The complaints were made last year to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly the State Ethics Commission of Georgia, by then county Commissioner Karen Bosch.
Bosch said in her complaints that the Canton and Cherokee Tea Party Patriots groups collected money and used it to sway voters on local elections and an upcoming sales tax referendum in the July 2012 elections, although the groups weren’t registered with the state for such campaigning purposes.
Leaders from both the Canton and Cherokee Tea Party groups strongly denied the complaints at the time.
But at the state ethics commission meeting Wednesday, both sets of complaints were kept alive, Holly LaBerge, executive director of the ethics commission said Thursday.
In the case of the Canton Tea Party Patriots, the commission found that “probable cause” for Bosch’s assertions did in fact exist, LaBerge said.
The complaints will now be sent to the state Attorney General for review.
In December, Canton Tea Party Chair Carolyn Cosby said that she could face a $12,000 fine from the ethics commission in the case.
Cosby said Wednesday that the fine still may be charged, but she’s not counting on it.
“At this point, I don’t expect there will be any fines when it’s over with,” Cosby said. “I think the case is much ado about nothing.”
Cosby said she was notified of Wednesday’s meeting of the ethics commission but chose not to attend.
She was, however, represented by her attorney, Channing Ruskell, who was a candidate for the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners and a “Tea Party Favorite,” chosen by the Canton Tea Party Patriots in the 2012 Republican primary.
Cosby said Ruskell told her that she had little to worry about after the meeting Wednesday.
The Cherokee Tea Party Patriots were also not cleared by the state ethics commission Wednesday, although the group’s leader, Conrad Quagliaroli, interpreted the board’s actions as clearing him of any wrong-doing.
The fines levied against his group were dropped, but the commission ruled the group must agree to a compliance order.
LaBerge said she could not speak to the terms of the compliance order since it hasn’t been drawn up yet.
But the fact that the complaints weren’t dismissed means that Quagliaroli’s group isn’t done with the ethics commission.
Quagliaroli appeared before the commission Wednesday and said he was pleased with the results, although he would rather have had the complaints dismissed outright.
“At least I don’t have to pay anything,” he said.