City Ink: Richmond County sheriff race heats up

All signs point to a knock-down, drag-out sheriff race.


Just last week, Scott Peebles’ campaign signs started going up in flames. Then two women got into a fight and one began hitting the other with one of Richard Roundtree’s signs which doesn’t mean anything except that I found it humorous.

Still, it could be a sign.

Also, during a sheriff candidates’ forum at Tabernacle Family Life Center, vehicles were blanketed with fliers critical of all the Democrat candidates, except Roundtree; the sheriff’s undercover operations, especially Operation Smoke Screen; police coverage in the black community; and everything else about the sheriff’s office – except the criminals.

Well, sure.


DIVISIVE? WHO’S DIVISIVE? “If Sheriff (Ronnie) Strength is right about the criminals coming if they set up the stings, why won’t Richmond County Sheriff’s Office set them up in white areas where marijuana, ecstacy, heroin and crystal meth are readily available?” began one flyer.

“Why haven’t east and south Augusta gotten more police coverage with the growing crime (burglaries and home invasions) in the area?

“Why did it take over 30 years and an EEOC charge for a black male sergeant to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant on the sheriff’s office road patrol?

“Why are blacks second-class employees at the sheriff’s office?

“Was the ‘Smoke Screen’ a ploy to steal black votes?”


THEY’LL NEED A BIGGER ROOM: The Richmond County Board of Elections is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the Municipal Building to consider a challenge to Roundtree’s candidacy.

Roundtree reportedly has worked out a payment plan with the IRS to pay federal tax liens.

The issue will be whether he can show he’d worked out a similar plan to pay state tax liens or had paid them off when he signed the affidavit to qualify May 23.


OTHER CAMPAIGN NEWS: Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver has endorsed Peebles.

“I have nothing against the other guys,” he said. “I just think Scott is the best candidate.”

In other election news, William Fennoy says he’ll announce a second try for the Augusta Commission District 1 seat in the next two weeks. He ran for the seat in 2009 and was defeated in a runoff with Matt Aitken.

Four other candidates have said they’ll also try to unseat incumbent Aitken, but one person who’d been rumored to run has decided against it.

Former District 1 Commissioner Betty Beard said many people had asked her to run again, and she’d considered it until a relative reminded her she’d been investigated by the FBI because she’d helped an obese city employee get a gastric bypass in 2007.

Beard steered $20,000 to Otasha Harden’s surgery out of a $25,000 donation given to the city by the developer who turned Maxwell House Apartments into Section 8 housing.

“I’m not bitter about anything,” Beard said. “Politics is the way it is. I’m doing very well. I’m enjoying life. I’m very active. I’m just happy it’s all behind me and I was able to walk away intact.”


JUST LOOKING: Developer Jim Hull flew Copenhaver; administrative assistant Karyn Nixon; City Administrator Fred Russell; Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Margaret Woodard; and four Georgia Health Sciences University officials, President Ricardo Azziz, vice president of government relations Michael Shaffer, director of facility management Jennifer Smith and senior vice president for advance and community relations Susan Darcus, to Columbus, Ga., to look at Columbus State University’s downtown performing arts center.

“Downtown Columbus in the past 10 years has had a tremendous amount of redevelopment, which has been helped a great deal by the expansion of Columbus State downtown,” the mayor said. “They moved the arts and music program downtown, and they have student housing downtown as well. We got some great ideas. As we’re looking to consolidate two universities and grow, a portion of that growth will be downtown.

“It’s similar to the situation to what we have here, with two campuses, one that has athletic facilities, student center, student housing which is about five miles from downtown, and then they have a downtown campus. They really are seeing a renaissance in their riverfront development.”


THE PALEST INK IS BETTER THAN THE STRONGEST MEMORY: Twelfth Congressional District Republican candidate Wright McLeod must have gotten a little bumfuzzled when questioned about voting in five Democratic primaries since 1998 and giving $7,100 to a statewide Democratic candidate.

McLeod said he voted in Democrat presidential primaries “because they win most general elections for local partisan posts. But presidential primaries include no local contests,” reporter Larry Peterson noted on on Friday.

McLeod also said he voted for Bill Richardson in the 2008 presidential primary because he had objections to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, but Richmond County Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey said records indicate no votes were cast for Richardson in McLeod’s precinct in 2008. And records show he voted at his precinct.

McLeod said he thinks he voted absentee or early, and either the records or his memory is wrong, but he trusts his memory.


THANK JERRY AND DON: Augusta’s financial management consultant and CPA Dianne McNabb updated commissioners on the city’s bond and financing projects, credit ratings and long-term debt and said Augusta is in sound financial shape.

The 2007 water and sewer bond refunding saved $8.3 million and the termination of the $160 million utility bond swap came “just in time” to save the city between $10 million and $12 million, she said.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham and former Commissioner Don Grantham, were the only commissioners to vote against the $160 million utility bond swap, or derivative, that the rest of the board got suckered into approving in 2006.

They finally convinced their colleagues to rescind the swap and re-issue conventional bonds. If they hadn’t, the city would be upside down on the bonds by as much as $12 million. Not as much as Jefferson County, Ala., was on its derivative sewer bonds that forced the county to file the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy ever in November.


THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: I sincerely apologize to Augusta author Naomi Williams’ long-haired Chihuahua, Prince Hamlet, for calling him a long-haired Dachshund in last week’s column.

A long-haired Chihuahua looks nothing like a long-haired Dachshund.

But they’re both hard to spell.

Williams will be signing her latest book, Sunny Acres, at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Columbia County Library.