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Georgia lieutenant governor discussed deal with state vendor

Geoff Duncan speaks to Georgia Young Republicans (Campaign photo via Twitter)
Geoff Duncan speaks to Georgia Young Republicans (Campaign photo via Twitter)

ATLANTA – Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan discussed selling a concept for a healthcare computer application to a state vendor, an investigation by a TV station finds.

The Republican Duncan discussed but did not complete the sale with Sharecare, a company that’s paid $14 million a year to provide a digital healthcare program for Georgia state employees, Atlanta station WAGA-TV found.

Duncan denies wrongdoing, characterizing the dealings as a discussion between himself and his friend, Sharecare CEO and Atlanta entrepreneur Jeff Arnold. Sharecare’s founders are Arnold and heart surgeon and TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Sharecare President Dawn Whaley said there were never any serious talks.

“We have no deal with Lt. Governor Duncan,” Whaley said.

Duncan’s office said he does not control which vendors the state hires and notes the lieutenant governor is allowed to do business outside his public service. Duncan and his wife formed a marketing company and he served for a time as CEO of another health care information technology company — Wellview Health. Duncan remains a Wellview director.

“I promised in my campaign that I would remain a citizen legislator with one foot in the private sector – just as previous lieutenant governors have done -- and hold myself to the highest ethical standards,” Duncan said in a statement. “Any business decision I make starts with an in-depth consultation with my legal team to ensure we stay well within the law.”

WAGA-TV reports the talks came as Duncan and his family members sat in front-row Atlanta Hawks seats belonging to Sharecare at least three times. A spokesman for Duncan said those seats didn’t need to be reported to Georgia ethics officials because Arnold is a friend and not a registered lobbyist. The spokesman said Duncan later provided “a massive check” to repay Sharecare for the cost of the seats, wanting to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Duncan and Gov. Brian Kemp also attended a healthcare innovation conference in Montana hosted by Sharecare, with public money paying travel costs.

“Well, it was an incredible opportunity to meet with a number of people, including the governor,” Duncan said. “It’s just amazing to think about all of the innovations.”

Duncan also flew to New York to visit Sharecare officials and took Arnold and his wife to St. Louis on a private jet paid for with Duncan-linked campaign funds. While in St. Louis, Duncan attended a fundraising event and an Atlanta Braves playoff game.