Commissioner receives salary despite charges

James Brooks facing charges in separate cases

BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Suspended Brunswick City Commissioner James Brooks is facing criminal charges in two counties, but he's still receiving his annual salary.

The city says that decision was made by the governor, and Brooks' attorney says he deserves it.

"He didn't want this," attorney Alan Tucker said. "He wanted to continue to serve the constituents that voted for him and give those 16,000 citizens of Brunswick a voice on their city commission, but unfortunately the governor saw otherwise."

Tucker said his client hopes the people of Brunswick won't make any assumptions until proven guilty.

Brooks is charged with using his position to influence police department hires and the issuance of liquor licenses and business permits, and is also charged with witness tampering and interfering with a police investigation in the case of 17-year-old murder suspect De'Marquise Elkins, who is charged in the shooting death of Brunswick toddler Antonio Santiago.

As decided by Gov. Nathan deal, the city will continue to pay Brooks his annual salary of $13,000, about $1,300 a month, and will also pay his replacement the same.

Brunswick Mayor Bryan Thompson wants to assure his city that there will be no problem fitting this into the budget.

"This is really no issue whatsoever with the city of Brunswick," Thompson said. "We generally keep a couple hundred thousand in contingency funds for various situations that come up. This is one of those situations."

Brooks' suspension will be lifted if he is cleared of the charges or when his term ends in December. Thompson said the city is comfortable with the way this process is being handled by the governor's office.

As for people in the community, Kenneth Adkins, a local pastor and community activist, hopes the people of Brunswick will give their city commissioner a fair chance.

"The law says you're innocent until proven guilty," Adkins said. "So I think most people would like that opportunity if they're in that same situation to be innocent until proven guilty."

The next step is for the governor to select the interim commissioner. Applications will be accepted until May 31, and a replacement is expected to be named by June.

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