CONYERS — Sam Smiley, government watchdog and former Republican candidate for the Post 1 seat on the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners, has filed a campaign finance complaint against Post 1 Commissioner Oz Nesbitt.
Smiley’s complaint alleges that Nesbitt failed to report an in-kind campaign contribution he received from Resurgens Risk Management in June and subsequently voted in July in favor of a contract with Resurgens to provide employee insurance and benefits consulting services to Rockdale County.
Smiley addressed his complaint during the public comment portion of the BOC meeting Tuesday morning, asking that the board’s Resurgens vote be reviewed by the county attorney. He also asked that the board recall the vote until questions about the campaign contribution and potential conflict of interest have been resolved.
“They talk about transparency; let’s see it,” Smiley said following the meeting.
Smiley said his primary concern with the Resurgens vote is that the county is moving forward with the contract, which may later be found invalid due to a conflict of interest. In the meantime, he said, the county will have paid Resurgens and may have to try to recoup that money.
Smiley’s campaign complaint, which he said he hand-delivered to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission on Monday, alleges that Resurgens and CEO Willie Burks held a fundraiser with a minimum value of $300 for Nesbitt at the Resurgens offices at Colony Square in Atlanta on June 7. That campaign contribution was not reported by Nesbitt on the June nor July campaign disclosures, Smiley claimed.
Georgia law requires all contributions of more than $100 to be reported, including the name of the contributor. An advertising flyer for the fundraiser included with Smiley’s complaint invited supporters to attend “an evening of music, delectable food and conversation with the Honorable Commissioner Oz Nesbitt Sr. of Rockdale County.” The location listed for the event was the office of Willie Burks at Resurgens Risk Management in Atlanta.
BOC Chairman Richard Oden had received a $250 contribution from Resurgens in May, but that contribution was refunded on June 4.
In addition, Nesbitt apparently signed an affidavit on Rockdale County letterhead on July 23 stating that he had “not received any 2012 campaign donations or other funds from Resurgens Risk Management Inc. nor from Mr. Willie Burks, owner of the company.”
On July 24, the BOC voted 2-1 to approve a $60,000-per-year contract with Resurgens, with Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness opposed.
Prior to that vote, Oden said he had thoroughly researched the matter and was satisfied that nothing in the RFP (request for proposals) process, that had been ongoing since last fall, was improper.
Van Ness, however, said she believed the RFP process was in fact tainted by the fact that it appears to have at least attempted to sway the votes of the commissioners.
Van Ness said she was also dissatisfied that locally based companies were not given extra credit in the rating process by the committee reviewing the RFPs. Until the Resurgens contract was approved, NuVision Financial Corporation of Conyers had provided insurance and benefits consulting services for the county.
“I would move that we defer this vote and consider it under different standards,” Van Ness said in July. “I would like to go in another direction.”
Nesbitt, a one-term incumbent, is seeking reelection with opposition from Republican Tom Harrison. Smiley lost to Harrison in the July 31 Republican primary.
In an earlier interview, Harrison said he saw a clear conflict of interest with the campaign contribution from Resurgens.
“It is inappropriate for anyone who is doing direct business with the county to make donations during campaign season. I don’t care how you look at it,” he said.
Staff correspondent Aimee Jones contributed to this report.