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Dec. 13 – EXCLUSIVE: Simons Agrees to Findings of Being Unregistered Lobbyist; Agrees to pay $15,100 in fines

By Lou Phelps, Dublin Business Journal

December 13, 2017 – In what is believed to be one of the largest fines ever levied against a lobbyist in the State of Georgia, David C. Simons of Savannah, a political consultant for many of Georgia's elected officials, and a paid lobbyist for large corporations, has acknowledged guilt to a number of complaints brought against him by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

After a three-year investigation and legal process, Simons and his legal representatives reached an agreement on Monday with the Commission, in advance of a scheduled public hearing that was scheduled for tomorrow, Thurs. Dec. 14.  The Commission will vote at 10:00 a.m. on whether to accept the negotiated terms of the agreement. 

The Commission found that Simons violated the Georgia  Government Transparency  and Campaign  Finance Act  in a number of areas, particularly relative to his work for Rives Worrell construction company, based on an initial complaint filed by John Clinton Murphy on May 6, 2014 and amended by the Commission on July 12, 2017.

Under Georgia law, all lobbyists who engage in lobbying activity, which is defined as "[t]he activity of a lobbyist while acting in that capacity" are required to register with the Commission prior to engaging in any lobbying activity. O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-70(4) and 21-5-71. Moreover, the Act clearly prohibits lobbyists from engaging in lobbying activities until such time as they have registered  with the Commission as a lobbyist, and are required to publically disclose their lobbying expenditures through regular and public disclosures pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-5-73.

In total, Simons will pay $15,100 over a two-year period, and can immediately register as a lobbyist and continue to work in that field. No violations were brought against for his work as a political consultant.

While 38 complaints were brought against him in total, he has agreed to the following findings:

1. Failed to register in calendar year 2014 as a lobbyist for Elkins Constructors and failed to disclose lobbying expenditures in the amount of $1,051.57 in violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014).

2.  Failed to register as a lobbyist for Rives Worrell and failed to disclose lobbying expenditures in the amount of $400.68 in violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a)(2) and 2 l-5-73(d)(3) (2014).

3.  Failed to register in calendar year 2013 as a lobbyist for Elkins Constructors and failed to disclose lobbying expenditures in the amount of $715.58 in violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-71(a), 21-5- 71(5)(0),  21-5-71(5)(E), 21-5-71(5)(0), and 21-5-73(d) (2013).

4.  Failed to register in calendar year 2013 as a lobbyist for Rives Worrell and failed to disclose lohbying expenditures in the amount of $931.02 in violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-71 (a), 21-5- 71(5)(0), 21-5-71(5)(E), 21-5-71(5)(0), and  21-5-73(d) (2013).

5.  Failed to file a lobbyist disclosure report in May 2014 related to his lobbying expenditures which were reportable on said disclosure in violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014).

6.  Failed to file a lobbyist disclosure report in September 2014 related to his lobbying expenditures which were reportable on said disclosure in violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a)(2) and 21-5- 73(d)(3) (2014).

7.   Failed to file a lobbyist disclosure report in November 2014 related to his lobbying expenditures which were reportable on said disclosure in violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2) and 21-5- 73(d)(3) (2014).

8.  Failed to file a lobbyist disclosure report in May 2013 related to his lobbying expenditures which were reportable on said disclosure in violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2013).

9.  Failed to file a lobbyist disclosure report in May 2012 related to his lobbying expenditures which were reportable on said disclosure in violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2013), and

l 0. Failed to file a lobbyist disclosure report in September 2012 related to his lobbying expenditures which were reportable on said disclosure in violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a)(2) and 21-5- 73(d)(3) (2012).

How the Penalities were Assessed

“In resolving this matter, Respondent hereby agrees to the following:

1.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $1,000.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2), and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014) as detailed supra in Conclusion of Law No. 1.

2.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $1,000.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2), and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014) as detailed supra in Conclusion of LawNo.-2.

3.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $1,000.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a), 21-5-71(5)(0), 21-5-71(5)(E), and 21-5-71(5)(0), 21-5-73(q) (2013) as detailed supra in Conclusion of Law No. 3.

4.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of$ l,000.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a), 21-5-71(5)(0), 21-5-71(5)(E), 21-5-71(5)(0), and 21-5-73(d) (2013) as detailed supra in Conclusion of Law No. 4.

5.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty  in the amount of $100.00 to the Commission  for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014)  as  detailed  supra in  Conclusion  of Law No. 5.

6. Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $100.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014) as detailed supra in Conclusion of Law No. 6.

7.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $100.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014) as detailed supra in Conclusion of Law No. 7.

8.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $100.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014) as detailed supra in Conclusion of Law No. 8.

9.  Respondent will pay a civil  penalty  in the amount of $100.00 to the Commission  for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-7l(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014)  as detailed  supra in  Conclusion  of Law No. 9.

10.  Respondent will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $100.00 to the Commission for violation of O.C.O.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2) and 21-5-73(d)(3) (2014) as detailed supra in Conclusion of Law No. 10.

11.  Respondent  will also pay $10,500.00 in filing  late fees to the Commission.  

“Respondent agrees to pay the above $15,100.00 in civil penalties and late fees detailed supra to the Commission in twenty-four (24) equal monthly instalments  of $629.17  which shall  commence  on January  1, 2018, and continue on the 1st  of each month  thereafter  until  the  balance  is paid  in full. Said $15,100.00  civil penalty and late fee balance will not be subject to the assessment  of interest, unless  Respondent  defaults on this agreement at which time statutory interest pursuant  to O.C.G.A.  § 7-4-12 shall accrue instanter. 

