Sylvia CooperCity Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Strength's exit did not surprise everyone

  • Follow City Ink

The curtain fell on a big news week and rose an hour early today, ushering in daylight saving time, the beginning of Brain Awareness Week and the Ides of March on Wednesday.

High drama surrounded Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength’s announcement that he would not seek re-election, though anyone who knows him knew it was a foregone conclusion. Some people say the same about the bribery charges against David Fry.

AH, WHAT A RELIEF IT IS: After announcing he’ll leave the sheriff’s office at year’s end, Strength said, “I’m glad it’s over.”

He’d been telegraphing his decision for months despite intense pressure to give it a go one more time. What it all boiled down to is that he’s tired. Moreover, he doesn’t want to drop dead in the sheriff’s office as his father did.

Strength said he felt confident and in charge before Friday’s news conference until all the women around him started crying.

“I’ve never been an emotional person,” he said. “I knew what I was going to say and felt confident. But when I saw them, I said, ‘My God, I don’t need that.’ And when I got into saying I had put my job before my family, I choked up and had to stop and pause and get myself together. It got me. It really did.”

But it’s not really over – yet.

“What I’ll really have a problem with is Dec. 31 when I leave for the last time,” he said. “I’ve been with these folks 36 years, and they’re like my family.”

A HOUSE DIVIDED? He’ll have a worse problem standing on the sidelines during the primary campaign while the man he believes is the most qualified to be his successor, Capt. Scott Peebles, vies with former sheriff’s Investigator Richard Roundtree and possibly others, such as the brother of Strength’s wife, Lt. Robert Silas.

Silas has expressed an interest in running despite being pressured not to split the white vote – not to mention the family – apart.

Thanksgiving would never be the same.

MOM, WRITE A FEW ENDORSE­­MENTS FOR ME: Round­tree is coming on strong. Earlier this month, he posted this on his Face­book page:

“Let me first apologize for not what I am about to say but for waiting so long to say it. We are in a position to change the face of Augusta, unite the community and make history. Yet, there (sic) members of our community who chose to chastise and defame us.....” just because “....or that they have their own agendas. I encourage everyone … When conversations start off with ‘Well I heard’ … They should end with ‘Well if you don’t know for sure, how about keeping your mouth shut.’ We have been and still are, our own worst enemies. Let me make this clear … It is my intent to be the next Sheriff of Augusta-Richmond County … For those of you, and you know who you are … You can either get aboard this train … or you can stand in front of it. … The choice is yours. This is my pledge to you. … Community and Law Enforcement … One Team, One Dream.”

And one Grateful Mother.

ONE DEAL LEADS TO ANOTHER: Augusta Commis­sioner Corey Johnson, one of the two commissioners that Fry was accused of trying to bribe with promises of a 3 percent cut of parking deck revenues if they would vote for building it for the TEE Center, called the sentence Fry received Thursday “a bunch of crap.”

Fry was sentenced to five years’ probation on allegations that he tried to bribe Johnson and Commissioner Alvin Mason in 2009.

“They got what they wanted,” Johnson said. “They put it off and put it off. The attorney realized they had enough evidence to convict him. I can’t say that I was shocked. But if the shoe was on the other foot, and we had tried to bribe him … It makes you wonder. I don’t wish any ill will on anybody.”

Nevertheless, Johnson said Fry should have gotten some time in prison and the fact he’s on medication was no excuse for keeping him out.

“There’s people in prison right now on medication,” he said. “A lot of them. It didn’t make sense.”

The district attorney’s office said there were evidentiary issues with the case because Fry had no contract to offer. Fry’s attorney, Pete Theodocian, called the offer an “indecent proposal” but not a bribe.

Fry said he’s happy the sentencing is over for the sake of his family.

“It’s been a long time,” he said. “There’s been some irreparable harm done, and I’ll have to deal with that. I believe in God, and I know good will come from it. I don’t know what it will be yet, but I will.”

3R1 VERSUS 3R2: State Sen. Jesse Stone dropped another redistricting plan into the legislative hopper last week, the second proposed map, 3R2, for redistricting Richmond County’s commission and school board districts.

Earlier, Rep. Wayne Howard introduced 3R1, the map approved by a 12-member ad hoc committee, four of whom later withdrew their support because it has six majority-black and four majority-white districts.

3R2 decreases the percentage of the black voting age population in District 6. Stone said he wanted to ensure it remained a swing district.

Plan 3R1 has passed in the House and must be approved by both Stone and Sen. Hardie Davis, as would 3R2.

Both plans protect incumbents, but if neither bill gets through, a federal judge could end up redistricting Rich­mond County, and he won’t care where the incumbents live.

Commissioner Grady Smith, one of the ad hoc committee members who voted for 3R1 but later decided that was a mistake, said, “It’s a sad day for Richmond County when we can’t sit down at a table and come to an agreement.”

Isn’t that what the ad hoc committee already did?

IT’S MINE! IS NOT! IS TOO! IS NOT! What blocked the MCG Foundation’s repeated $1 million offer to buy the city’s transit property at 15th and Fenwick streets? That’s the property commissioners recently voted in secret to sell to a developer for $505,000 as the site of a Walmart.

