5:26 p.m.: ADDS comments by senior staff attorney Steven C. Knittel

The Georgia State Ethics Commission will not hear the case of Clayton County District 3 Commissioner until at least September. This is the second delay in Franklin’s case, which involves allegations that she spent campaign funds on personal purchases.

The case does not appear on the published agenda for the June 26 meeting:

Attorney Kathryn Powers confirmed that she is representing Franklin before the commission and that the case would not be heard at Monday’s quarterly meeting. She was not able to comment further on the status of the case.

Steven C. Knittel, the commission’s senior staff attorney who is handling the case, explained the continuance was “not unusual.”

“Attorneys on both sides of a case will want to complete the discovery process, which can include such things as written discovery and document production among other items, before a case is ready for a either a hearing or settlement,” Knittel told The Clayton Crescent in an e-mail Friday afternoon. “I agree with Ms. Powers that Commissioner Franklin’s case won’t come up until at least September’s meeting based upon the ongoing discovery process both sides are engaging in at this time. So, given that ongoing discovery, the parties agreed to a continuance.”

The complaint before the board alleges that Franklin did not file her Personal Financial Disclosure in 2021, which would cover her 2020 reelection campaign; that she did not report her interest in real estate worth $5,000 or more in 2020 and 2021; that she accepted $3,950 in unreported campaign donations in January 2020; and that she spent $16,809.41 in campaign funds on items that were neither “necessary” nor “ordinary. Some of those transactions included payments to a nail salon, restaurants, a limousine company, and numerous CashApp transfers. Franklin did not respond to previous requests for comment on the allegations.

In a separate matter, Franklin also had several property liens for state taxes on her home. Since The Clayton Crescent broke the story last month, Franklin apparently has resolved at least some of her back taxes with the Georgia Department of Revenue.

However, Franklin had signed an affidavit of candidacy on March 4, 2020 in order to run for reelection, stating under criminal penalty that she did not owe the State of Georgia any money at that time.

That matter would not be part of the Ethics Commission’s purview, Knittel said: “Our office only has authority under O.C.G.A. Title 21, Chapter 5, which is essentially the regulation of campaign contributions and campaign expenditures. Issues related to any alleged tax lien issues and/or related affidavits do not fall under our authority to investigate or enforce.”

Franklin also is a named defendant in civil suits brought by Parks and Recreation employee (and son of Chairman Jeff Turner) Brandon Turner for slander and by former chief financial officer Ramona Bivins, who filed a federal suit alleging Franklin, District 1 Commissioner Alieka Anderson, and District 3 Commissioner Gail Hambrick violated her First Amendment rights when they voted to terminate her contract. Bivins alleges she was retaliated against because her husband supported District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis’ reelection against a candidate backed by Franklin, Anderson, and former sheriff Victor Hill. Franklin and Anderson said they were concerned about whether Bivins’ Ph.D. program tuition was covered by her contract. Bivins’ complaint alleges Anderson told Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford that his graduate school tuition payments were not in question, and that Anderson allegedly told Stanford, “We are only going after Ramona.” Clayton County taxpayers are paying for Franklin’s defense in that case.

The year before, Franklin and Bivins had clashed over Franklin’s request for a travel reimbursement.

Since then, Franklin has repaid some travel funds she received from the county, two audits were conducted, and new travel reimbursement policies and procedures are pending before the BOC.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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