The clock is ticking. Friday morning the Attorney General’s Office sent a certified copy of the indictment against Representative Tyrone Brooks to Governor Nathan Deal’s Office.
Upon receiving that indictment, the Governor must wait at least 14 days to assign a review commission, which will decide whether Brooks should remain in office or be suspended from his seat. Governor Deal can choose to extend that timeframe, though it has already been two weeks since a grand jury indicted Brooks.
Prosecutors filed 30 counts of fraud and tax charges against Representative Brooks, D-Atlanta. The indictment alleges that Brooks used almost $1 million in donations to a charity he founded for personal expenses in what has been labeled “The Universal Humanities Scheme.” Brooks created Universal Humanities in 1990 as a non-profit group designed to help further educational and economic development opportunities and later, literacy efforts. According to the indictment, Brooks falsely stated in donation solicitation information that Universal Humanities was a “sister organization” to the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, or GABEO, for which Brooks serves as President.
Under Georgia law, Governor Deal must appoint the Attorney General, a member of the Senate and a member of the House of Representatives to the review panel. That group must then hold “a speedy hearing,” in which witnesses may be called to testify.
Brian Robinson, the Governor’s spokesman, said Governor Deal will likely announce his choices for the panel in two weeks. He would not reveal who the Governor is considering for the job.
“We obviously want members who are fair-minded, who are open-minded and who will do what’s right in this case and will follow the facts and put that above partisan politics from either side,” explained Robinson. “This is a serious matter when you remove a constitutionally-elected official from office and take away his voting rights, take away his ability to represent his constituents. So, it’s something that must be taken very seriously. It’s a fairly grave matter in that sense and we want serious-minded folks to take a look at this.”
After the hearing, the review panel must craft a written report within 14 days outlining why Brooks should be suspended or why he should keep his seat in the General Assembly. A suspension decision would be binding until the conclusion of the case or the end of Brooks’ term, whichever comes first.
If suspended, the state would continue to pay Brooks his annual salary of $17,342, but he would no longer receive that compensation if convicted.
Brooks pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was first elected to the General Assembly in 1981.