By Angie Thompson
TIFTON -- A deputy State Attorney General wrote in a November memorandum to the GBI director that he doesn't believe criminal prosecution of former Agrirama Director Kim Littleton is warranted.
State Attorney General Thurbert Baker's office has forwarded the results of a GBI investigation into "political campaign activity" at the Georgia Agrirama to the State Ethics Commission.
Gov. Sonny Perdue accepted Littleton's resignation Jan. 15. Perdue required all directors of state agencies to draft a resignation letter when he took office in January 2003.
Dep. Attorney General Michael E. Hobbs wrote in a Nov. 21 letter to GBI Director Vernon Keenan that he had reviewed the information gathered by an agent with the GBI's Region 15 office in Sylvester. Several employees were requested to address campaign postcards supporting the candidacy of former State Rep. Newt Hudson while on duty at the Agrirama. The matter was initially referred to Gov. Perdue's new State Inspector General, Brig. Gen. James E. Sehorn. After a preliminary investigation, Sehorn sent the matter to the GBI.
On Oct. 22, 2002, four employees of the Agrirama were requested to address the postcards, according to Hobbs. Littleton was attending a swearing-in ceremony in Atlanta that day. Apparently, Littleton had agreed to address the campaign postcards and they were delivered to her office a few weeks prior to the incident under investigation.
Hobbs wrote that former Agrirama Comptroller Donna Perrin, also assistant director of the facility, told investigators that she talked with a Hudson supporter who was asking about the postcards. Perrin said she called Littleton in Atlanta and was told to "do what you can do," wrote Hobbs. Perrin in turn asked three employees to assist her in the task of addressing the cards. The four employees worked on the cards for approximately 30 minutes late that day. Perrin then took the addressed cards to the campaign representative's home. The investigation revealed that no Agrirama postage was used to mail the cards.
In January of 2003, three employees backdated their time sheets to reduce their compensatory time by the 30 minutes they spend addressing Hudson's campaign cards. Hobbs noted in his review of the GBI file that Littleton denied she gave instructions to Perrin to have any of the employees address the postcards and that she told the local Agrirama board in February 2003 that the incident had occurred.
"According to a statement prepared by Ms. Littleton, she knew that the employees had addressed the postcards, but that the employees were on annual leave at the time.
"She accepted responsibility for her employees' actions and stated that she had taken steps to familiarize all Agrirama staff with an executive order of the Governor which presumably prohibits such actions," Hobbs wrote.
Hobbs believes the incident "does not represent a systemic or habitual activity at the Agrirama. Nor does it appear that the event resulted from a calculated effort on the part of Ms. Littleton to wrongfully appropriate the services of state employees to further a political campaign."
Hobbs wrote that he suspected Littleton felt some degree of pressure to get the task done and, while her instructions to Perrin might be interpreted as a request for Perrin to seek the assistance of additional Agrirama employees, "it is also possible, given the lateness in the day, that Ms. Littleton envisioned Ms. Perrin handling the matter, perhaps after her normal working hours."
Hobbs also wrote that he didn't believe criminal prosecution was warranted because the incident happened once and Littleton's suggestions that employees reduce their time that day was an effort to "square up" with the Agrirama.
It is against Georgia law for state employees to work on political campaigns during working hours on state property. Hobbs wrote that O.C.G.A 21-5-30.2 (b) provides that: "No agency and no person acting on behalf of any agency shall make, directly or indirectly, any contribution to any campaign committee, political action committee, or political organization or to any candidate ..." in O.C.G.A 21-5-30.2 (a)(2) defines contribution to include "anything of value conveyed or transferred by or on behalf of an agency, without receipt of payment therefore, to any campaign committee ... or to any candidate for campaign purposes."
"This statue falls within the jurisdiction of the State Ethics Commission for enforcement," Hobbs wrote.
It is unknown if the State Ethics Commission will pursue charges.
Neither C. Theodore Lee of the State Ethics Commission nor Sehorn returned telephone calls Monday. Roger Dill, chairman of the Agrirama board of directors, was out of town Monday and unavailable for comment.
To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.
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Larkey Henry Barnes, 72, of Fitzgerald passed away Saturday, November 28, 2020, in Alapaha. Among his survivors is his wife, Linda Barnes of Fitzgerald. Arrangements are incomplete and will be announced later by Bowen-Donaldson Home for Funerals.