The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Echols requested complimentary practice round tickets this year, months after the highly prized tickets had been distributed through a lottery.
“As a statewide elected official, I would welcome the opportunity to visit with constituents and guests in our state,” Echols wrote on March 7.
He also pointed out in the letter, which he provided to the Journal-Constitution, that the PSC “regulates energy, telecom and transportation.”
The commissioner received no response and followed up with a letter to Augusta National saying he wanted to be admitted so he could check limousines to make sure they are properly registered with the state of Georgia.
Augusta National denied Echols access, and he called off the operation after pressure from other commissioners.
“I don’t know that there has been another public service commissioner to be so aggressive in the transportation sector with enforcement as I was trying to be, and my fellow commissioners were uncomfortable with me pursuing rogue companies so aggressively,” Echols said. He said he takes his position as transportation chair of the Public Service Commission very seriously.
Echols has conducted similar checks at high school proms. He also ran a sting operation on buses during the PGA Championship earlier this month at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
Lawyers and state ethics advocates say that because the PSC does not regulate Augusta National or golf tournaments, Echols’ request doesn’t violate an ethics policy.
But William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, questions Echols’ need to attend such gatherings.
“You don’t have to go to a high-profile public event in order to meet with and interact with constituents,” he said. “You can go to the grocery store across the street and meet citizens in the parking lot and talk to them.”