Fulton County Commission Chairman Karen Handel: The Scent of Graft

Although I’m a Georgia blogger, I seldom write about Georgia politics. I leave that to my friend Andre Walker. But a few of us in the Peach State got a tip this afternoon concerning Karen Handel, Republican candidate for Secretary of State and current Fulton County Commission Chairman. To my knowledge, she is not currently being accused of doing anything illegal, but if these allegations are true, it certainly smells like graft:

For the last three years, Fulton County Commission Chairman, Karen Handel, has not only used her position as a stepping-stone for higher office, but she has used the bid and zoning processes to build an unprecedented war chest for her current campaign.

The following bid recipients have also made significant contributions to Handel’s campaign: A-Tow Atlanta, Inc., Archer Western Contractors, LTD, Brown and Caldwell, Deloitte Touche, LLP, Gresham Smith and Partners, Johnson Controls, Inc., Khafra Engineering, LCE Engineers, Pond and Company, Turner Construction, Wade Coots Company, Inc., Waste Management and Yancy Brothers.

The following individuals have contributed to the Handel campaign before, during and after the application process for zoning modifications: engineer Hamid Alaee (Unique Design & Construction, Inc.) made a contribution to the Handel campaign on 9/27/05. He was approved for zoning modifications on 2/1/06 and 6/15/06. Developer Nayef Haddad (A.G. Armstrong Development) was approved for a zoning modification on 2/1/06. A month later, he gave a big donation to Handel’s campaign.

The following firms and individuals that have given to Handel also have requests for zoning modifications that are currently pending: Atlantic Realty Partners, Inc. (Medlock Bridge Rd.), The Collaborative Firm (Butner Rd.), Larry Dingle of Wilson Irby and Brock (Cascade Rd.), TND Development (Morton Rd.) and Richard Wernick (Freemanville Rd.). Planner Karen Hill, who is also involved in some of these cases, made a substantial contribution on 6/12/06. The final decision on these applications will be made at tonight’s meeting of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. What you want to bet they’re approved?

These findings are the result of a limited research effort. A more thorough investigation is bound to produce even more instances where Karen Handel accepted contributions from firms and individuals with business before the board. Handel has criticized her opponent’s call for campaign finance reform. Ironically, her disclosure underscores the need for wholesale reform.

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