An ethics complaint has been filed against Gwinnett DA candidate Patsy Austin-Gatson by, of all people, Danny Porter the current Gwinnett County DA, who is running for reelection.
Austin-Gatson responded predictably claiming, “I think these allegations are a sign of desperation from Mr. Porter because he knows the handwriting’s on the wall.” That’s a valid statement, but the handwriting she’s referring to isn’t what many Gwinnett County residents are seeing. That handwriting tells a tale of what appears to be a surreptitious Democrat plot to take over all aspects of Gwinnett County government. Emboldened by Brian Whiteside’s defeat of long-serving county solicitor Rosanna Szabo, a group of candidates appear to have been working and scheming together. Whiteside has been seen in public on numerous occasions with an entourage that included Curtis Clemons, (former candidate for Sheriff) Derrick Wilson (former candidate for District 3 commissioner) , Austin-Gatson and other candidates. (Clemons and Wilson both lost in runoffs).
There’s certainly nothing nefarious about a group of candidates hanging out together, but actions, interactions and social media activity all point to an apparent coordinated takeover scheme and more to the point, possible unethical behavior.
Viewed in that context, Porter’s ethics complaint may have more merit than is immediately apparent. According to Randy Travis’ Fox-5 report , Porter stated, “You’ve got to ask yourself what was going on in the Solicitor’s Office because this seems to be a pattern of conduct that goes on in that office”.
In this case, Porter was referencing one-time Gwinnett County sheriff’s candidate Curtis Clemons who Porter claims also used county equipment for his campaign and “asked county employees for word processing assistance in creating, editing and printing campaign material on county computers.” Clemons is a part-time investigator in the Solicitor’s Office.
As for Austin-Gatson, according to Porter’s complaint, she “created, edited and printed campaign material on county-owned computers and printers during business hours” and also made fundraising calls during regular working hours. Further, Porter’s complaint states that investigators from the Solicitor’s Office were seen taking Austin-Gatson campaign signs from the trunk of a county vehicle and placing them along Sugarloaf Parkway. (Keep in mind that Clemons and Austin-Gatson’s husband are both employees of the Solicitor’s office.)
Randy Travis’ Fox-5 report also states, “according to a written statement from Hall County investigator Andrew Ledbetter, Austin-Gatson’s husband Travis – also a Gwinnett Solicitor’s Office employee — traveled to Hall County to apply for a search warrant in a case that crossed the county line.
“During the application before the judge, the ethics complaint alleges the candidate’s husband handed out campaign cards with his wife’s picture to “everyone in the courtroom.”
Referring to Travis Gatson, the Hall County investigator noted, “He stated it was time for Danny to go and change was needed in that office“, and that “Gatson stated that they could use all the support they could get.”
For her part, Austin-Gatson either denies any wrongdoing and downplays her husband’s actions as simply being a result of his being overzealous. that sounds good, but flies in the face of the statements made by the Hall County investigator.
The Ethics Commission has thus far said only that it has received the complaint and based on the allegations agreed to start an investigation. The fact that the Commission members are investigating indicates they think there’s merit to Porter’s complaint.