Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Some Richmond County sheriff candidates are not as they seem

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By now, most folks know that four candidates have announced they want to be Richmond County’s next sheriff, and, it would appear, social-worker-in-chief. They all talked about getting officers out into the community more to dialog with residents. A couple even promised to address poverty and the city’s dropout problem, which is all fine and dandy, but while everybody dialogs, who’s going to do the hard jobs?

Anyway, whether these four will be the final four remains to be seen.

Sheriff’s office Capt. Scott Peebles announced Monday at the Augusta Judicial Center and promised to move toward more community policing. Although Sheriff Ronnie Strength won’t be endorsing anyone until after the primary, he has often said privately that Peebles is most qualified to succeed him.

IT’S HARD TO BE A MAN OF THE PEOPLE WHEN YOU RIDE AROUND IN A LIMO: Richmond County school Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree announced his candidacy Thursday at Beulah Grove Baptist Church after arriving in a white limousine.

He promised to address Augusta’s social problems and to have more community involvement in the sheriff’s office. He acknowledged he’s made mistakes in the past but is a changed man. That’s a good thing since it’s public information he racked up seven disciplinary actions during his tenure with the sheriff’s department, including a suspension and demotion in 2008 for moving and leaving seven murder-case files, a gun, ammunition and SWAT gear in an apartment. When that lapse was reported in The Augusta Chronicle, he posted complimentary online comments about himself under the name of Grateful Mother.

In 1996, he was suspended for five days after his superiors wrote the sheriff’s review board that he had sex with three female officers on his shift at the Econo Lodge hotel in a room formerly used for a sheriff’s substation. His superior reported that although Roundtree was married, he had all the women on his shift mad at one another and that he’d appreciate him being assigned elsewhere so the shift could get back to normal.

So what does all this mean?

Roundtree likes expensive cars and cheap hotels.

Friday morning, sheriff’s Lt. John Ivey, a 32-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and the Augusta Police Department, announced his candidacy. And Friday afternoon sheriff’s office road patrol deputy Lt. Robbie Silas, Strength’s brother-in-law, became the fourth candidate.

THEY DON’T CALL IT MARCH MADNESS FOR NOTHING: Patti Strength, her brother Silas, former Augusta Commissioner Ulmer Bridges and former state Sen. J.B. Powell drew a lot of attention during lunch at Beamie’s last week because Bridges and Powell are Strength’s close allies and would be expected to follow his recommendation. But Powell said he’s going to vote for Silas.

“I just don’t know Scott Peebles,” he said. “I’ve known Robbie over 20 years.”

Bridges likewise said he’s known and worked with Silas for years in south Richmond County and thought highly of him.

Oh well, politics makes strange bedfellows.

RUNNING MAN: Another south Richmond County elected official says he will run for the 23rd District state senate seat. Robert Buckwitz, the chairman of Hephzibah City Council for seven years, confirmed he’ll challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Jesse Stone. Buckwitz, an employee of Unimen kaolin mine and a Hephzibah property owner, will run as a Republican. He ran against Jimmy Smith for the District 8 commission seat eight years ago.

THE CHECK IS NOT IN THE MAIL: We’ve been hearing that some of Augusta’s black leaders have organized to run a black candidate for every local elected office on the ballot this year. Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is the latest to say he’ll run, challenging incumbent Augusta Judicial Circuit Court Chief Judge Carlisle Overstreet. That’s good. The more candidates, the better, but we hope if he’s elected he’ll manage the judge’s business better than he does his own.

Saunders filed for bankruptcy in September, listing assets of $167,345 and liabilities of $360,745. His secured debt totals $253,237, which includes a home loan and two Internal Revenue Service tax liens totaling $109,265. Unsecured debt includes two student loans of $85,024 and $4,058, plus $18,426 in credit card and other bills. Under the Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan, Saunders initially paid $1,100 a month but the court increased the payment to $1,850 in January, based on his and wife Lezettra’s $5,670 net monthly take home pay. Court records indicate Saunders has not made a payment since Dec. 21.

If he wins, could it be the first time in the history of Richmond County that a Superior Court judge’s salary was garnished?

YOU SCRATCH MY WRIT, I’LL SCRATCH YOURS: State Court Judge David Watkins’ secretary, Hattie Sullivan, who plans to challenge incumbent Richmond County Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson, has reportedly already started soliciting support from lawyers as they leave the courtrooms in the judicial center. Because the courtrooms moved from the Municipal Building and are nowhere near the Board of Elections office, does it make it OK to campaign in the halls of justice?

