Georgia Senate Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, is refusing to say much about why he and other members of the Senate Committee on Administrative Affairs paid $80,500 in public funds — tax-dollars — to settle a racial bias lawsuit against one of their colleagues in the Legislature. Neither he nor anyone else on the committee is willing to give up the name of the individual who has cost Georgians a small fortune or give up any detail of what prompted the suit.
To put it bluntly, it’s none of the public’s business. Taxpayers do not have to know why they had to fork over $80,500. It might be their money, but tough. Take a hike.
Those are not the words Williams used when asked why he refused to disclose details of the lawsuit or divulge the name of the individual who is costing taxpayers. He simply stated that the check and the name of the offender are not covered by the state’s Sunshine Laws, and because they are exempt, the Senate can keep it a secret.
Really? Our money but not our business? Really?
There’s little doubt legislators have written and passed exemptions to protect themselves from having to reveal embarrassing moments and unlawful acts. They certainly hide behind them enough.
Most can remember the days when Republicans chastised Democrats — when Democrats were the majority party in the Legislature — for keeping secrets. Now, here are the Republicans, the new majority party, doing exactly what they once criticized Democrats for doing.
It was not right back then, and it’s not right now, regardless of how many laws members of the state House and Senate write and pass saying it is. They are public figures using public funds, and that makes them and what they do the public’s business.
Republicans used to claim to be the party of openness. Either voters failed to read the fine print to that claim or the political party’s definition of openness is whatever suits it at the time.
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