ATLANTA - A judge has thrown out two state ethics complaints against former Insurance Commissioner and one-time candidate for Governor - John Oxendine.
The State Ethics Commission believed Oxendine used campaign contributions to buy a house and luxury car and accepted contributions over the legal limit.
But, Senior I-Team reporter Dale Russell, who has covered this case for two years, says an administrative law judge saw it differently.
The two rulings handed down this week by Administrative Law Judge Ronit Walker ended two ethics cases that began as early as 2015 against former gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine.
John Oxendine was in his 30's when he burst onto the Georgia political scene. He was elected Georgia's Insurance Commissioner for four consecutive terms and then ran for Governor.
In 2010 Nathan Deal won the republican primary in a runoff and later was elected Governor. Oxendine finished back in the pack.
That run for Governor leads to the two ethics complaints Oxendine has been battling for years..
In an August 2019 hearing, Staff attorney Robert Lane argued Oxendine moved $237,000 over a two-year period from his campaign account to a law firm account. Lane argued $96,500 of that money was used for a down payment on Oxendine's home. The rest - payments for a Mercedes and Jaguar, IRA contributions, and athletic club dues.
"Loans are permitted under the act, they are investments, Oxendine's lawyer said at the time.
Oxendine's attorney Doug Chalmers, argued the money was purely a loan from the campaign to the law firm - which he says is legal - and besides, he argued Oxendine paid it back with interest.
"The campaign got nine thousand dollars of interest in these loans," said Chalmers.
Ethics Commission attorney Robert Lane told commissioners Oxendine never mentioned a loan on his campaign reports and had no intention of paying back his campaign until an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation raised questions and the Ethics Commission sued him.
"This is Mr. Oxendine saying trust me, I promise it’s a loan," said Lane in 2019.
But Administrative law judge Ronit Walker ruled this week, writing she was not addressing whether the actual allegations were true or not. Instead, she dismissed the charge due to the "statute of limitations."
Judge Walker also dismissed a second charge alleging Oxendine illegally accepted campaign contributions that exceeded contribution limits from multiple corporations all linked to the same person.
Walker ruled Georgia law states the only people who can be punished in that situation are the campaign donors – not the candidate.
Oxendine’s attorney Doug Chalmers says he is pleased with the ruling. Ethics Commission Director David Emadi wrote me he strongly disagrees with the ruling and will be pursuing appeal options to "make sure Mr. Oxendine is held accountable."