WHERE’S BILL MURRAY WHEN WE NEED HIM? Everybody’s speculating on the future of the Golf and Gardens property since it seems destined to fall into the Georgia Board of Regents’ and thence into GHSU’s President Dr. Ricardo Azziz’s hands. Has Mayor Deke Copenhaver’s field of dreams become a pipe dream? Everybody’s blowing smoke, but right now, the only thing certain about the once lovely gardens is that the city will be asked to cut the weeds before the Masters.

IF THERE’S A THIEF IN THERE SOMEWHERE, THEY MEAN TO FIND HIM: Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett couldn’t get the commission to agree to authorize a forensic audit of city government departments to ferret out thieves, so state Rep. Quincy Murphy introduced a bill that audits everything.

Murphy’s bill would require every department, agency and authority of the Augusta consolidated government with a budget of $500,000 or more, and certain private contractors, to undergo a forensic audit every four years.

If the bill became law, the sheriff’s department, Superior Court, recreation, utilities, the wastewater treatment plant, the landfill, transit, the airport, several garbage haulers and all general contractors who receive $500,000 or more in public funding annually would be audited.

Commissioner Joe Bowles, an accountant, said a forensic audit differs from a financial audit in that every single transaction is verified by pulling invoices and making sure they match what’s on the general ledger.

“I would estimate the cost to be anywhere from $2 million to $12 million a year for forensic audits,” he said.

Bowles obtained information about forensic audits from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and other national CPA’s, such as Brad Peber, CPA Managing Partner, Grant Thornton.

“There are no generally recognized standards to perform a ‘forensic audit,’ ” Peber said. The results will be “outrageously expensive and will raise significant issues of potential liability because you are searching for something that you aren’t sure exists.”

Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, pulled the bill off the House’s consent agenda last week, but it’s expected to be put back on and to pass in the House on Monday.

“I tried to stop it and protect not only the governing body but Augusta taxpayers,” she said. “I will not be silenced on this. This is wrong.”

Comments (77) Add comment
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Little Lamb
46021
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Little Lamb 03/17/12 - 11:06 pm
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Thank you, Representative

Thank you, Representative Sims. You are our city's only voice of sanity in the Georgia House this year.

Riverman1
83907
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Riverman1 03/17/12 - 11:09 pm
3
0
In the Sheriff's race, I

In the Sheriff's race, I predict whoever comes in second in the Democratic Primary will win the run-off if one's necessary. I also will predict that candidate will win the general election in Nov.

Little Lamb
46021
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Little Lamb 03/17/12 - 11:10 pm
6
1
I think that Willie Saunders

I think that Willie Saunders has a good heart; but this bankruptcy thing shows he is not yet ready for prime time. Hopefully, he and his wife will get back on sound financial footing in a few years; then he can seek the big-time judiciary. You do not want a financially-dependent person on the bench. The mere fact of that very dependency would give the taint of judicial rulings in return for under-the-table payoffs.

Riverman1
83907
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Riverman1 03/17/12 - 11:21 pm
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LL, that was an interesting

LL, that was an interesting post you made yesterday about Saunders on the radio where his family inadvertently found out he had declared bankruptcy.

Little Lamb
46021
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Little Lamb 03/17/12 - 11:32 pm
2
1
This upcoming week in the

This upcoming week in the General Assembly will be important. First, the House will summarily dispatch Rep. Wayne Howard's motion to reconsider the crushing defeat of Rep. Quincy Murphy's ridiculous bill to require forensic audits of city departments and contractors every four years. But, moving on to more important things, the Senate must address two very important items:

1. The commission districts and school board districts must be defined. They are still sitting in limbo and July is looming.

2. The question of whether Augusta must follow state law and hold commission and mayor elections in July or whether Augusta is above state law and can hold them in November must be decided.

Let us hope the Senate will be courageous and allow the rule of law to overcome the anarchy of Davis, Murphy, Howard, Smith, and Frazier.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 03/17/12 - 11:36 pm
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Dialogue with residents IS

Dialogue with residents IS hard work.

Riverman1
83907
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Riverman1 03/18/12 - 12:03 am
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I believe a pretty good

I believe a pretty good forensic accountant is going to do an audit of the TEE and parking deck gratis.

csraguy
2274
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csraguy 03/18/12 - 12:54 am
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I certainly believe there

I certainly believe there needs to be checks and balances in place to protect our public funds but spending 2-12 million per year looking for theft is more like robbery. Thank you Representative Sims.

Silas is a good guy but is being pushed to run for Sheriff by the likes of JB Powell and a few others far before he is ready to be Sheriff. They even openly admit the reason they want Silas to run is because they “know him” and they want someone they feel they can tell what to do in power.

