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Zell caught taking $61K from the taxpayer cookie jar

Well this should shut the old “decency” coot up.

Experts are voicing concerns about how and why former Gov. Zell Miller departed the Governor’s Mansion with over $60,000 in taxpayer dollars. Every living Georgia governor, including Jimmy Carter, says they would not have kept the money or considered that it belongs to them.

Miller is busy promoting his new book, “A Deficit in Decency.”

But his critics say the former U.S. Senator needs to write another chapter about the money some say did not belong to him. To millions of Americans, Miller is a national treasure, the senator who stands for what’s right. “He’s somebody who’s done the right thing at the right time for all of us,” said one Miller fan.

Records uncovered by Channel 2 Action News are raising some experts’ concern. “If there’s even an inkling of a conflict or an inkling of an integrity issue then that should have been addressed as he left office,” said Dr. Hasan Crockett, a political science professor who teaches at the Brisbane Institute of Morehouse College. The issue goes back to 1999 when Miller retired.

He packed his track and in his words was, “Headed for the mountains.”

He also left with the mansion allowance, an account provided by Georgia taxpayers, which had ballooned to an estimated $61,000. Said Crockett: “To drain the account and leave the next governor without that account and take that account for whatever reason … that’s very unethical, and I think an issue that should be looked at further.”

According to Georgia law, the mansion allowance is an amount specified in the legislature’s appropriations act provided for the operation of the Governor’s Mansion. We asked the man who wrote those checks to tell us what that means to him. “It was not a salary supplement,” said Winford Poitevant, the retired division director for the state’s Office of Planning and Budget. “It was a mansion allowance, and that’s what (the law) says.”

When asked what Poitevant would say if told that Miller apparently left office with tens of thousands of dollars from the mansion allowance, he replied, “To be on the safe side, I wouldn’t have done that.”

Poitevant said Miller never called to ask about the funds. The state did not list the money as income on his W-2 tax form.

Miller declined requests for an interview, but acknowledges that he kept the money.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding