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Williams denies knowledge of probe, officials disagree

POSTED: June 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Rep. Al Williams

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State Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway), in the midst of a 30-day deadline to settle sanctions for alleged campaign finance violations, said he had no idea he was under investigation in a recent interview with the Florida Times-Union.
Williams has ignored requests from local media to discuss the current charges being waged against him by the State Ethics Commission, which contends the lawmaker misused campaign funds and failed to fully disclose campaign contributions and personal finances.
But in an interview given to the Times-Union published Friday, Williams said he had not received any information regarding the allegations.
"All I've heard is what the press has reported," Williams said, adding he would not comment on the allegations ahead of receiving the information from the ethics commission.
State ethics officials and documents obtained by the Courier Monday tell a different story, however.
"That's just not true," State Ethics Commission Executive Secretary Rick Thompson said of Williams' claim he was unaware of the investigation. "He signed for notices or one of his representatives signed for notices and he has spoken to several of my staff members regarding the issues that we're looking into."
Records show the ethics commission began investigating Williams in January when staffers filed a probable cause notice after finding discrepancies in the reporting of his campaign contribution disclosure reports dating back to 2003.
Staffers stated in the notice Williams "failed to file and is currently delinquent" in reporting a December 2003 and June 2005 disclosure report to the Secretary of State's office and "failed to file notarized affidavits" for disclosure reports in March 2006, June 2006, June 2007 and December 2007.
He also "failed to file personal financial disclosure statements for calendar years 2004 and 2006."
Furthermore, commission workers discovered the lawmaker owed late filing fees to the Secretary of State for a June 2003 report and Liberty County for a June 2005 report in an amount totaling $425.
The commission used these findings to launch an investigation into Williams' campaign finances and in April sent two certified letters, which were signed for by a family member, to the lawmaker's Midway home alerting him of investigators' conclusions.
Those conclusions include alleging Williams used campaign funds for personal use, failed to disclose 11 campaign contributions totaling $5,650 and neglected to tell the state about real-estate interests and fiduciary positions he held in 2004 and 2006.
One charge in particular accuses Williams of spending $4,200 worth of campaign contributions on mileage to fulfill his legislative duties, while receiving $1,164 in mileage reimbursements from the Georgia General Assembly. Commission staff said Williams claimed he travels about 45,000 miles a year to perform his official duties.
The commission also claims the three-term representative underreported one campaign contribution by $250 and did not provide required information in campaign contribution reports.
Williams was given 30 days to reach a settlement with the ethics commission on these charges on May 22.
Repeated attempts have been made to contact Williams by phone and e-mail. He has not responded to requests for comment on the ethics probe.
The ethics fallout is the most recent in a chain of bad publicity for the local lawmaker. Reports earlier this month said Williams missed a high number of roll call votes during this year's session. He said most of them came on the next to last day, which he missed because of an allergic reaction.
And recently, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Williams' dispute over unpaid taxes continues. The paper says the state is contending Williams owes more than $180,000 in back taxes. The Georgia Department of Revenue has been garnishing his legislative paycheck since October 2006 to collect on the back taxes.
 

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