Trial begins for Ga. Sen. Balfour in false pay case
by Kate Brumback
December 15, 2013 10:56 PM | 761 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA — A Georgia state lawmaker accused of claiming per diem pay and mileage reimbursements for in-state work on days he was out of the state is set to go to trial today.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Henry Newkirk will preside over the trial of Sen. Don Balfour.

A grand jury indicted the Snellville Republican in September on felony charges of making a false certificate, theft by taking and a count of false statement and writing. He is accused of illegally claiming legislative expense pay and double-billing the state and his private employer for some expenses.

Balfour’s attorneys tried to get the indictment tossed out, claiming that it violated the separation of powers and infringed upon the exclusive authority of the Senate to discipline its members for misdeeds associated with their official duties. But Newkirk rejected that argument.

Balfour has been under legal scrutiny for payments that he received for his work in the General Assembly.

Hill said his client believes he’s being unfairly targeted for inadvertent mistakes and looks forward to defending himself in court.

Balfour previously agreed to pay a $5,000 fine levied by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting pay for in-state work and travel on days when he was elsewhere.

Lawmakers can only claim that pay if they are conducting official business inside Georgia.

They can collect expenses while traveling outside the state if they are part of an approved delegation.

Gov. Nathan Deal last month signed an order suspending Balfour. The Senate Republican leadership reacted swiftly, removing him from his committee leadership positions and suspending him from the Senate Republican Caucus.

Because of a deadline established in the state constitution, if Balfour is not tried by the end of December, his suspension would automatically be lifted in time for the beginning of the legislative session in January.

His lawyers filed a request for a speedy trial because they said Balfour wants to get the issue behind him.

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