Political Insider

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The public cost of Barnes hire in Georgia voting case

Georgia officials agreed to pay former Gov. Roy Barnes' law firm $250 an hour with taxpayer dollars for his defense of Secretary of State Brian Kemp in an ongoing lawsuit with a national transparency organization, according to documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Barnes was hired to represent the agency after Kemp accused administrators of a Kennesaw State University center that runs the state's elections of "inexcusable conduct or gross incompetence" over its erasure of a server containing voting information at the center of the lawsuit.

Attorney General Chris Carr, whose office represented both KSU and Kemp, said in a statement he was forced to withdraw from the case because of a conflict of interest after the secretary of state "took a position adverse to another party" that his office also represented.

Barnes has not commented on his appointment, but it's likely the $250 hourly rate is a discount. Prominent attorneys in Georgia often command hourly rates that double or triple that sum.

The documents, obtained through a public records request, show that Gov. Nathan Deal's executive counsel, Carey Miller, sent Kemp attorney Ryan Germany an email Oct. 31 asking for a recommendation on "conflict counsel" for the job.

Germany responded "we are good with Roy Barnes" representing the office and the State Election Board. Shortly after, the a Department of Administrative Services official sent an email to state officials confirming Barnes' appointment.

Kemp, a Republican who is running for governor, has since called Barnes a "damn good attorney" and said he's confident he'll ably represent the office despite their partisan differences. But some of Barnes' fellow Democrats were infuriated that he agreed to defend a state agency he's previously tangled with in court.

The lawsuit filed by the Charlotte-based Coalition for Good Governance claims that security lapses show the state’s system is “vulnerable and unreliable” and should not have been used for the 6th Congressional District runoff race in June or in next week’s election.

Keep reading:

Kemp starts probe after data on Georgia election computer destroyed

Why the state AG's office isn't representing Kemp in data server case

‘Dumbfounded.’ Some Dems infuriated by Barnes hire in voter case

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.