A group of Richard Roundtree supporters called a news conference Thursday to criticize the Waynesboro police officers who endorsed Richmond County sheriff candidate Scott Peebles under the auspices of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
“This controversy is not about race,” said Charles Lyons, a lawyer and Roundtree supporter. “This is about five guys coming to Augusta from Waynesboro on city time to make a bogus endorsement.”
On Monday, five Waynesboro police officers, including Chief Alfonzo Williams, issued a news release saying that Peebles, who is white, had the endorsement of a regional chapter of the national black law enforcement group.
On Tuesday, the organization demanded a retraction, saying that as a 501(c)3 group, it was prohibited from endorsing candidates and that the five officers associated with the release weren’t even national members, although they had applied for national membership that day.
Outside Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building, Lyons, who, with attorney Randy Frails, successfully represented Roundtree against a recent challenge to his candidacy, said Williams had been “traveling the talk-show circuit” defending his actions but “it has yet to occur to (Williams) to try to protect the organization he so dearly loves.”
Flanked by Roundtree, Frails, former Augusta Commissioner Betty Beard and about a dozen other Roundtree supporters, Lyons questioned how Williams might be telling people he had made a mistake.
“How many people are sitting ... in the Waynesboro city jail saying the same thing?” the lawyer said.
Asked whether he thought Peebles, who will face Roundtree, John Ivey and Robbie Silas in the July 31 Democratic primary, was aware of the Waynesboro officers’ plans, Lyons said “Yes” but declined to elaborate.
“Nobody out here is scared of Scott Peebles,” he said.
Asked to respond, Peebles said that “there was no conspiracy on the part of my campaign to falsely represent an endorsement from any organization” and that he believed the Waynesboro officers’ claims that they were “acting in good faith” and appreciated their individual support.
Roundtree recently praised the work of Williams in Waynesboro, so when the officers endorsed Peebles instead, Roundtree turned on them, Peebles said.
“Roundtree is determined to make an example of them by attempting to defame them and tarnish their reputations,” he said.