Columbia County GOP fights over leadership

Who is leading the Columbia County Republican Party?


It depends whom you ask.

A group of county Republicans claim they ousted Lawrence Hammond as party chairman during a Friday meeting. However, Mr. Hammond said he thinks the meeting was called improperly and refuses to recognize the vote.

In a letter sent Thursday to committee members of the county party, Mr. Hammond said those who called the meeting ignored a "State Parliamentarian ruling about the process to call this very meeting."

The committee's 152 members are supposed to be given a 32-day notice of meetings. Mr. Hammond said the members were given less than a week to prepare. The timing of the meeting was intentional because those calling it knew he would be in Atlanta for his son's soccer tournament, he said.

Mr. Hammond has decided to call a new meeting for Jan. 11 to discuss ethics complaints made against him. Another meeting also has been called Jan. 25 by Pat Goodwin, who wrote in an e-mail Saturday that she is serving as the interim chairwoman of the party.

The January meeting Ms. Goodwin is organizing was called to elect Mr. Hammond's replacement. A phone message left Monday afternoon for Ms. Goodwin was not immediately returned.

Four party members, including Ms. Goodwin, filed ethics complaints against Mr. Hammond in September. Most of the complaints concern a letter Mr. Hammond sent to county commissioners and the state legislative delegation to seek information on a lobbying firm hired by the county commission.

According to the complaints, a resolution to find out more about Augusta-based Oglethorpe Public Affairs, which was hired in July to lobby on behalf of Columbia County with state lawmakers, was tabled. Still, Mr. Hammond e-mailed inquiries about the firm.

Mr. Hammond said Monday that the resolution was meant to condemn the commission's action and was proposed by Ms. Goodwin, who is first vice chairwoman of the party's executive committee.

Most of the complaints also called for Mr. Hammond's removal as chairman.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or