“During the pendency of this payment plan, there shall be no-prepayment penalty associated with advanced payments made by or on behalf of Respondent. However, in the event that the Respondent  is more than  15 days past due on any payment under the terms of this agreement, the outstanding  balance, less  payments  already  made by Respondent will be accelerated and the Commission may demand full payment of said outstanding balance within  thirty (30) days from the date of its Demand  and Notice of Acceleration  to  Respondent. 

“Respondent also agrees that Exhibits 1 and 2, which are attached hereto and incorporate herein by reference and fully restated as if set forth herein, represent the lobbying expenditures that were made by him on behalf of his clients, Elkins and Rives Worrell, during calendar years 2011 through 2015. This Consent Order shall serve as the Respondent's original and/or amended lobbyist disclosure reports that would be due for calendar years 2011 through 2015 pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-5-73.

During the pendency of this Order, the Respondent shall be permitted to register as a lobbyist with the Commission provided  that  Respondent  meets the statutory  requirements  to  become  a  lobbyist  pursuant to O.C.G.A.§§ 21-5-71 and 21-5-73, and is not otherwise in contempt and/or default of this Order. In the event that the Respondent defaults and/or is found in contempt of any provision of this Order, his lobbyist registration(s) shall be suspended instanter without further regulatory and/or judicial proceedings by the Commission pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-5-73. Respondent, in the event of default or contempt, may reinstate his lobbyist registration(s) by purging himself of contempt and/or resuming total compliance with the terms of this Order.

“Any and all other allegations raised against Respondent in this Complaint are deemed to be unactionable or otherwise unfounded under the terms of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act and are hereby withdrawn and shall stand dismissed.

“Respondent further agrees not to commit any further violations of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act and corresponding Commission Rules.

“Respondent represents that the foregoing findings of fact are true, agrees with the conclusions of law, and further agrees to abide by all terms of this Order. By signing this Order, Respondent waives any right to appeal pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), O.C.G.A. § 50-13-1 et. seq.

“Failure to comply with the terms herein, absent a showing of good faith, will constitute a willful and knowing violation of said terms by Respondent. Respondent's failure to comply with said terms shall constitute a breach of this agreement and thereby authorize the Commission to seek enforcement and/or collection of this order by subsequent contempt or other proceedings against the Respondent in the Superior Court for the State of Georgia. The parties agree that all costs and attorneys' fees incurred by the Commission in any enforcement action shall be assessed against Respondent pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 2l-5-6(b)(l4)(C)(iv).

The Commission’s FINDINGS OF FACT

In the proposed settlement agreement, the Commission states that Simons “was a candidate for the presidency of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System during the 2014 general election cycle and, therefore, is subject to the jurisdiction and venue of this Commission. Additionally, Respondent, at all times relevant to the issues raised in this case was either a registered lobbyist with the Commission or engaging in lobbying activities which would subject the Respondent to regulation by the Commission, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-5-70 et seq., thus also subjecting the Respondent to the jurisdiction and venue of this Commission.”

“At the time of the alleged violations set forth in the Complaint, Respondent was a declared candidate for elective public office who was required to regularly report the amount(s) and source(s) of his campaign contribution(s) as well as the end recipient(s) and sum(s) of his campaign expenditures through the filing of periodic Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports (hereinafter, "CCDR") pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-5-34. In this case, Respondent timely filed his campaign's CCDR disclosures and all of the Respondent's campaign contributions and campaign expenditures were properly reported as contemplated by the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act (hereinafter, "Act").

The Complaint alleges that over a five-year period, Respondent was a retained lobbyist for Elkins Constructors, Inc. (hereinafter, "Elkins") and Rives Worrell, Inc. (a.k.a. JE Dunn Construction Company) (hereinafter, "Rives Worrell"). With respect to the Respondent's efforts to engage in the practice of lobbying as contemplated by O.C.G.A. § 21-5-70(4), the Commission alleged that Respondent failed to register as a lobbyist for Elkins and Rives Worrell during calendar years 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011, a violation of O.C.G.A. §§ 21-5-71(a)(2), 21-5-73(d)(3), et seq.2

“Respondent filed his Declaration of Intention to Accept Campaign Contributions on or about January 14, 2014, and qualified for election to the presidency of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System on March 3, 2014.

“The Complaint also alleges that during the same five-year period referenced above, Respondent failed to file lobbyist disclosure reports which would detail his lobbying expenditures, as defined by O.C.G.A. § 21-5- 70(4.1), which were made on behalf of his client's Elkins and Rives Worrel l.

“With respect the allegations that Respondent failed to register as a lobbyist for Elkins and Rives Worrell, the Commission finds that Respondent was in fact a retained lobbyist who made lobbying expenditures for said entities during calendar years 2014 and 2013. As such, Respondent was under a duty to register as a lobbyist for said entities prior to engaging in lobbying activities as defined by the Act during those years; however, Respondent failed to register as a lobbyist in violation of the Act.

“With respect to the allegations that Respondent failed to file his lobbyist disclosure reports and thereby failed to disclose his lobbying expenditures, the Commission finds that Respondent, as a registered lobbyist, made numerous lobbying expenditures while acting as a lobbyist and thus was under a duty to publically disclose his lobbying expenditures pursuant to the Act through the filing of regular and publically disclosed lobbyist disclosure reports.”

Comment (0) Hits: 347

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