FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Contact: Jeff Jones
House Members Call for Speaker Ralston to Resign as Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives
ATLANTA – State Representative Jeff Jones (R-Brunswick, D167), along with a number of other House Members, announced his continued support for Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge, D7) to immediately resign his position as the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.
In February, 2019, news outlets reported that in a 2-year period, Speaker Ralston had filed 57 requests for continuance on 21 cases. Of the 93 days that Ralston told the courts he was unavailable, 76 (81%) were outside of the legislative session. “It was because of the initial reports of Speaker Ralston’s abuse of the legislative leave law that I decided to sign on to House Resolution 328 calling on Speaker Ralston to resign his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives”, explained Rep. Jones. “I knew in my heart that this was just the tip of the iceberg which has since been proven to be true.”
“Since the Atlanta Journal Constitution first broke the story about Ralston’s abuse of Georgia’s legislative leave law a few months ago,” said Jones, “additional research has turned up an astonishing number of abuses of legislative leave in criminal and civil cases Ralston handles.”
In a press conference held at the Capitol on April 17th, over 1000 instances of legislative leave requests by Speaker David Ralston in over 200 cases were documented by research conducted by Derek Somerville, a former FBI Special Agent who specialized in investigating abuses by elected officials. “By any measure, Ralston’s number of legislative leave requests is extreme and a clear exploitation of the intent of the law,” said Jones.
“Sadly, it is the victims of the crimes Speaker Ralston’s clients are alleged to have committed that are the real losers in this travesty of justice. The research has uncovered serious examples of how justice delayed, or dismissed in some instances, has resulted in justice denied - and all at the hand of Speaker Ralston; he cannot brush off this serious matter by pointing the finger at other court officers or by stating his actions are fully legal,” explained Rep Jones. “The facts show that some cases have been dismissed by court officers who say they felt they had no other choice but to dismiss the cases because it was clear the Speaker was never going to agree to set hearing dates. How do court officers stand up to the power of the Speaker’s office?”
In response to the report of abuse of the legislative leave law, the General Assembly passed HB502 this legislative session. This bill actually expands the group of people who can claim legislative leave, adds seven additional legislative leave days before the onset of the regular or special session, and also allows for leave if a member’s staff holds a scheduled meeting. “The speaker has a pattern of using the General Assembly to craft laws in his favor. After the state bar issued a reprimand against Ralston, the Speaker used the General Assembly to strip the authority for the State Bar of Georgia to appoint members to the Judicial Qualifications Commission which disciplines judges. This year, Speaker Ralston repeated that pattern with HB502,” Jones explained, “crafting legislation that still gives to much latitude by the Speaker to abuse legislative leave. The fact that a member can claim legislative leave if staff holds a scheduled meeting makes any other changes moot. My preference would be to revert to the original 1905 version of the legislative leave law which was crafted to avoid abuse such as exhibited by Speaker Ralston.”
Jones said that he would have preferred to quietly deal with Speaker Ralston’s abuses instead of launching a public debate. However, Ralston has repeatedly shown he is fully intending to remain at his post as Speaker of the House, which he restated publicly on Wednesday. “The speaker is elected by the House majority party,” said Jones, “so House Republicans and the State Republican Party should make the stand to force his resignation as Speaker,” Rep. Jones said. “I call on David Ralston to do the right thing and resign his Speakership position effective immediately. House of Representatives members need to focus our time and energies on preparing for the 2020 session, including holding on to our majority in the 2020 election cycle as we deal with reapportionment in 2020, unencumbered by this issue. Let’s get this issue behind us and move on!”, concluded Rep. Jones.
Representative Jeff Jones represents the citizens of District 167, which includes Glynn and portions of McIntosh and Long counties. He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 and currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Motor Vehicles Committee, the Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications and Regulated Industries Committees. He also serves on the Insurance, Interstate Cooperation, Science & Technology and Small Business Development committees.