Augusta mayor responds to state ethics investigation

Mayor Hardie Davis
Mayor Hardie Davis(WRDW)
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 6:34 PM EST
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Editor’s note: The first paragraph of a previous version of this article misstated the amount of campaign funds involved.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Mayor Hardie Davis released a new response about a state ethics investigation into how he spent thousands in campaign funds.

Below is a copy of his 42-page response.

The complaint accuses the mayor of never filing documents to disclose a total of $10,000 in campaign contributions and not properly disclosing $6,000 in campaign funds.

It also alleges Davis improperly used more than $3,000 worth of campaign funds on everything from credit card payments to Starbucks and ESPN plus subscriptions.

In his response, Davis’s attorney attributed some of his purchases to auto-pay errors. He also denies improperly disclosing where he got more than $10,000 for the campaign.

The State Ethics Commission dug into his pockets again back in February.

“I will say that every dollar of money received by campaigning needs to be clear and accurately disclosed on the election reports,” said Jack Long, attorney.

We spoke to Long about what campaign filing requirements are all about and why the mayor’s slip-ups could be serious.

In the response, the Mayor’s Attorney, Ed Tarver, writes the reason for more than $2,000 in unspecified credit card purchases and more than $400 on things including LinkedIn was for “fulfillment of the Respondent’s elected office.”

It doesn’t go into detail about what the credit charges were for.

“It depends on the nature of the purchase right; you must look at the core of whether it’s predominantly a personal expenditure or a campaign expenditure. What’s the real reason for the expense,” he asked.

Long says it gets harder to defend seemingly personal expenses. Like the $20 ESPN plus charge and a $30 health app subscription. Davis doesn’t deny those two purchases, but he says they were errors that occurred during the autopay process.

Long said: “Once you receive funds, you can either spend that on legitimate campaign uses. You can give it to another campaign, you can give it to a charity, or you can refund it to the people that gave it to you.”

When it comes to the complaint alleging he did not properly disclose $6,000 in campaign funds, he denied that. He also denied that he never disclosed how he received another $10,000 in funds.

Long says in his experience, any ethics investigation is serious. It could last years even after a candidate is out of office.

“They have the power to sanction certain election officials, make them file unfiled disclosures, and issue fines,” he said.

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