City Ink: Tax ruling could tax candidates

A judge in the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings is expected to rule this week on the case of Augusta lawyer Jack Long versus Superior Court candidate Willie Saunders. And that ruling could force a lot of candidates and elected officials statewide to put up or step down.

Saunders filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy in September, owing more than $159,000 to the IRS. He filed a payment plan, but under it he will not pay $73,000 in taxes, penalties and interest, according to Long.

Long’s objection was referred to the state administrative office for a hearing before an impartial judge whose verdict will be delivered to the state elections director.

Long was represented in the hearing by former Gov. Roy Barnes. Saunders, who represented himself in the hearing, had the burden of showing he’s not in default.

Saunders argued that he’s in a payment plan. However, the plan won’t pay his 2006 and 2007 federal taxes, according to Augusta lawyer Todd Boudreaux, who testified on behalf of Long.

Georgia’s constitution clearly states that anyone who doesn’t pay his taxes in full or file a payment plan to repay the full amount is not eligible to run for public office, but there have been no test cases in the past, Long said.

“Somebody’s got to go up and challenge it,” he said. “And if we prevail in this case, it’s going to encourage everybody who wants to run for office to get their house in order.”

Saunders is challenging Super­ior Court Judge Carlisle Over­street.

Long vs. Saunders was the second case heard last week involving a challenge to a candidate’s eligibility over delinquent taxes.On Monday, an administrative office judge heard a challenge from Danielsville attorney Lane Fitzpatrick about the eligibility of John Christopher NeSmith, who is seeking to unseat Elbert County Superior Court Judge Tom Hodges.

 

SHOW ME THE MONEY: Demo­cratic Richmond County sheriff’s candidate Capt. Scott Peebles continues to rake in donations from all over Augusta, according to the latest disclosure reports. Since March 31, he has received $84,353, bringing his total contributions to $147,453.

Peebles itemized contributions of $100 or more from 156 individuals and businesses totaling $54,040. Nonitemized contributions of less than $100 totaled $30,313, and he received $9,680 in in-kind contributions. He received 19 cash donations of $1,000 or more and the maximum $2,500 allowed this reporting period of in-kind donations of graphic art and design work from Kruhu Inc.

He has spent $89,487.74 so far and has $57,965.26 on hand.

Robert Walker Jr., the president of Walker Sports Marketing, donated $2,500. Ronnie Strength for Sheriff donated $1,000 to Democrats Peebles and sheriff candidate Lt. Robbie Silas, Strength’s brother-in-law; Carlisle Overstreet; and Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson. Strength’s group also donated $1,000 to Republicans, including sheriff candidate Freddie Sanders; incumbent District Attorney Ashley Wright and Probate Court judge candidate Carleton Vaughn.

Silas reported $38,503.37 in contributions since March, bringing his total to $51,753.37. He’s spent $21,498.80 and has $30,254.57 left.

IBEW Local 1579 in Augusta donated $2,500 and IBEW in Washington donated $2,000. Donating $1,000 each were Danny’s Drywall and Ceilings, JoAnn Padgett, R.D. Electrical Services, Southeastern Carpenters Regional Council PAC and former Augusta Commissioner Ulmer Bridges.

Gladys Hood and Bobby Hood each donated $2,460 for signs, as did Francis Omar.

Candidate Lt. John Ivey has received $18,876 in donations and has $6,873.19 left after spending $12,002.81. William and Annie Allen of Hephzibah contributed $500, and Augusta lawyer Ben Allen gave $250. Josephine Designs & Catering Services made an in-kind donation worth $2,070 for a meet-and- greet fundraiser.

As of Saturday, no report from candidate Richard Roundtree was available on the state’s Trans­parency in Government Web site.

Sanders reported cash contributions of $19,150, expenses of $10,527.41 and a net balance of $8,622.59.

Larry N. Hollington of Augusta donated $2,500, Connie Wisnieski of Evans donated $2,000, Lisa Marban of Clarks Hill donated $1,500 and barbecue baron Larry Sconyers donated $2,500 worth of catering.

Republican candidate Michael Godowns reported $2,850 in contributions: $2,500 from himself and $350 from his wife, Meredith. He’s spent $2,844.74 and has $5.26 left.

He needs to have a fundraiser.

GET READY FOR THE JOHN BARROW SHOW: U.S. Rep. John Barrow has bought $600,000 worth of TV airtime, according to a political operative who knows. Airtime is measured in points, and the Democrat’s purchased airtime equals 6,000 points. The average is 364 points in a 30-day cycle.

IT TAKES SIX VOTES TO GET IT DONE: Commissioner Bill Lockett will be taking names and kicking butt at Monday’s Augusta Commission committee meetings.

He wants to reactivate the Citizens Advisory Board to oversee the Housing and Community Development Department and call Director Chester Wheeler on the carpet to answer questions about the Pine Street development and related activities. He also wants a progress report from City Administrator Fred Russell and Engineering Department Director Abie Ladson on Regency Mall and the status of the 13.5-acre lake there, which he says is an “overdue project.”

Lockett also will renew his request for Russell to explain the pay disparity among senior executive employees.

In addition, he wants General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie removed from the TEE Center parking deck forensic audit subcommittee and has called for a legal meeting. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing he wants MacKenzie off because he suspects he’s in cahoots with Russell. At least that’s what he’s indicated in the past.

Commissioner Joe Bowles wants to discuss creating an ordinance that would allow animal control or the sheriff’s office to enter a vehicle where animals have been left unattended.

Do you mean to say they can’t do it now? I’d do it anyway with a crowbar before I’d let one die. Let ‘em haul me off to jail. Elaine van der Linden of Molly’s Militia would bail me out.

 

WHAT IN THUNDERATION? Some people tell me they skip over the political part of City Ink to see what’s going on with Ernie and the dogs. So here’s the latest:

Our dogs are terrified of thunderstorms, and as much as we need rain, when it starts thundering, I want to go hide because they crowd around me, panting, pacing and drooling nonstop. At the first rumble, I start strapping on their Thunder Shirts and spraying calming spray all over the place, both of which help a little. That is, until the next big boom.

On Wednesday night, Ernie fell asleep in front of his big flatscreen TV surrounded by his sound system and three remotes. Around 3 a.m., Mickey, our yellow lab mix, woke me up, panting and pacing. At first, I thought he must be having a heart attack or something, then realized the TV and Ernie’s snoring sounded like a thunderstorm.

 

THEY DON’T HAVE A PRAYER: The Augusta Chronicle had a story Friday about how some Wisconsin watchdogs, out to stop even a hint of religion in government, is questioning the mayor’s monthly prayer breakfasts.

“Hey, Ernie, did you hear about the group from Wisconsin wants to put a stop to the city’s prayer breakfasts?” I asked from the kitchen.

“Tell them to go to hell,” he said.

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