Hall County solicitor accused of ignoring campaign finance laws

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Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard faces a second state investigation, this one involving her campaign.

Hall County Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard – already under GBI investigation – now finds herself facing new allegations.

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission filed a complaint accusing the longtime elected official of failing to provide key campaign and financial disclosures, not just for 2022, but for every year since 2018.

“Most elected officials are pretty good about getting these filed,” said Joe Cusack, deputy general counsel for the commission. “So it’s sort of rare to see an office holder or somebody who’s held office for many years screw up these filings.”

Woodard, who is also an attorney, took office in 2008.

The first violation carries a $1000 fine. Every additional count could be $10,000.

Records show Woodard has spent little or no money on campaigns in recent years because she’s had no opposition. But the law still requires regular reporting. Fines for those violations could be paid from campaign funds.

But if the allegations prove true, Woodard would be personally on the hook for fines involving her failure to submit financial disclosure statements each year — records showing all business interests and sources of revenue.

Cusack explained those annual filings are designed to protect all Georgians.

“They can make sure that there’s no public officers taking action that’s basically going to be benefit their pocketbook,” he said.

Woodard did not respond to our attempts for comment, both through email and a visit to her office.

Rick Farmer says he already gave his statement to the GBI. He cremated the solicitor’s dog. She submitted the $190 invoice for reimbursement. Hall County cut her a check.

Combine this new investigation with an older and far more serious one.

Sources inside the Hall County Courthouse said multiple GBI agents spent several hours Monday executing a search warrant for records from Woodard’s office.

  • The state attorney general ordered the GBI probe based on what the FOX 5 I-Team uncovered in October: thousands of public dollars earmarked for crime victims instead spent by Woodard on questionable purchases:
  • Her dog’s cremation.
  • A family member’s LSAT application.
  • Expensive headphones.
  • Shopping sprees at antique stores. Plus many more purchases with no clear indication a victim was actually helped.

Woodard has already paid back around $2000 of that money, claiming those expenses were submitted by mistake.

We also discovered thousands of dollars spent at area restaurants for Woodard and her staff. Often the solicitor claimed the meals were for “training.”

Rick Farmer is the owner of Precious Memories, the pet crematory that handled Woodard’s dog. Farmer said he’s already given his statement to the GBI.

“They’re serious about this,” he said.

The GBI is also interested in Woodard’s decision to file duplicate expense reports with Hall County and the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, in essence getting reimbursed twice for the same expenses incurred during PAC’s annual summer conference.

Despite the criminal investigation, Woodard remains on the job. And in this month’s General Election, she collected 63,397 votes, unopposed for her fourth full term as Hall County solicitor general.

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