Was it because the foundation fell out of favor with the powers-that-be at MCG in 2008 after turning down a request by then-MCG President Dan Rahn for $5 million to go toward the construction of a new dental school? Rahn resigned from the foundation and demanded the rest of the board quit as well.

When most of the 38-member foundation board kept their posts, the school began efforts to sever ties. Rahn formed a new foundation with Clay Boardman III as chairman.

The University System of Georgia then sued the MCG Foundation for its refusal to stop using the name connected to the Medi­cal College of Georgia.

After new MCG Presi­dent Ricardo Azziz replaced Rhan, the two-year rift ended and the suit was dismissed.

I asked City Administra­tor Fred Russell whether that theory made sense, and he said it did. He said both foundations called him trying to make sure the “right” foundation got the property.

I guess nobody could decide which was the right one.

IF I ONLY HAD A BRAIN: Brain Awareness Week won’t help me one bit. It’s too late. I ordered too much from the plant catalogs that start coming to a mailbox near me in January, and now the nurseries are going to ship a shade garden, a bird garden, a butterfly garden, two Bleeding Hearts and two giant blueberry bushes this week.

Too much, too soon. What a pickle!

Comments (8) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
csraguy 03/11/12 - 01:53 am
Sheriff Strength has given us

Sheriff Strength has given us 35 years and will have worked 36 when he retires at the end of the year. He has greatly improved the Sheriff's Office and proven to be very dedicated to this community. For this, his service is greatly appreciated by many.

He may not be endorsing anyone but he has repeatedly stated that Captain Scott Peebles is the most qualified and prepared law enforcement officer to lead the RCSO into the future.

As for Richard Roundtree, the only other viable candidate at this time, this post from Facebook is very telling. Even as a "candidate for office" he is telling us to "get on board his train or stand in front of it and be run over". With arrogance such as this as a candidate can you imagine what he would do to those who disagreed with him or failed to support him if he were actually the Sheriff. This is not leadership, certainly not the type of leadership that is professing one team, one dream and to work with the community in community policing. Anyone of any race can easily determine that Roundtree is not Sheriff material without even going into all of the problems he had while at the Sheriff’s Office.

On the issue of bribery, I agree with Corey Johnson - the man should have received at a very minimum some time behind bars. Our justice system often is soft on those with the right connections or money and this is just another example of delayed justice in order to weaken the sentencing and frankly, it just isn't right.

Justin4466 03/11/12 - 07:18 am
Commissioner Grady Smith,...

Commissioner Grady Smith,... “It’s a sad day for Richmond County when we can’t sit down at a table and come to an agreement.”
After 6 meetings and a unanimous vote I agree with Commissioner Smith. It is a sad day when a commissioner cannot vote his conscience and have his mind changed by the cabal and say it was a mistake to vote that way. Hasn't he done this on other issues?

Riverman1 03/11/12 - 08:31 am
So many in the media, print

So many in the media, print and radio folks who make comments here spell Theodocion wrong, I've noticed. But to the subjects.

Johnson is absolutely right about Fry getting off. Let Joe the Plumber do something like that and he's going to jail along with ANYONE who encouraged him. Fry sounds remarkably emotionally stable in his comments NOW doesn't he? Heh.

Riverman1 03/11/12 - 08:33 am
Ronnie Strength has been a

Ronnie Strength has been a good spokesman for the RCSO even if I have often been critical of his administration. He has served with serious medical issues for a long time and I admire him for that. As of now Peebles may be the best candidate, but I hope another qualified candidate steps up. A black one.

We need to break the connections Webster made and passed onto Strength that continue to this day.

Secondly, blacks will love me and hate me for this statement. Since it is a black county, we need a black sheriff. It adds a dynamic to community policing and leadership with the community. Plus, a ballpark figure here, blacks are involved with most of the criminal activity.

They need a tough, John Thompson like figure, they can trust and who can say straighten up and stop disrespecting your people. The problem is Roundtree has too much baggage to be that person.

Conservative Man
Conservative Man 03/11/12 - 01:30 pm
Sheriff Strength brought a

Sheriff Strength brought a sense of stabilty to an office plagued by ineptitude. Having said that ,I think Ronnie Strength is a good man but not a very effective law enforcement officer. Great politician, good guy, but Richmond County needs someone with a more progressive attitude about the job. A Sheriff that will embrace "community policing" rather than the tired old "reactionary" style favored by Strength.
Thank you for your service Mr. Strength but you are is time for you to move on and let someone with a 21st century approach do the job....

Riverman1 03/11/12 - 07:32 pm
With Fry what we have is the

With Fry what we have is the old temporary insanity defense and it appears it worked. I wonder why more criminals don't use that? It seems to work pretty well and right after the trial the defendant is normal as the sunrise even if there is Daylight Savings Time. Some things in Richmond County are never affected.

csraguy 03/11/12 - 10:46 pm
River, you are right on

River, you are right on target with Fry.

Riverman1 03/12/12 - 06:57 am
As I commented on another

As I commented on another thread, apparently, Ronnie Strrength is not endorsing any candidate in the primary, according to news on the radio.

Back to Top
Top headlines
Doctor part of effort to improve response to mass casualties
Dr. Gina Piazza is helping to lead a task force to suggest better ways for emergency departments to respond to events like the nightclub shooting in Orlando but says it still doesn't have the ...
Search Augusta jobs