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Nine Lawyers in Running to Head State Ethics Commission

(Photo: fizkes/Shutterstock.com)

Nine Georgia lawyers are in contention to become the new head of the state ethics commission.

The four-person commission, formally known as the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, has moved to replace former Executive Secretary Stefan Ritter, who resigned Feb. 8 following a six-week suspension and an internal investigation prompted by three formal complaints against him. The post pays $181,000 a year.

The investigation leading to Ritter’s departure stemmed from the discovery of hundreds of pornographic images on his state-issued computer, according to the complaints released in response to an open records request.

Those complaints also accused Ritter of squelching ethics inquiries of several 2018 Atlanta mayoral candidates and possible campaign violations by a gubernatorial campaign.

The four-member commission will interview candidates to replace Ritter at a special meeting on March 8.  The candidates include the commission’s current deputy executive secretary, three prosecutors and a county attorney, among others.

The commission collects campaign finance reports and financial disclosure reports for state and local public officials, candidates for public office and campaign and noncampaign political action committees.

It also collects lobbyist disclosure reports and has authority to investigate potential campaign finance violations.

The commissioners include chairman Jake Evans, an attorney at Atlanta’s Holland & Knight; Allen Yee, senior counsel at The Coca-Cola Co.; Eric Barnum, a partner at the Atlanta office of BakerHostetler; and James Kreyenbuhl, a partner at Brennan Harris & Rominger in Savannah.

“Many great candidates have applied for the executive secretary opening, and we are excited for the interviews,” Evans said Thursday. “We are optimistic for the future of the commission, and look forward to naming a new executive secretary soon.”

The candidates include:

  • Judd T. Drake, county attorney for the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government. Drake also was appointed in December 2017 to serve as interim county manager after former county manager Dale Walker abruptly resigned.
  • David H. Emadi, chief assistant district attorney of Douglas County (where he has been a county prosecutor for nearly seven years) and president of the Douglas County Bar Association.
  • James M. Knox, general counsel and chief ethics officer of the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, which supervises the state’s adult and juvenile criminal offenders, including parolees and probationers.
  • Matthew C. Krull, former Douglas County solicitor general who lost the midterm election to Democratic opponent Sonya Compton. He is president of the Georgia Association of Solicitor-Generals
  • Robert S. Lane, deputy executive secretary of the Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission.
  • Tracy Graham Lawson, Clayton County district attorney, serving her third term since 2008.
  • Jennifer W. McNeely, staff attorney at the Georgia Court of Appeals who has also worked for former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s executive counsel and for former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s legislative office.
  • Michael J. Sullivan, director of the Office of Campaign & Political Finance in Boston.
  • Mark W. Wortham, a partner at Hall Booth Smith in Atlanta, who has served as a special assistant attorney general and whose private practice has focused on defending nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.