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Even the international community is aware of the intense level of corruption at play in the state of Georgia directed by the exclusive interest of a class of people called the 'good 'ol boys.' Citizens throughout the state are working vigorously to peel back layers of questionable conduct that is allowing government officials to continue their abuse of the people thereby damaging the representative structure of their home state at every level.
To compare, Ukraine is now infamous for its public officials being entangled in corrupt conflicts of interest, similar to Georgia's purchase of the unaccredited Dominion electronic voting system, harboring of Chinese corporations, the concealments of politicians like Savannah GOP State Rep Ron Stephens, and more. Take, for example, investigative accounts by the Guardian that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy railed theatrically against politicians, such as incumbent Petro Poroshenko who hid their offshore assets during his campaign. However, a global investigation revealed that Zelenskiy, whose patriotic teacher profile worked to win the race, is rather similar to his predecessors. A leaked document suggests he had – or has – a previously undisclosed stake in an offshore company, BVI, which he appears to have secretly transferred to a friend weeks before winning the presidential vote. When his campaign was asked, his spokesperson Sergiy Nikiforov messaged: “Won’t be an answer.” Georgia politicians, from party officers to false written replies from 'Kemp's Office,' are famous for silence or non-answers to the citizens, as well.
Did corruption contribute to immense harm toward Ukraininan citizens and now a bloody war with Russia? Yes.
And, it could be happening in a neighborhood near you.
Corporations and questionable individuals in Georgia, USA, are gaining a government foothold through unethical means, generating harm by making it difficult for citizens to assert constitutional HOME RULE in their municipalities and counties. As we have seen in the Ukraine and countless times worldwide, there is only so long that men and women can absorb abuse before the soul of a people reacts to the pain, or outsiders discern weakness and invade. Both are now occurring in Georgia.
At this time, the good citizens of Georgia House District 160, based around Statesboro and Georgia Southern University, are discovering they may have forfeited their representation to a concerning individual. Herbert Lehman Franklin, III, who was unopposed both in the GOP primary and going into the November midterms, appears to have a good profile - former missionary, business leader, responsible executor of his father's estate, and agricultural enthusiast. However, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly Georgia Ethics, just served him with a major complaint based on the simple public records research of a Bulloch county citizen.
To summarize, Franklin was caught concealing NINE or more corporate fiduciary positions on his personal financial disclosure statement, which is public information required within 15 days of his filing for state candidacy in March of this year. In 2021, he was CEO of eight or more for-profit corporations, most involving significant property holdings. He still holds most of these positions.
The state served Franklin by two-day standard after compelling evidence was filed on 9/20/22. It appears that Franklin may have violated both election and criminal code regarding public statements of a candidate. Much of the complaint can be viewed here.
Documentary Evidence File:
H. Lehman Franklin, III held, at least, the following unreported executive fiduciary positions in 2021:
FY 2021 Lobby Association Fiduciary Position:
3/12/21 - 7/23/21 CFO & Secretary of Georgia Automobile Dealers’ Association (GADA).
FY 2021 Business Fiduciary Positions:
CEO, Bel-Air Estates, Inc. (current)
CEO, Dillon Equities, Inc. (intent to dissolve filed 8/15/22)
CEO, Coastal Equities, Inc. (dissolved as of 3/31/22)
CEO, Franklin Equities, Inc. (current)
CEO, H. Lehman Franklin, P.C. (current)
CEO, Iron Gate Construction, Inc. (current)
CEO, Palmetto Equities, Inc. (dissolved 3/12/22)
CEO, Statesboro Motor Lodge, Inc. (merged w/ Franklin Equities, Inc. 2/28/22)
Likely Business Fiduciary:
Franklin Farms & Apiary, LLC - Registered Agent, business at his home address
His failure to disclose his 2021 fiduciary positions of Chief Financial Officer and Secretary of the deep-pocketed, 500+ corporate member Georgia Automobile Dealers' Association (GADA), which lobbies for new automobile franchise and business law, is especially concerning and may reveal a significant conflict of interest. Just this year, according to public records, GADA has sent over 12 badged lobbyists into the Assembly, paying them more than $10,000 each. Money flows to public officials through their CARD and NARD PACs to bolster politicians committed to their lobby interest.
Of immediate relevancy, concerning the failure of the Rivian corporation this week to meet the demands of county HOME RULE protections, the 'Georgia In Charge' electric vehicle lobby association is tandem with GADA. Mr. Franklin has proudly participated in significant lobby efforts for EV already, throughout the state. He's been staged with Governor Kemp in the optics and marketing for the approaching Hyundai EV and Aspen Aerogels battery plants, both within his district. These billion dollar manufacturing facility projects for controversial EV vehicles are largely under the leadership of the Development Area of Bulloch County, a division of Savannah's Joint Development Authority, which encompasses Bulloch, Chatham, Bryan, and Effingham counties.
To make matters more concerning, Franklin now appears to have pursued lobby activities against the spirit of GA Code § 45-10-21 (2020). After he secured his unopposed HD 160 State House position in May of 2022, he then won the Chairmanship of a major Georgia lobby association - you guessed it, GADA. Governor Kemp and his wife even attended the GADA Conference at Sea Island on June 8-12 to oversee the election process and 'check' that Franklin gained the position. However, the Kemps declined attendance to the conference for the Georgia Independent Automobile Dealers' Association (GIADA) the following month. Georgia laws in regards to lobbying warn of narrow power structures and public doubt that broader citizen interest will be protected by elected public officials engaging conflicts of interest, which may violate their oath and duty commitments.
Annually, after GADA elections, it appears that the Chairman becomes the CEO on amended corporate documents filed with the Georgia Secretary of State (see business search). However, GADA has yet to amend and, in fact, the former Chairman, William Strickland, is still the CEO of the corporation, three months after the transfer of chairmanship. Even more curiously, Lea Kirschner, the attorney and registering agent is listed on the GADA website as the President & CEO. In contacting the lobby association, staff is of the belief that Kirschner is the CEO. This the longest that GADA has gone after an election without amending in multiple years, perhaps since Georgia Republican Senator Butch Miller was the GADA Chairman.
As Chairman (and likely CEO), Franklin's staff will consist of multiple paid expert legislative lobbyists, as the corporation is organized, according to the 1971 Articles of Incorporation, to do any and all things necessary to carry out the stimulation and advancement of his professional work industry. GADA is proud of its commitment to monitoring laws in the areas of franchise, employment, and tax/fees from the state.
Now, Franklin has all of the financial records, personnel data, and leadership power to enter the Georgia House Assembly in January 2023 as a “lobbyist” to benefit Kemp and his automobile interests in Georgia, especially the EV industry.
The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), which is committed to improving the operations and management of state legislatures, and the effectiveness of legislators and legislative staff, has been consulted by citizens on this matter. NCSL also encourages the practice of high standards of conduct by legislators and legislative staff.
According to NCSL principles, a decision to be the Chairman (and likely CEO) of a professional lobby association employing a robust team of state legislative lobbyists and which is associated with multiple partner PACs may cross into the following ethical areas of concern under Georgia Code § 45-10-90, among others:
(1) "Conflict of interest," which means a public official or employee has "multiple interests and uses his or her official position to exploit, in some way, his or her position for his or her own direct, unique, pecuniary, and personal benefit." A conflict of interest may lead to (2) "improper conduct" and/or (3) "abuse of official power."