The Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday released its investigation into ex-Rep. Nathan Deal (R), alleging the Georgia lawmaker violated House rules and used his office for personal gain in connection with his familys auto-salvage business.
The reports release also marks an unprecedented move in the fragile relationship between the OCE and the House ethics committee: The OCE said it published its findings in the Deal case because the House ethics committee missed a March 22 deadline to do so even though Deal submitted his resignation just minutes before the deadline.
Providing information to the public, improving transparency, is an essential element of the OCEs mission, OCE spokesman Jon Steinman said Monday. The OCE boards unanimous vote to release its report in this matter is, in letter and spirit, a fulfillment of that mission.
Deal resigned his House seat at 11:45 p.m. March 21 to dedicate himself full time to his gubernatorial campaign.
He had previously acknowledged the existence of a Congressional ethics investigation into a state-funded program that benefits his family auto-salvage business, and he denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
Deals attorney Randy Evans dismissed the report Monday as inaccurate and reiterated that Deal had tied his retirement date to the House vote on health care reform, which occurred March 21.
I think there were things that were obviously incorrect in the committees report. We pointed that out. I was disappointed that the committee didnt take more time to get it right, Evans said. He added: There were affidavits and other information that were submitted that made it clear that nothing in appropriate or improper had happened.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in December that documents obtained via the states Open Records Act showed that both the House ethics committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics contacted state offices about Deal.
The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics committee, has never confirmed its investigation into Deal, and it is unclear if the committee officially closed its probe of Deal when he resigned. The panels jurisdiction is limited to current Members, employees or officers of the House.
It is not clear whether Deal was still under the Houses jurisdiction March 22. The Clerk of the House notes Deals resignation occurred March 21 but was not effective until March 23.
Roll Call reported on March 24 that public reports issued by the OCE which offer statistics but not the details of its investigations indicated it had completed its probe into the allegations against Deal in late December.
According to its most recent report, OCE investigators opened only one new inquiry in the last half of 2009. That investigation began in October the Journal-Constitution reported in December that state records showed OCE investigators contacted a state office in October and appears to have ended its second and final phase in late December, at which time it would have referred the matter to the ethics committee.
A telephone call to the House ethics committee was not immediately returned.
In its report released Monday, the OCE recommended further investigation of Deal by the House ethics committee.