Sunday November 29th, 2015 1:57AM

PSC ends plan to steer $10K to anti-abortion group

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - Utility regulators in Georgia abandoned a plan Thursday to give a $10,000 fine from a telephone company to an anti-abortion charity with ties to two officials, a decision that came after the attorney general warned the idea was unconstitutional.

The members of the Public Service Commission voted unanimously send the fine from Peerless Network of Georgia LLC to the state treasury. The firm agreed to pay the money for violating various reporting requirements.

Last week, Public Service Commissioner H. Doug Everett proposed that Peerless resolve the case by paying the $10,000 to Care Net, where his wife works as an unpaid volunteer. The Christian charity discourages pregnant women from having abortions and provides them with financial and other support. Everett abandoned that plan Thursday.

The commissioners agreed last week to accept the settlement, but they delayed until Thursday a decision on where to send the funds.

``With the benefit of hindsight because we put it on hold, I think that the charity is a very worthy cause, I may consider giving them a personal contribution ... but I don't think there's a strong enough nexus there,'' PSC Chairman Chuck Eaton said.

Everett's plan received initial backing from Commissioner Tim Echols, who serves an unpaid member of the charity's advisory board. Echols has previous financial ties to Care Net. Its national parent organization paid him nearly $10,000 for consulting services in 2006. The chairman of its Georgia affiliate has donated $600 to Echols' political campaign.

Lawyers had warned Everett that his plan was likely illegal.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Daniel Walsh told the commissioners in an Aug. 29 email that there may be legal justification for approving settlements where a company, for example, pays consumer refunds rather than a fine. However, Walsh cautioned that there needed to be a connection between the violation and the spending.

``Here, I don't see a plausible connection between a utility regulation and a pregnancy center,'' Walsh wrote, according to documents released under Georgia's open records law.

When that advice was ignored, Attorney General Sam Olens warned in a Sept. 4 letter that the PSC could not authorize an agreement in which a regulated company resolves a legal violation by donating money to a private charity.

``Despite the obvious good intentions of those expressing an interest in a settlement agreement that would provide funds to various non-profit organizations, the law simply does not permit such a result,'' Olens said.

An attorney for Peerless declined to comment.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Medicaid growth creates gap of 5M without coverage; 409K in Ga.
About 5 million people will be without health care next year that they would have gotten simply if they lived somewhere else in America.
7:30AM ( 1 year ago )
Vandals spray graffiti against Kerry in West Bank
Suspected Jewish vandals set fire to three vehicles in a West Bank village early on Tuesday and sprayed threatening graffiti referring to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of his expected visit to the region, police said.
7:28AM ( 1 year ago )
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Appalachian Parkway in Cleveland now open
An official grand opening and road-naming ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon for the State Route 11/US 129 North Appalachian Parkway in Cleveland, previously known as the Cleveland Bypass.
By Dean Dyer
9:45PM ( 4 days ago )
Stormwater program and fees await Gainesville City Council vote
The Gainesville City Council plans to vote next week on the creation of a Stormwater Management Program and implementation of fees to fund it.
2:07PM ( 4 days ago )
Syfan Logistics expanding its over-the-road fleet
Syfan Logistics plans to expand its over-the-road fleet of Syfan Transport trucks in the coming year as part of an increasing effort to better serve its shipper customers.
By AccessWDUN staff
12:07PM ( 4 days ago )
Hall Co. tag renewals will be handled differently in December
Hall County residents ready to renew their tags this December will not recieve the standard renewal notice from the Department of Revenue (DOR).
2:10PM ( 5 days ago )
Baldwin prepares for new city hall, razing of old downtown buildings
Change is in the works for downtown Baldwin.
3:02PM ( 6 days ago )