Gwinnett’s New “Good Ol’ Boys” Network

AJC file photo

Referring to Gwinnett County solicitor Brian Whiteside, GND’s article covering the ethics complaint filed against District Attorney candidate Patsy Austin-Gatson stated, “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).”

On Thursday of this week, the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission (formerly known as the Georgia Ethics Commission) announced that it was investigating Whiteside for failing to file financial reports for the past two years.

Whiteside claims that he filed the required reports in handwritten form (as opposed to electronically) and filed them with the county, and that the county simply had not forwarded them on to the state. That’s a reasonable explanation, but in the Facebook post where he explained things, he also stated, “There were no unethical acts by PATSY GATSON or CURTIS CLEMONS . I will provide actual evidence to prove the allegations are false to the public, as they deserve the truth. This evidence will be published soon.”

The existing ethics investigation into Whiteside has nothing to do with Austin-Gatson and Clemons, but it may indicate the need for a new investigation of Whiteside. How will he be able to publish evidence without using public resources for private purposes? Clemons and Austin-Gatson are both employed by the Solicitor’s office, so how is Whiteside’s publishing of evidence not an ethics, and possibly a criminal violation?

As private citizens running for political office, any potentially unethical political activities by Clemons and Austin-Gatson are outside the purview of the solicitor’s office, which deals only with misdemeanors. According to the Gwinnett County courts web site, “Misdemeanors may also include property crimes, for example; criminal trespass, criminal damage to property (less than $1500), theft by taking (less than $1500) and theft by shoplifting (less than $500). Traffic violations bound over from Recorder’s or Municipal Courts for jury trials may also be prosecuted in State Court, including, but not limited to; driving under the influence, reckless driving, fleeing and attempting to elude, hit and run, and any other moving, tag, or license violations.

Whiteside is apparently knee-deep in defending his political allies. While he could claim that he is taking no part in defending his friends, and is simply stating information that was gathered by other people, such a statement would have no credibility- especially when he has stated, “I will provide actual evidence to prove the allegations are false…” (“I” being the operative term.)

Whiteside will undoubtedly come up with an explanation that denies any wrong-doing and claim that he gathered evidence on his own time without using county resources, or was given the information by someone else. That will be extremely difficult to believe. On the other hand, it’s easy to believe that Gwinnett County has a new “good ol’ boys” network that’s hard at work covering for its members.