Dooley says it was Tumlin’s support of a predatory, payday lending bill he sponsored as a member of the Georgia House that allowed her to oust him from office in the 2008 election.
“I think that the thoughtful people of Georgia did not want that, and they were disappointed that that was something that was being pushed, and they thought it was not appropriate for Georgia,” Dooley said Monday.
Olens said while the firms he’s filed the lawsuit against are not licensed to lend in Georgia, they still make high interest payday loans to Georgia consumers over the Internet. The loans carry crushing interest rates of up to 340 percent and trap the borrower in a cycle of debt. For example, a consumer borrowing $2,600 from the defendants will ultimately pay more than $14,000 in principal and interest over the life of the loan, he said.
“Nobody can justify that,” Dooley said. “So I think when that became an issue that people were showing their disapproval of it. That it wasn’t so much between Tumlin and Dooley, it wasn’t a popularity thing, it was, ‘We don’t like this idea.’”
Tumlin learns a lesson
Tumlin said Monday while he did sponsor a payday lending bill as a Republican state representative, as he learned more about the legislation, he ultimately turned against it.
While the Republican leadership at the time saw it as a free enterprise issue, it was a consumer rights issue, he said.
“I don’t even eat PayDay candy bars after that,” Tumlin joked.
The mayor said he was proud of Olens for taking action to enforce the law against unauthorized payday lending in Georgia.
“As far as not retaining my seat, this was indeed one of the raised issues in the campaign as Rep. Dooley won fair and square,” Tumlin said. “I prevailed one time and my worthy opponent prevailed in the rematch. Both races were close.”
Tumlin is referring to how Dooley held the House seat from 2002 to 2004 before he ousted her.
“If I didn’t have payday lending could I still be down in the House?” Tumlin asked himself. “Maybe. Or something else could have come up. I came in on the Bush sweep and she came in on the Obama sweep.”
Filed in Fulton County Superior Court, Olens accuses South Dakota-based Western Sky Financial, the company’s owner, Martin Webb, and California-based Cash Call, Inc. of violating a state law prohibiting lenders from offering payday loans over the Internet.
Complaints made against companies
Olens said his office and the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection have received numerous complaints regarding Western Sky’s payday loans, including that Western Sky continues to electronically withdraw funds from consumers’ bank accounts to collect high interest payments even though the consumers have repaid the full amount of the principal on the loan. There have also been a large volume of complaints about CashCall’s collection practices. Consumers have reported that CashCall representatives have harassed them with repeated telephone calls, obscene and abusive language, threats of wage garnishment or other legal action, even going so far as to call consumers’ employers to threaten wage garnishment, he said.
In addition to asking the court to prohibit the defendants from making payday loans in Georgia, Olens is seeking that the court declare any pending loans null and void and stop them from further collection of payments. The complaint also seeks civil penalties and attorneys’ fees.
Just like the mob, Dooley says
Dooley said she’s noticed ads for payday lending on TV.
“And I’ve been noticing the counter ads on television saying, ‘If you’re caught up in these payday loans come and see us,’ which probably isn’t a whole lot better, but you can see what happens,” she said. “It’s like the stuff that you used to do with the mob, the loan sharking. I think when you pay those outrageous interest rates you can’t catch up, and Sam is an excellent attorney, and he understands the ins and outs of things like this. And whereas I don’t always agree with him, I think in this case I’m very glad to have him representing the state of Georgia, and I think he’ll take them down.”
After Dooley ousted Tumlin, Tumlin went on to become mayor of Marietta. Dooley was later ousted herself in 2010 by state Rep. Sam Teasley (R-Marietta). Since that time, Dooley said she has served on the board of Right in the Community, a nonprofit that partners with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to build homes for developmentally delayed adults.
“The mindset is to make the money anyway you can, and anyway you can means people get hurt, so that was really the reason they voted down the payday loans,” Dooley said, referring to how the lawmakers ultimately killed Tumlin’s bill.