Funny how these things tend to lump together.
Back in 2002, the State Ethic's Commission fined then-state Sen. Charles Walker $8,500 for failing to disclose his company's business ties to two state-run hospitals. At the time, that was the largest ethics fine in state history.
Tim Shelnut smashed that record last week.
After admitting making campaign donations in excess of state limits, and to giving money to pass through shadow donors to campaigns, Shelnut was hit with a $40,000 fine by the ethics commission.
It's a new record for ethics fines. I suppose Shelnut now gets a plaque in the Hall of Shame or something.
Here's the knotty part: Much of Shelnut's excess donations were to Linda Schrenko, the former state school superintendent who went to federal prison for stealing state money and using it to run for governor. And the shadow donations were from Shelnut to former state Rep. Sue Burmeister, who passed them along to Schrenko.
But many of Shelnut's donations, back in the days when he had extra money to throw around, also went to Charles Walker.
Walker, of course, is now in federal prison, his case rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Schrenko also is in the federal pen. Burmeister, who no longer is in office, won her first race by beating Robin Williams - himself a recipient of Shelnut donations, and an inmate in the same federal prison as Walker.
Got all that? Man, Sir Walter Scott had it right: "What a tangled web we weave."
Shelnut - who owned this paper 10 years ago - also says he gave more money than he should have to Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength, who denies knowing about the alleged donations.
Carey charts course
Schrenko rose to superintendent after leaving Columbia County as a principal.
There's another school superintendent who came from Columbia County - but unlike Schrenko has done well.
Carole Jean Carey became superintendent of Warren County schools after leaving Columbia County's central office. Since then, she's done a remarkable job there.
Warren County schools now have earned the distinction of becoming the first charter-school system in Georgia.
There are a few charter schools across the state, of course, and the Legislature this past session approved Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's plan to make it easier for charter schools to win approval.
But Warren County is the first charter system, meaning that in return for specific promises of accountability, all of its schools will have more leeway in spending state and local funds.
If anyone can make it work, Carole Jean can. Best of luck to her.
Carole Jean and her husband, Dewey, live in Appling. He's a former Columbia County school administrator and now is principal of Washington County High School.
Why we need 'em
Cagle, by the way, acquitted himself well in Columbia County last week. He popped in for the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Post-Legislative Breakfast, reviewed deputies at the sheriff's office Evans substation, and held a town hall meeting geared toward local officials.
And that was all before lunch.
Each member of Columbia County's legislative delegation mentioned tax reform and its failure during their brief comments at Thursday's breakfast. But Cagle, whose plan to cut income taxes went no further this past session than his House speaker rival's plan to cut ad valorem taxes, stayed away from the topic.
State Sen. Bill Jackson best explained the difficulty in negotiating between the governor and the two houses of the Legislature: "If it was all easy," he told the Chamber members, "you wouldn't need us."
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106.)
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