CONYERS - State Senate candidate Mike Crotts called Thursday for an investigation of his opponent, incumbent Sen. John Douglas, to determine if any laws were broken in an e-mail exchange between Douglas and Conyers officials regarding passage of legislation pertaining to the city. Crotts said he is formally requesting that Rockdale County District Attorney Richard Read review the matter and that an ethics complaint has been filed with the state.
Crotts is seeking election to his former Senate seat in the 17th District. He and Douglas will square off in the Republican primary in July. Crotts served in the state Senate for 10 years before running for Congress in 2004.
The e-mail exchange in question occurred in March when Mayor Randy Mills sought support from Douglas, R-Social Circle, for a hotel-motel tax bill that would allow the city to raise money to support improvements to the Georgia International Horse Park.
In e-mails that came to light through AJC.com, Douglas responded by offering "to work behind the scenes and guarantee (the bill's) passage," if certain conditions were met.
Among the conditions, Douglas said he wanted a public apology from the city council over a dispute he has had with the city concerning operations of the Conyers Police Department.
Douglas also stated in the e-mail to the mayor that he wanted assurances that Conyers City Manager Tony Lucas would remain neutral in Douglas' re-election bid, providing "no assistance to (Mike) Crotts unless the law requires it." He added, "I have sources who can monitor this."
Crotts said he believed Douglas may have improperly used his position in the state Senate against another government agency.
"It's not a matter of it being just politics," Crotts said Thursday. "This is somebody who is an elected official and is using their position to say, 'My vote is for sale, and I'll give you what you want if you're willing to do this.'"
The district attorney said Thursday no one had approached him to request an investigation into Douglas. He said that he had not seen anything concerning the matter and suggested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should be called first.
"If there is a belief by anyone involved, be it Mr. Crotts or the city of Conyers, that a crime has been committed, my first suggestion would be to turn it over to the GBI - and I say that without knowing much about it," Read said. "From where I stand, it's best to have law enforcement investigate it, then turn it over to us to look at it."
For his part, Douglas discounted Crotts' call for an investigation as a political campaign maneuver.
"I think the people of the 17th District would rather have us discuss the issues that face the district, like transportation problems and education problems ,and leave the desperation and petty politics behind."
In addition to Crotts' call for an investigation, his campaign said in a press release Thursday that Rockdale County resident Raymond Ramos has filed a complaint against Douglas to the State Ethics Commission.
The complaint stated that Douglas used his position to "extract actions of another duly elected body, to hinder a law enforcement organization from ... performing their duties and ... help his own reelection campaign through intimidation," according to the Crotts press release.
Ramos said he filed the complaint on his own after he felt that Douglas was attempting to block legislation to benefit the city if his conditions were not met.
"This is not how our representatives are supposed to act," Ramos said. "This is a guy who is behaving as if he is above the law."
Douglas said Thursday the Ethics Commission told him they had no record of Ramos' complaint, and he had no comment on that matter. Douglas then questioned the timing of the announcement of a complaint.
"I find it interesting that they would contact the newspapers before even the Ethics Commission had a chance to look at it," he said. "It appears to be a petty, political publicity stunt by a desperate candidate who himself has a track record with ethics complaints."
Douglas alluded to a $40,000 fine Crotts paid to the Federal Election Commission after his unsuccessful run for Congress in 2004. Crotts failed to notify the FEC of loaning $400,000 of personal money to his campaign.
Referred to as "the millionaire's amendment," the federal law allows for candidates to be eligible for higher contribution limits if an opponent commits $350,000 or more of his own money to the campaign.
Also, Crotts, a former chairman of the state Senate Ethics Committee, was disqualified from running against Douglas in 2006 when the Georgia Secretary of State office ruled Crotts did not live in the 17th District. Crotts now lives in Newton County.
Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org