Originally created 02/22/98

Magazine lists town as corrupt



You can't buy George magazine in the central Georgia town of Eastman. Butthat didn't make the town of 5,000 too obscure to be ranked as one of the country's most corrupt cities in the national political publication.

"It pays to enter the polling booths in Eastman, a poor farming community southeast of Macon," says the March issue of the slick magazine, referring to a 1996 vote-buying scheme that brought Dodge County, Ga., notoriety and 27 federal convictions.

Authorities say fierce competition before the July 9, 1996, Democratic primary led to selling votes for $20 to $60 apiece, double voting, votes by felons and at least one ballot cast by a dead person. Absentee voters clogged the courthouse in Eastman, casting 1,697 ballots -- more than four times the number of absentee votes in previous elections.

Dodge County District Attorney Tim Vaughn, who called state officials to report the unusual election activities, said Saturday that the article "brings disgrace on this community that it doesn't deserve."

He has never seen George magazine and does not think it is sold in Eastman, the county seat.

It is not sold at Wal-Mart or Food Lion, which locals say have the best magazine selections in town.

The magazine's top 10 list puts Eastman in the company of Las Vegas, Miami and Washington, listing the rural community's claim to fame as, "One-time home of the Stuckey's candy plant and roadside emporiums."

Paula Rogers, who owns Eastman Drugs, had never heard of the magazine, published in New York but hates to see her home get a bad rap.

"It's like one bad apple," she said.

"I tell people this is the best place in the world to live, and I've raised three good, Christian children here," she said.

Three candidates in the 1996 primary are in prison for their roles in buying votes.

Suspended County Commissioner J. Don McCranie, former Sheriff Jackson Jones and former Commissioner Doyce Mullis were given prison sentences ranging from one year to 30 months in December 1997.

"I hate to vote for someone to go in politics because they're going to be tempted," Ms. Rogers said. "You hate to see a good man go in politics."

Most corrupt list

George magazine's list of 10 most corrupt cities, in alphabetical order:

  • Chester, Pa.: Critics say white communities send their waste to the mostly black city for processing.
  • Clovis, Calif.: Bribery scheme to get city council to approve rezoning.
  • Douglas, Ariz.: Federal law officers guilty of drug-smuggling across border.
  • Eastman, Ga.: Vote-buying scheme.
  • Kansas City, Mo.: Bribery of public officials to steer civic funds into personal accounts.
  • Lake Providence, La.: Private prison kickback scheme.
  • Las Vegas: Critics say city exploits eminent domain to help casino owners and developers.
  • Miami: Financial crisis and series of scandals at city hall.
  • Washington: High homicide rate and trouble catching killers.
  • Youngstown, Ohio: Organized crime taking over.