Sen. David Shafer needs to quickly re­solve charges against him

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - Dick Yar­brough

Let me say up­front that Sen. David Shafer, R-Gwin­nett County, who is run­ning for lieu­tenant gover­nor, and I haven’t been the clos­est of bud­dies. I didn’t like the way he and his co­hort, Sen. William Ligon, R-Glynn County, gut­ted an oth­er­wise much­needed adop­tion bill last year with some end-of-the-ses­sion shenani­gans, hold­ing the bill hostage in a clumsy po­lit­i­cal ef­fort to en­sure mis­sion­based adop­tion agen­cies did not have to place chil­dren with same-sex par­ents.

This year, the bill, un­der the pug­na­cious man­age­ment of Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Cobb County, passed over­whelm­ingly and has been signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal. Ligon has put his con­cerns into a sep­a­rate mea­sure, yet to pass, which he should have done last year.

Since that time, Shafer has re­signed as pres­i­dent pro tem­pore of the Sen­ate to make his run for the state’s sec­ond high­est of­fice. I know Sen. Ligon re­mains a busy guy be­cause I read his screeds in the papers in which this col­umn ap­pears around the state, try­ing to con­vince you that I don’t know what I am talk­ing about. The Wo­man Who Shares My Name could have told him that a long time ago and spared him the ad­jec­tives.

As for Shafer, I was on the floor of the Sen­ate a cou­ple of years ago when he paid trib­ute to the late Dick Pet­tys, long­time As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter and a highly re­spected mem­ber of the state press corps. The oc­ca­sion was the un­veil­ing of a por­trait of Pet­tys to be hung in the press room at the Capi­tol. Fit­tingly, he rec­og­nized mem­bers of the Pet­tys fam­ily but never men­tioned the artist who stood proudly by the paint­ing he had la­bored on for months. The artist? Me. The guy whose col­umn ap­pears in his lo­cal pa­per and has for a num­ber of years. I felt like a tree stump.

Of course, we all know he didn’t write a word of the per­func­tory trib­ute and prob­a­bly hadn’t seen it un­til some­one put it in his hands, but hav­ing been around the po­lit­i­cal block a few times, I found that a bit off-putting. If I were plan­ning on run­ning for higher of­fice, I’d be sure I knew me.

To his and his tone-deaf staff’s credit, he did dis­cover me af­ter I went bal­lis­tic on the Sen­ate’s han­dling — or mis­han­dling — of the adop­tion bill strongly sup­ported by Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ral­ston. Mr. Shafer wasn’t too pleased with my opin­ions and said so. At least he now knows who I am. I love happy end­ings.

As of this writ­ing, Sen. Shafer has a big­ger prob­lem than the feel­ings of an opin­ion­ated thin­skinned colum­nist who can paint a lick. He has been ac­cused of sex­ual ha­rass­ment by a vet­eran fe­male lob­by­ist. Shafer strongly de­nies the charge.

While the ru­mors have been swirling around for quite a while — even I had heard them — I find it in­ter­est­ing that the news broke the day af­ter the se­na­tor an­nounced his in­ten­tion to run for lieu­tenant gover­nor. A po­lit­i­cal “gotcha”?

The lob­by­ist, a 20-year capi­tol vet­eran, said that af­ter help­ing her get a bill passed in 2011, Shafer made a num­ber of ex­plicit sex­ual sug­ges­tions to her. The lob­by­ist said his be­hav­ior be­came “brazen and alarm­ing.” She has since hired noted de­fense at­tor­ney Bruce Har­vey to rep­re­sent her. Har­vey says, “We stand be­hind ev­ery al­le­ga­tion in that com­plaint.”

Shafer says the lob­by­ist is “an at­ten­tion-seek­ing wannabe try­ing to set­tle an old score.” His ad­min­is­tra­tive aide says in an af­fi­davit that the se­na­tor told her 15 years ago to never al­low the lob­by­ist to meet with him with­out a staff mem­ber present.

So, who is right and who is not? No rush to judg­ment, please. The last time I looked at the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, we are all deemed in­no­cent un­til proven guilty, and that in­cludes David Shafer.

The most dis­turb­ing as­pect of this whole mat­ter is that we have no way of judg­ing who is telling the truth be­cause the Leg­is­la­ture plays by a dif­fer­ent set of rules than the ones they im­pose on We the Un­washed. The Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly ex­empts it­self from the Ge­or­gia Open Records Act. Com­plaints such as the one filed against Shafer are dealt with in se­cret. Think fox guard­ing hen­house door.

This doesn’t serve David Shafer or his po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions well. He needs to get this out in the open and sat­isfy us that the charges are false or he needs to drop out of the race. I hope he is lis­ten­ing.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­yarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ge­or­gia 31139 or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/dick­yarb.

Philoso­pher & pun­dit

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