A federal grand jury has indicted state Rep. Tyrone Brooks over allegations claiming he misappropriated more than $1 million in charitable funds.
Brooks, a Democrat from Atlanta, was charged Thursday with 30 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and false tax returns. The allegations involve Brooks' relationship with Universal Humanities, a charity he founded in 1990, and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, or GABEO.
When a sitting member of the state legislature is indicted, the Georgia Constitution calls for the Governor to appoint a three-person panel.
Brian Robinson is Gov. Nathan Deal’s spokesman. He says the panel will consist of the state attorney general and two legislators chosen by Deal. They review the case, and decide whether to suspend the legislator.
“They will look at the facts that they have in any particular case, and if the panel determines that the indictment adversely affects the administration of that office, they can recommend the member be suspended,” he said.
He added, “The panel decides. They issue a recommendation to the Governor and the wording suggests that the panel’s recommendation stands.”
Robinson says the Governor has 14 days to appoint the panel from when he receives the indictment. And he has yet to receive it.
In the case of a suspension, the legislator's seat remains unfilled until the end of the term. There is no special election.
The indictment alleges the 67-year-old repeatedly solicited contributions from individuals and corporate donors to combat illiteracy and other causes, but then used the money for personal expenses.
Elaine Lucas, a Macon City Council member and Vice President of GABEO, said in a prepared statement that the organization will without judgement about the allegations.
“Needless to say we’re all disturbed by this latest development," Lucas said. "Representative Tyrone Brooks is a dedicated public servant and a friend to the underserved over this entire country. He’s done so much good, it is hard to believe these allegations and we all should wait until they are proven or disproved. A person is innocent until proven guilty. Tyrone Brooks has earned our respect and support. GABEO members are sad to hear these of allegations and we will withhold further comment. Representative Tyrone Brooks is still our President.”
When reached by phone, Brooks told The Associated Press that he was "not speaking about anything until I talk to my lawyer." Brooks was first elected to the General Assembly in 1981.