It’s a tradition for newspapers to make a seasonal request of their readers: “This Christmas, remember the needy.”
In that spirit, I will note a couple of needy Georgians who have been the subject of intense media scrutiny in recent weeks and would probably appreciate a few kind words from their friends.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp has had to deal with an embarrassing report that his agency distributed computer disks that erroneously included not only the names of Georgia’s 6.2 million registered voters, but their Social Security numbers and birth dates, as well.
The data breach appears to have been an employee’s mistake, but that’s the kind of personal information that could be used by folks involved in identity thefts and computer scams. Not surprisingly, the media jumped on the story and Kemp has taken a beating from critics who have demanded that he resign as secretary of state.
This is media coverage that no politician wants to deal with at Christmastime, especially an ambitious one like Kemp, who is expected to run for governor in 2018.
The data breach is becoming an expensive proposition for Kemp’s office. He commissioned an outside investigation of the incident that concluded the whole thing was the employee’s fault (the employee has been dismissed). He’s also offering a free year of credit monitoring and identity protection services to those who are worried about the possible consequences of releasing their personal information.
On top of that, the secretary of state’s office will have to pay for the services of private attorneys from a prominent Atlanta law firm to defend Kemp in a civil lawsuit filed by two registered voters.
The hiring of private lawyers was necessary because Attorney General Sam Olens, who normally defends state officials sued over their official activities, has declined to represent Kemp.
Olens cited a potential “conflict of interest” as his reason to withdraw from the case. In this instance, the conflict involves Olens’ interest in running against Kemp in the Republican primary for governor.
The whole sequence of events has left Kemp and his state agency on the hook for some sizable payments to high-priced lawyers, the credit monitoring service and the persons who filed the civil lawsuit.
Georgia’s secretary of state is obviously one of the needy this Christmas. You may want to toss a few coins into his tin cup.
Another person who could qualify as needy is Robert Nkemdiche, an immensely talented football player at Ole Miss who will likely be a high draft pick by a National Football League team. Before heading to Mississippi to play college ball, Nkemdiche helped lead his Grayson High School football team to a state championship in Georgia.
While staying at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta hotel recently, Nkemdiche went through his hotel room window, fell onto a ledge encircling the building, and then fell 15 feet from the ledge to the ground. He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital for treatment, and authorities subsequently found a small amount of marijuana in his hotel room.
The athlete did apologize to his fans and teammates about the incident. “I made a mistake and put myself in an environment that doesn’t reflect who I am as a person,” he said in a statement.
Like Kemp, Nkemdiche could end up having to pay hefty legal fees before his situation is resolved — he’s been charged with possession of marijuana. He could become even needier, financially speaking, if the publicity from the incident hinders efforts to sign a lucrative contract with an NFL team.
Ultimately, I think they will both get through this in decent shape.
There are still more than two years until the next election for governor, which is an eternity in politics. If there are no major outbreaks of identity theft from the data breach, and so far none have been reported, then Kemp should benefit from the fact that the average voter has a very short memory.
Nkemdiche should also be able to resolve the outstanding legal issues and get on with his life. Other athletes have encountered worse situations and have been able to handle it.
For now, they’re both facing the prospect of a glum Christmas season. They could use a little cheering up.
Tom Crawford is the editor of the Georgia Report.