We need a Sheriff that has been preparing for this through various leadership training, command staff training, etc. Someone that has worked their way up in the department over the past 20 years from road patrol deputy through the ranks and divisions with numerous commendations and local as well as national awards, including being a past deputy of the year for the RCSO. We need someone who has experience, has helped to lead the department and many divisions and is prepared to take it to the next level from what he has learned within and from outside the agency. The most prepared and qualified person to lead the Sheriff’s Office who will be a Sheriff for everyone in the community is Captain Scott Peebles.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 03/18/12 - 02:30 am
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2
Looks like "the chief" must

Looks like "the chief" must be concerned about JCO's electoral vulnerability if he's already got his minions attacking an honest man.*

Moreover, looks like Joe and some of his White Yo Pizza lunch buddies must also be concerned about the future of forensic auditing in the A-RC. Wonder whom Joe and Peber were considering serving as forensic accountants with their "estimate?" Didn't realize Fletcher, Harley and Fletcher did accounting "work," too. Wait a minute. Porcine Pete does have a sibling who's an accountant.

Finally, the more I learn about A-RC goverance and its "governors," the more I appreciate the wisdom of the late UK Prime Minister Harold MacMillian. McMillian opined, "The purpose of a liberal education is to enable a person to determine when someone else is trying to lie to him."

* I don't place much trust in the currency and accuracy of any official records in Augusta, GA.

Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 03/18/12 - 02:31 am
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OOPS: Line 11 above:

OOPS: Line 11 above: MacMillan, not McMillan.

seenitB4
87180
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seenitB4 03/18/12 - 07:36 am
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OMG OMG...You are sooo good

OMG OMG...You are sooo good Sylvia.....

Hit them with your best shot baby.....ya did that!

Riverman1
83907
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Riverman1 03/18/12 - 08:27 am
0
0
Dr. Craig Spinks, I like what

Dr. Craig Spinks, I like what MacMillian's Sec of State for War, John Profumo, said when he was with the call girl, Christine Keeler. OMGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!

Not that anything like that ever goes on around the Hill or anything.

Riverman1
83907
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Riverman1 03/18/12 - 08:33 am
0
0
Speaking of the People

Speaking of the People Magazine version of what goes on in Augusta. What happened to Jenny Sanford and Boardman? Are they still seeing each other?

iLove
626
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iLove 03/18/12 - 09:19 am
2
2
Sylvia, you left off one
Unpublished

Sylvia, you left off one thing about Roundtree....her was/is the ONLY candidate to speak to the inner city youth BEFORE announcing his bid to run.....he may be arrogant, but wha nam in "power" isn't?

Trying to list his failures may have backfired . . . . .dig up the past on the rest of the candidates too. No one is perfect.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 03/18/12 - 09:25 am
2
2
If there is a push by the
Unpublished

If there is a push by the black community similar to the Presidential election...word on the street is that's what's about to happen.

seenitB4
87180
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seenitB4 03/18/12 - 09:25 am
2
1
Well love...I just hope they

Well love...I just hope they think of the quality of the man & not vote on the color of the man....ya know whatta mean....

iLove
626
Points
iLove 03/18/12 - 09:27 am
2
2
Hold ALL candidates to the
Unpublished

Hold ALL candidates to the same standard.....not just the one the WPS doesn't want to win.....character...Deke sure does have an outstanding character.

Riverman1
83907
Points
Riverman1 03/18/12 - 09:32 am
3
1
You mean to tell me Roundtree

You mean to tell me Roundtree had sex with three female officers during a stakeout at a motel and all of them weren't fired? Something's rotten in the RCSO.

Riverman1
83907
Points
Riverman1 03/18/12 - 09:36 am
4
0
I think it would only be fair

I think it would only be fair to publish episodes of the other candidates having sex with other officers...if there are any such occurrences. Since we've opened this can of worms, no pun intended, let's have an open and honest look at the sexual activities of all the candidates. Some other public officials, too, involved with law enforcement people.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 03/18/12 - 09:40 am
0
1
Apparently it is
Unpublished

Apparently it is norm....seeing as no punishment was leveled against any of them...heck workplace sex is the norm in most work places.

