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Ethics complaint filed by local man tossed; Dozier vows appeal

ATLANTA - An ethics complaint against Public Service Commissioner Bobby Baker has been tossed by the State Ethics Commission.

The complaint, filed by Mr. Baker's former campaign opponent from Thomson, said Mr. Baker had violated the law by accepting political contributions from law firms that represented utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission. Those utilities are barred from state law by contributing directly or indirectly to regulators' campaigns.

The ethics commission later added the law firms to the complaint; those cases were dismissed along with Mr. Baker's. The watchdog agency relied on a nearly 20-year-old attorney general's opinion in deciding to throw out the case. That opinion said contributions by a lawyer didn't violate the ban unless the utility told that attorney to give the donation.

"In many cases, the attorneys are hired for general representation involving many facets of the utility's business," said the opinion, signed by then-Attorney General Michael Bowers. "However, this representation does not transform the attorney into an agent for the regulated utility for all purposes."

The ethics panel's decision Thursday essentially expands the opinion to cover law firms as well.

Mr. Baker said he was pleased with the decision.

"I'm glad it's over," he said.

But Thomson resident Roger Dozier, who filed the complaint, said he planned to appeal the commission's decision to the state courts.

"I just don't believe that this will stand up in court," Mr. Dozier said.

Web posted on Wednesday, March 1, 2006

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