ATLANTA (AP) — A panel appointed by the Georgia governor decided Friday that state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, who's facing federal wire and mail fraud charges, should not be suspended from office.
The panel said in a two-paragraph report to Gov. Nathan Deal that it reviewed the indictment and determined the accusations did not relate to the performance or activities of Brooks' office.
Brooks referred requests for comment to his lawyer, former Gov. Roy Barnes, who did not immediately return a phone call Friday.
The 30-count federal indictment handed down last month charges Brooks with mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. It alleged the Atlanta Democrat solicited more than $1 million in contributions from the mid-1990s to 2012 to fight illiteracy in underserved communities, but used the money for personal and family expenses, ranging from home repairs to credit card bills.
Brooks, who was first elected to the General Assembly in 1981, has pleaded not guilty. Barnes has said Brooks never took a salary from the charitable organizations he worked for, but he was paid for expenses and used that money to pay his bills.
The panel, which included Democratic minority leaders of the House and Senate, Rep. Stacey Abrams and Sen. Steve Henson, as well as Republican Attorney General Sam Olens, held a brief hearing Friday and quickly submitted its unanimous recommendation to Deal.
During the panel's hearing, which lasted less than 15 minutes, Barnes urged the panel not to suspend Brooks, saying the allegations against him had nothing to do with his elected office and weren't affecting the public.
Barnes clashed with Olens briefly when the attorney general told him he wouldn't be allowed to call or cross examine witnesses during the hearing.