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Roberts gets stiff fine
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County Commissioner Toby Roberts has agreed to pay a $9,300 fine to the Georgia Ethics Commission to resolve a 2006 complaint about his financial report.

Roberts, who said he has already paid the fine, omitted 31 required entries from his personal financial disclosure report, according to the Nov. 15 consent order he signed.

Included in the omissions were some of Roberts’ fiduciary positions, direct ownership interests in business entities and real property and the business or investment interests of his wife, Richmond Hill attorney Michelle Henderson.

"Primarily, my real estate and business interests are outside of Bryan County – in Chatham, Effingham and Bulloch. That’s the reason the number (31) was what it was," Roberts said. "I had always filed it by covering everything I considered in Bryan County."

The complaint was filed against Roberts by Betty Miner of Richmond Hill in October of 2006. She had no comment.

"It’s a shame when the voracity of any public official is called into question," Miner’s daughter Sheila Galbreath said.

The consent order is an agreement between the Ethics Commission and Roberts, who said he could have requested a hearing, but opted to pay the fine instead.

According to the order, Roberts said he listed all relevant financial interests he holds in Bryan County and felt that was sufficient information for the purposes of the personal financial disclosure report.

Roberts, who is serving his fifth term as a county commissioner, said the fine was a "stiff one," but that the Ethics Commission was fair.

"There were a couple things on there that were my wife’s, and I didn’t realize I had to make a report for the things that she owned as well. But they all are listed now," he said. "I corrected the report and they’ve accepted my correction."

Roberts said above all, he wants to make clear that he has not voted on anything he owns.

"I abstain from any vote that has anything to do with any property I own in Bryan County," he said. "My investments are primarily out of the county and I did not vote, or always got clarification from the County Attorney, if there was something I was unsure of. I have always clarified that before participating in conversation or casting a vote."

Rick Thompson, executive secretary for the State Ethics Commission, said the fine is a hefty one, but is comparable to the same kind of penalties or grievances filed for similar offenses.

"It’s not uncommon," Thompson said of the offense. "Every elected individual and public officer has to disclose on a personal financial disclosure. You have list all your property, fiduciaries, investments, etc. It’s available to the public to see," he said.

Thompson said fines issued by the Ethics Commission are based on a standard rule of thumb, so as to be consistent.

"For example, we had a county Commissioner out of Chatham County who was fined to pay $20,000 for a similar offense," he said, explaining that the fine depends on how many years the violations occurred, how many properties are included and the extent of missing information.

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