Originally created 01/04/03

Hope for political woes' end is in sight



GREENSBORO, Ga. - The political storm that has rocked Greene County for two years might finally be coming to an end, as two new commissioners begin their terms and a lawsuit filed against the county goes into its settlement stage.

R.L. "Cotton" Boswell and Gerald Torbert attended their first meeting Thursday as Greene County commissioners, representing the end of an era in the county's political landscape.

Last August, Mr. Torbert and Mr. Boswell defeated Marion Rhodes and Betty Jo Evans, two incumbent commissioners who were backed by the Greene County Citizens Coalition, a racially diverse but controversial group that strives to make government more accessible to citizens.

By August, voters had grown tired of government officials butting heads and ushered in Mr. Torbert and Mr. Boswell.

Mr. Torbert said he was elected with the help of his promise that the commission's days of division would be numbered.

For the past two years, the Greene County Commission has been divided by accusations of racism and incompetence, leading to employee resignations and a lawsuit filed against the commission by a fired county employee.

The battle began shortly after the 2000 election, in which coalition members led a 3-2 commission vote to fire County Manager Byron Lombard.

Coalition-backed commissioners charged that Mr. Lombard didn't use accurate bookkeeping methods and failed to provide information to coalition members. Mr. Lombard fired back, filing a still-pending lawsuit against the county and the commission.

According to court documents, Mr. Lombard stated he felt he was fired because he was white. He also said two black coalition commissioners - Mr. Rhodes and Titus Andrews - voted to terminate his employment in order to hire a black county manager.

After Mr. Lombard's firing, the board voted 3-2 to replace him with Linda Lloyd, a black woman with no experience as county manager.