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By Jim Tharpe July 5, 2010

Financial disclosure becomes an issue in the Democratic race for secretary of state

The race for the Democratic nomination for Georgia’s next secretary of state has turned downright ugly.

A June 27 debate on Georgia Public Broadcasting between the five Democratic candidates seeking the party’s nomination turned into little more than a prime-time mudslinging. The debate was sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.

State Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Jonesboro) quickly found herself on the defensive when she was accused of not filing a personal financial disclosure report as required by the state Ethics Commission.

Challenger Gary Horlacher alleged Buckner had not filed within the seven days required after she qualified to run for statewide office. Buckner, a 18-year veteran of the state Legislature, shot back that she had. Buckner was in the state House of Representatives 16 years and has served two in the state Senate.

"I have filed every disclosure that has ever been required," she said.

So who’s right?

Horlacher, a metro Atlanta attorney, said Buckner was required to file a personal financial disclosure report within seven days after she qualified to run for secretary of state. But the only disclosure she filed was back in January, before she qualified to run for statewide office. She qualified to run for secretary of state in April.

The state Ethics Commission Web site has this to say about the required filing:

"A Personal Financial Disclosure Statement covering the period of the preceding calendar year shall be filed no later than the fifteenth day following the date of qualifying as a candidate. Candidates for statewide office file not later than seven days after qualifying for office. Only one Personal Financial Disclosure Statement is required per calendar year."

That seems clear-cut. But not so much in this case, according to Stacey Kalberman,  executive secretary for the Ethics Commission.

Kalberman said Buckner filed a "statewide form" earlier this year that effectively covers her subsequent decision to run for secretary of state. That fulfills the Ethics Commission’s requirements, Kalberman said.

"She filed a statewide form in January, so she’s good," Kalberman said.

A check of the Ethics Commission’s Web site shows Buckner electronically filed the form on Jan. 8 at 8:04 p.m. It lists everything from Buckner’s salary, to the value of her home and vehicles.

Horlacher said he still thinks Buckner has violated the letter and intent of the filing requirement. And he vowed not to drop the issue.

"I am down to deciding whether to formally request an advisory opinion from the [Ethics] Commission," he said. "I think the state might be better off just to get clarification on this so it is not repeated."

But as of now, Buckner appears to have done what is required of her. We give her a rating of True on this one.

Our Sources

Ethics Commission website

Candidate listing for SOS Personal Financial Disclosures

Atlanta Press Club/GPB debate

Ga Code section: 21-5-50 (c) (1)

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Financial disclosure becomes an issue in the Democratic race for secretary of state

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