One by one, business owners said in court this week they felt intimidated by DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis when he asked for campaign contributions, and they feared losing work from the county if they didn’t pay up.
So there I was, slouched in a leather chair outside the Senate chambers, when Sen. Don Balfour slid in beside me.
“I have to tell you something,” he said.
Last Friday, though the Legislature was in session, Balfour was not in Atlanta. He’s on the board of the National Conference of State Legislatures, and was in Austin, Texas.
But when his paycheck arrived this week, his secretary – now on the lookout for such things – noted that he had been paid for five days, not four. Per diem for state lawmakers amounts to $173 a day.
Balfour, who two months ago was acquitted on 18 felony counts associated with the abuse of his legislative expense account, marched into the office of the Legislature’s payroll manager and demanded that she cut a new check, paying him for four days worked.
She said she couldn’t, Balfour said. There was no procedure for that. The Snellville senator said he wouldn’t sign the check.
Ultimately, Balfour said, it took a meeting with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the secretary of the Senate to get his way. He was paid for four days.
“If it had happened to somebody else, it would have been funny,” Balfour said.