letter to the commission before Ritter accepted a $45,000 settlement, Ritter's attorney charge that unnamed “persons would prefer a more lenient enforcement of campaign disclosure and ethics laws."  

    In other words, Ritter claimed he wasn't the one slowing things down. Evans would only say all cases are active.

    The commission expects to name a new director sometime next week.

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