Former TCSS superintendent files ethics complaint against TRACER

Published 4:56 pm Monday, April 13, 2020

An ethics complaint has been filed against the Tax Relief and Comprehensive Education Reform accusing the group of advocating for candidates without properly registering as an independent committee.

The complaint was filed on behalf of former Troup County School System Superintendent Roy Nichols.

According to state statute, an independent committee that accepts contributions or makes expenditures for the purpose of affecting the outcome of an election or advocates the election or defeat of any candidate must register with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission before accepting contributions or making expenditures.

The complaint points to several Facebook posts where TRACER advocates for the election of four candidates to the TCSS board. It also cites a post seeking fundraising donations and alludes to the group already spending money to help the candidates.

“Unfortunately, marketing for a campaign is costly,” a Facebook post said, advocating for the election of Nick Simpson, Tommy Callaway, Tripp Foster and Frank Barnes to the TCSS board. “TRACER has been able to defray the costs of some materials for our candidates, thanks to your previous donations.”

The post said the candidates had spent personal funds to support their campaign but goes on to solicit donations.

“As hard as it is for me to do this, I am asking if you can possibly help our candidates with a donation to help relieve the financial burden on them,” the post said. “We understand this is a difficult time for many, and we certainly understand if you are not able (to) give. If you can donate, there are several ways to do this.”

The post goes to on give instructions on where to send a check, donate to a GoFundMe page, and says that cash donations would be accepted.

The complaint also points to a post from Randy Atkins, who is a known member of the group, saying if individuals donate $10, those funds would pay for a political sign in their yard.

“Despite all of the fundraising, endorsements and spending on campaigns in support of named candidates, TRACER is not registered with the (c)ommission as an independent committee and no one has been able to locate any registration as a PAC,” the complaint said.

The TRACER group does not appear as an independent committee when searched for on the state’s campaign finance commission website as of Monday.

Nichols told The LaGrange Daily News Monday morning that everything should be done properly when it comes to running a campaign for the school board. He said he doesn’t believe members of the TRACER group followed the proper prescribed process.

“Just to be fair, I think everybody ought to follow the rules,” he said.

Nichols said there’s nothing wrong with asking for donations as long as it’s done correctly.

Nichols said he doesn’t have any negative feelings toward the TRACER group. However, he wants the proper protocols to be followed for everybody.

“In fact, I’ve testified at the hearings before the board that I don’t like taxes any more than anybody else does,” he said. “But, let’s follow the rules.”

Bill Gregory, a spokesman for TRACER, declined comment on the complaint Monday after he was made aware of it. He said the group had not been notified from the ethics commission as of Monday about the complaint. The commission confirmed to the newspaper on Monday that it has received the document.
“Without more time to understand and without notification from the Ethics Commission, any comment would be premature at this point,” he said.