Qualifying ended Friday, and the competition for Augusta Political Idol – the city’s hottest reality show – is under way.
First up was lawyer Jack Long who filed a complaint with the state elections director objecting to Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders running for Superior Court judge.
Saunders, who filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy in September, owed more than $159,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. He filed a payment plan, but the plan is not to pay his taxes in full. He will pay nothing on $73,000.
“Article 2, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Georgia Constitution states that anyone who doesn’t pay their taxes in full or file a payment plan to repay the full amount is not eligible to run for public office,” Long said. It’s a little-known law that nobody pays attention to.
Long said his complaint “hasn’t got a damned thing to do with” Saunders personally or Long’s friendship with incumbent Augusta Judicial Circuit Judge Carlisle Overstreet.
“If anyone else is running that has not rendered unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, I’ll do the same thing. Taxes are what we pay for the benefit of living in a free society.”
SHORT AND SWEET: Former Mayor Bob Young e-mailed last week to say the sheriff’s candidates would be speaking to the Summerville Neighborhood Association. I didn’t go because I’d heard them earlier and didn’t want to get over-exposed. Still I wanted to know what His Honor thought, so I e-mailed him the next day. He said he didn’t go either and was counting on me to go and give him a report.
So I did.
“In a nutshell, I’ll give you my honest opinions of the sheriff’s candidates from what I’ve observed so far.
Scott Peebles – of the Democrat candidates, he’s obviously the most qualified and able to handle the job and the media. Just the right age, too. I just wish he’d quit the talk about community policing, which would be nice but unaffordable for Richmond County. Do you want to pay an extra $100 a year in property taxes to send deputies out to babysit at high-crime hot spots?
Richard Roundtree – nice looking, makes a plausible presentation of himself, and would not be an embarrassment during a news conference after a shooting or something. However, he seems to be a chick magnet with a penchant for Econo Lodges and that could be a problem. He’s also a little lax with evidence, guns and ammo. And he owes $17,450 to the IRS and $789 to the state.
Robbie Silas – Sheriff Ronnie Strength’s brother-in-law seems to be an officer and a gentleman. Nothing bad to say about him except ... nothing bad to say about him.
John Ivey – Solid as a rock. Not too innovative though. I’d vote for him before Roundtree because he seems trustworthy and serious.
Freddie Sanders – Republican candidate talks law and order. What I like to hear. Definitely needs a new toupee though.
I’ve forgotten the other Republican candidate’s name already although he seemed sincere when I talked to him. What does that tell you?
Bob replied he thought it was a good analysis.
“Community policing is a buzzword for progressives, who vote Democrat. Scott needs them to win. Richard has gone a step further by saying he’ll use the office for social engineering. The reality is there is no money to do either, and this could spill over into the commission race as an issue about raising taxes for law enforcement.
As for Richard’s taxes, it would be unusual to have a sheriff whose wages were garnished.”
NO JUSTICE AT ALL: Listen carefully. You can almost hear the skeletons rattling in the Marble Palace.
Last week, I told you about now-demoted Augusta Recreation Department employee Melinda Pearson’s report to Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan concerning perceived threats from employee Millie Armstrong. Armstrong asked Pearson to meet her at Smack Down where she would put her in a “sleeper hold.”
Shanahan promised to look into Armstrong’s file to see whether Pearson’s concerns were justified. He also told her not to go to her office the next morning until she heard from him. She never did. So I decided to do his job.
I asked to review Armstrong’s and one other personnel file, for which the law department charged $71.74. Funny thing, when the law department released documents from Shanahan and company’s timecard investigation to the media it included old disciplinary reports from Pearson’s file, which hadn’t even been requested and had nothing to do with the investigation – at no charge.
Anyway, I paid and settled down for some hair-raising tales. Suffice it to say, it would take two newspaper pages to print it all. But during her tenure, Armstrong has received at least two dozen verbal and written warnings, reprimands and has been suspended six times for gross misconduct, insubordination, harassment of co-workers, fighting, racial and derogatory remarks and “uncontrolled violent behavior.”
She received a verbal warning in 2000 for threatening to poison her supervisor, Horace Dunbar, who complained she said she was going to get her .38 and shoot him. In 2001, she picked up a pipe and started toward Dunbar who locked himself in his office to get away. In 2005 she tried to kick a co-worker and created such a disturbance risk management and two sheriff’s deputies got involved.
Not in the file were two complaint reports and a suspension this year.
There is a letter – “non-punitive in nature” if you can believe that – from Shanahan indicating he did meet with Armstrong about the Smack Down incident, and she told him she was just joking, and he told her not to do it again and that he appreciated her honesty.
That’s a fine example of why it’s almost impossible to fight City Hall. They manufacture evidence and hide documents.
The same officials who conducted the timecard investigation that led to Director Tom Beck’s firing and Pearson’s demotion heard Pearson’s appeal last week. How’s that for a stacked jury? A decision is expected this week, but the heavens would have to open up if the appeal weren’t denied. They’re too deep into it now to say they’re wrong – although they are. If they said she didn’t commit timecard fraud, where would that leave them with Beck who was fired on the same bogus accusation?
Anyway, why should they care? They won’t pay the piper with their money. They’ll wad up some more of yours and throw it at the lawsuits.
WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE SURROUNDED BY ALL THAT DEATH: Ernie and I visited the Vietnam Veteran Memorial wall at Fort Gordon on Friday and with the help of Sgt. 1st Class Justin Cooley found the names of two boys Ernie grew up with in south Georgia. We then went to the display of photographs, guns, ammunition and other war memorabilia created by John Fribley Hosier, an Airborne Ranger who became a combat photographer after being shot in Vietnam.
He took thousands of photographs. After the war was over, he stored them in his attic for almost 30 years before realizing what a treasure he had.
“Every photographer is always looking for that great shot like the raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi,” he said. “I was like that, wanting to go to this battlefront or firefight to get that shot and was disappointed. But when we got the old pictures out, I realized they were all great. Some of them are the last pictures taken of these boys.”
If you go to any of the programs at Barton Field between now and the closing ceremony Monday, don’t miss “Through the Eyes – a Vietnam Experience.”