Riverman1
83907
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Riverman1 03/18/12 - 09:47 am
0
0
ILove, I don't buy for one

ILove, I don't buy for one second that sex between officers to the degree Sylvia reports is common place. If it is in the RCSO then all the candidates should be examined and questions asked of the RCSO leadership. Something's not right with this report about Roundtree.

willie7
955
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willie7 03/18/12 - 10:06 am
2
0
Sylvia, give us the dirt on
Unpublished

Sylvia, give us the dirt on all the candidates ,not just two. I understand there are a lot of skeletons in some of the others' closets. Rep. Murphy, scratch out the word forensic and put outside audit. See what happens then.Robot Sims is fighting for the "Big Boys". It seems that representatives from other counties will be making laws for Augusta.
"Those people" will never surrender.

movingforward
40
Points
movingforward 03/18/12 - 10:13 am
0
0
Nepotism, cronyism and the

Nepotism, cronyism and the good old boy syndrome needs to end in Augusta. In order for Augusta to move forward it needs new blood. A national search for sheriff would be better for the citizens of Augusta. Transparency is important for an efficent Richmond County Sheriff that cannot happen with the current candidate pool. Is Mr. Roundtree campaigning on Richmond County school system payroll? Is he not aware of the picture he has painted to the general public? He couldn't be sheriff because of his inability to understand confidentiality,privacy, morality and integrity. Mr.Ivey, no disrespect but you have spent 32 years on the force it is time to go home and collect your pension. Mr. Silas, have you heard of change and moving forward you can't do that on your brother-in-laws reputation? Mr. Peeples, you are young strong and a man of intergrity but it will be hard for individuals to understand your motive for remaining in Augusta to become sheriff unless it is a political stepping stone. Overall, come election day we will see what the citizens of August want in a new sheriff.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 03/18/12 - 10:14 am
2
1
Willie, they are going to
Unpublished

Willie, they are going to fight it to the end.

River - all I will say is workplace sex is bigger than you think, I guess...just look at how sexualized our kids are.....what's makes adults, in the same society, any different?

Ask yourself why is the AC only placing ONE candidate in the spotlight?...negative spotlight.....I wouldn't be to control the masses would it?? Naw, the AC is better than that right!? Augusta Ga is a city of standards, right???

Austin Rhodes
2862
Points
Austin Rhodes 03/18/12 - 10:19 am
0
3
Willie Saunders bankruptcy

Willie Saunders bankruptcy issues were discussed by all (at his invitation) who were suggesting a court run...keep in mind...he is a sitting juvenile court Judge, and has been for some time.

He had kept the info from his extended family and children (I can certainly understand that), but knew it would be made an issue, which is why he went public with it for the first time with me on the Friday broadcast.

While bankruptcies are difficult, the world is a quite different place in the last five years or so, and the list of individuals and businesses that have undergone difficulties that are similar would fill these pages if I listed them.

But...the very publication you are reading right now has greatly benefited from massive, court directed re-organizations...Abraham Lincoln...Mark Twain...Detroit's Big Three...even Columbia County Commission Chair Ron Cross have been through similar financial situations.

The fact that Saunders' financial woes are public, would put him in a unique spotlight...and I think guarantees that his pristine personal reputation for honesty and conservative legal history would remain in tact.

With Overstreet, you have a serial liberal who is soft on hard core criminals, completely out of touch with the needs of law enforcement and the challenges they face, and tone deaf to true justice under the law.

He is a hold over from the Fleming Regime...and he needs to go...yesterday.

Give Willie a chance...if he does not work out, make that choice later. Overstreet has taken the trust of the Augusta circuit residents, and trashed it...much and often.

Austin Rhodes
2862
Points
Austin Rhodes 03/18/12 - 10:21 am
0
1
Oh...to answer OMR's

Oh...to answer OMR's question...Boardman and Mrs. Sanford's romance ended about 6 months after it began...they remain friends.

Riverman1
83907
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Riverman1 03/18/12 - 10:46 am
1
0
If we are going to start

If we are going to start reporting sexual escapades of public figures, how about taking a look at our government representatives in Columbia County. That would be fun, too.

Austin Rhodes
2862
Points
Austin Rhodes 03/18/12 - 10:55 am
0
1
I think the main issue with

I think the main issue with the sex lives of these people involves interoffice situations that cross lines of propriety, and of course the legal concerns of canoodling with inmates/suspects.

When it comes to OTHER personal issues...if we start down that road, we will have a list longer than the bankruptcy filings...

Tell it like it is
35
Points
Tell it like it is 03/18/12 - 11:48 am
0
2
Check all the dirt on the

Check all the dirt on the candidates and you will see that Robbie is the most honest and dedicated candidate for this job.

Little Lamb
46021
Points
Little Lamb 03/18/12 - 11:54 am
0
0
If any Richmond County

If any Richmond County candidate for sheriff had sexual encounters with inmates and was not indicted by the DA, then they should not indict that former Harlem High School teacher who just resigned.

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