Governor Nathan Deal Friday announced his picks for a review panel in the case of state Representative Tyrone Brooks.
The Governor appointed House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, and state Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker.
By law, the review panel will also include state Attorney General Sam Olens, who is a Republican.
“I certainly think that this is not a partisan issue,” said Rep. Abrams. “It’s a matter of law that he has to convene this panel and certainly it’s best to have a panel that’s comprised of people both who have responsibility for leadership and who also can speak on behalf of the bodies we represent.”
The three-person panel must review the federal indictment against Brooks. He pleaded not guilty to 30 counts of tax fraud and other charges.
According to the indictment, Brooks used almost a million dollars in donations to his charity, Universal Humanities, for personal expenses.
“I think when you’re put in this position, your best course of action is to take politics out of it and personal relationships out of it and just look at the facts of the case and what the statute says and try to make an honest, fair decision in that regard and if you do that, you come out ahead in the long run,” explained Sen. Henson.
The panel can only decide whether to suspend Brooks from office, not remove him from the position.
“I think it’s impossible not to concern ourselves with the implications, but I think we also have to concern ourselves with the implications of setting a precedent either by removing him or not, that is not in concert with the other beliefs that we have as a nation,” said Abrams.
“We believe in responsibility. We also believe in innocent until proven guilty. We believe that there are things you can do that impede how you operate effectively. We also recognize that there are things that you do that really have no relevance. The whole, I think, point of this panel is to balance those things,” she explained. “If it were that easy, it would be an automatics suspension and there would be no need for a panel.”
Under Georgia law, if suspended, Brooks would continue to receive his state salary and benefits, but cannot participate in state business. The suspension would last until Brooks’s term ends or until the case ends in his favor.