Originally created 10/15/00

Kent: Ex-Few aide is hiding

Where is Katrice Bryant?

The former media assistant/coordinator for former Augusta Fire Chief Ronnie Few is missing. Put her picture on a milk carton.

The special grand jury focusing on municipal corruption issued a subpoena for Bryant weeks ago, but police officers haven't been able to serve it at her last known address or her parents' home.

When I asked District Attorney Danny Craig if he knew where she was, he replied "I don't know." That squelches rumors the DA had the 27-year-old Few confidante sequestered at some hideaway and was talking to save her skin. But the prosecutor immediately declared, "When I need her I'll find her" - indicating he very much intends to grill her about missing department money.

Few - still awaiting official confirmation as the Washington, D.C., fire chief - isn't talking about Bryant, who abruptly quit her Augusta job on Aug. 31.

Police tried to serve the subpoena to Bryant at her Augusta apartment, but she had moved out quickly. The forwarding address provided - that of her parents in Vienna, Ga. - proved unproductive. Relatives who answered the phone said Bryant wasn't there, and didn't know where she was.

Craig's message, though, is unmistakeable: She can run but she can't hide.

Spotlight on Hornsby

Walter Hornsby is a fine person who comes from a prominent Augusta family. He is the assistant administrator of Augusta-Richmond County, although it's an open secret that soon-to-depart Administrator Randy Oliver couldn't get much work out of him. Furthermore, several commissioners - spanning political and racial fault lines - have disparaged Hornsby's record.

But now at least five commissioners on the 10-member city Commission are jockeying to place Hornsby in an acting-administrator capacity after Oliver leaves at the end of the month for a new job in Greenville. (To his credit, Commissioner Andy Cheek has broken with his usual coalition comprised of Marion Williams, Lee Beard, Henry Brigham, Willie Mays and Richard Colclough. Cheek told this columnist he would not vote to elevate Hornsby.)

The best approach would be to transfer Hornsby to a government job where he has some skills, such as with human relations.

Mayor Bob Young is poised to take up much of the administrative slack after Oliver leaves. Meanwhile, a national search for a new administrator continues.

An apple for teachers

Gov. Roy Barnes has sent a love note to 111,000 Georgians with teaching certificates pledging to support them, to answer any questions about the new education law and to seek their advice on the second phase of his reform proposals. This is a marked contrast to earlier in 2000, when he sought token input from educators.

The letter is timed for the fall political campaign where a "yes" vote for the reform law remains a hot topic - one that led to summer primary defeats for several veteran legislators in both parties.

"I have spoken loudly and led the charge, but I want to make one thing clear. My commitment to and passion for improving education should never be taken as an attack on public education or those who are on the front lines of educating children every day," Barnes wrote.

State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko quickly labeled the letter "arrogant" and "a blatant attempt to get teachers to calm down before the election."

The Georgia affiliate of the National Education Association, by the way, is still smarting over the governor's insistence on eliminating dismissal hearing rights for some educators. (That's one of the good things in the new law. Nobody enjoys job "tenure." Why should educators be the only exception?)

Barnes is obviously working to peel away teacher support from Schrenko with this letter. It wouldn't be surprising to see him recommend a hefty teacher pay raise. The governor would also be smart to propose it right before, say, the Nov. 7 election.

GOP targets

Sen. Joey Brush, R-Augusta, participated in a three-day north Georgia campaign bus tour with seven senators led by Minority Leader Eric Johnson, R-Savannah. They emphasized their brand of education reform, touted George W. Bush's prescription drug plan and advocated using some state tobacco settlement money to underwrite seniors' health care.

Republicans need to pick up seven seats to gain Senate control, and are targeting two vulnerable north Georgia Democrats, Carol Jackson and Sonny Huggins. Huggins is in a rematch with Jeff Mullis, who feels the election was stolen from him last time after a third recount produced unexpected absentee ballots. Maybe the GOP should call in international election monitor Jimmy Carter to ensure fair balloting in this backwater district.

If the GOP picks up three or four Senate seats, it hopes enough conservative Democrats would then switch parties to give Republicans a majority.

Phil Kent is senior editorial writer for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3327 or philkent@augustachronicle.com


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