ATLANTA — Talitrix, the company with a now-rescinded contract with the Fulton County Jail is coming under fresh scrutiny amid questions about political contributions the company has made.
Fulton County commissioners pulled the contract that would have outfitted inmates with monitoring bands, after the program ran into delay after delay with its rollout. But, commissioners also have questions about contributions the company made to or on the behalf of the sheriff.
“Since the election of Sheriff Labat, either directly from employees, the organization of Talitrix itself, spouses or related entities, there have been contributions, political contributions in $78,100,” said Fulton County Commission Vice Chair Bob Ellis during last week’s board meeting.
Ellis questioned whether it was a conflict of interest for Sheriff Pat Labat to receive donations from a political action committee (PAC) associated with Talitrix. That’s the same company that was awarded a $2 million emergency contract to provide wristbands to monitor Fulton County inmates’ health following several deaths at the jail over the last year.
“Some $70,000 from a group of people all associated with this same enterprise and I think quite frankly, it raises questions, it could be perfectly legal but does it pass the smell test. I think that’s what Vice Chair Ellis was saying,” Fulton County Commission Chair Rob Pitts.
11Alive started investigating and discovered Sheriff Labat isn’t the only one who received contributions from the PAC, Americans for Protecting the Public.
According to documents from the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, independent contributions totaling about $200,000 were also made on the behalf of Clayton County Sheriff Levon Allen, who recently asked his county commissioners to approve a $4 million contract with Talitrix.
11Alive showed political campaign law expert Marc Hershovitz the documents and asked whether either amounted to a conflict of interest.
“There is nothing about it that is illegal, as long as it is an independent expenditure done without coordination with the candidate,” said Hershovitz.
In a statement a representative from Americans for Protecting the Public, echoed a similar sentiment.
“Like many individuals and businesses, Americans for Protecting the Public has exercised its First Amendment right on political speech in full compliance with the law with support for criminal justice reforms and candidates who have a strong record on public safety,” the statement said.
Pitts shared his thoughts on the matter.
“Nothing wrong with making contributions to a candidate but we have to be careful about the appearance of any improprieties, and in that amount of money coming from one entity or a group of entities associated with the same enterprise can raise question and suspicions,” he said.
11Alive reached out to representatives from both the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office but did not hear back.