After utility regulators ignored that advice, Attorney General Sam Olens wrote them a letter Wednesday warning that the plan violated Georgia's state constitution.
"Despite the obvious good intentions of those expressing an interest in a settlement agreement that would provide funds to various non-profit organizations, the law simply does not permit such a result," Olens wrote.
Everett said there is a legitimate tie. Peerless admitted in filings that it failed to comply with several rules, including procedures to ensure the confidentiality of family violence shelters. Everett said Care Net assists pregnant women who are abused and need shelter, although it does not operate any shelter services itself. Peerless officials did not return a call seeking comment.
"I can't understand why this one was singled out," Everett said.
Allowing the company to make a donation to Care Net rather than paying a fine to the state could raise questions over the constitutional separation of church and state. Care Net says on its website that its mission includes, "Sharing the truth that Jesus Christ offers thereby making voluntary pregnancy termination unnecessary and undesirable."
Echols said in an interview that Everett first proposed giving the fine proceeds to Care Net. Echols said he originally wanted to give the funding to charity medical clinics interested in installing or expanding broadband access so that their patients could remotely consult with medical experts without traveling. Echols said he backed Everett's plan on a condition: If the commission rejected Everett's plan to give the proceeds to Care Net, then Everett would support Echols' plan to give the proceeds to the clinics.
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