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Williams reported still delinquent on taxes
Al Williams Office 1
State Rep. Al Williams works in his Atlanta office. - photo by Courier file photo

ATLANTA — Three Georgia lawmakers could face sanctions for failing to pay their state taxes under a new law that gave ethics officials power to investigate and penalize delinquent legislators.
The three House lawmakers are the only legislators remaining from an original list of 22 lawmakers — about 10 percent of the General Assembly — who were tardy on the taxes.
The names of the lawmakers on the list were not revealed, and they have been redacted from a state report. But two of them — state Reps. Al Williams and Roberta Abdul Salaam — were made public in a separate report because their wages have been garnished.

State records show Williams could owe at least $70,000, but he said the last notice he received said he owed more than $40,000. The Midway Democrat said he is confident the issue "will be resolved in a short period of time."
"It's been much too long and I'm not happy about it, but I would have been more than happy a long time ago to work out the situation," he said.
Abdul-Salaam, D-Riverdale, did not return several phone calls. Her wages had been garnished to satisfy a $646 lien filed by the state in 2001, and records show she faces a separate lien of more than $14,000.
State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said Monday other House legislators on the list were cleared. Sen. Eric Johnson, who chairs his chamber's ethics panel, also said the three senators on the list have resolved their issues.
"The system works," said Johnson, who sponsored the new law. "It's unfortunate that the threat of exposure was necessary to accomplish that goal, but it exposed it."
The measure gives lawmakers who have failed to pay their taxes 30 days to correct the problem. If they fail to do so, Georgia's revenue commissioner must report the names to the House and Senate ethics committees. The panels could then investigate and punish the lawmakers.
Wilkinson said the House ethics panel will now decide if the three remaining legislators are working to satisfy their tax filings and recommend a penalty. The panel is scheduled to meet next week, but he said the meeting will likely be delayed due to scheduling conflicts.
"It's been a very long process because this hasn't been done before," said Wilkinson, a Sandy Springs Republican. "We're setting precedent and I'm being very careful, very cautious in acknowledging the taxpayers' right to privacy and their public roles."
Both Wilkinson and Johnson said the measure, passed in April, needs some tweaks. Johnson, a Republican who is running for governor, said he would support an expansion of the law to include all local elected officials.
"I believe that the politicians that tell you to pay your taxes should pay theirs," he said.
And Wilkinson said he wants a stricter set of penalties by the 2010 election that would bar lawmakers who have not filed their taxes from voting and even taking their seat in the House.
"We're hearing about this all over the state, and we're working on the appropriate way to deal with the situation in the future," he said. "We are all outraged."

Editor's note: The Morris News Service reported Tuesday that Al Williams had said Monday he owes the state $600. A phone call to Williams Tuesday from the Courier was not returned by our deadline.

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