Williams is one of many to be tardy paying taxes

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The media were all excited last week because Woody Merry was trying to get the sheriff's department to arrest Commissioner Marion Williams because he hadn't paid his 2006 property taxes. There was talk of Mr. Williams going to jail for "from one to five years, blah, blah, blah."

It made me want to laugh out loud. If all of Augusta's elected officials who ever paid their taxes late had gone to jail, there wouldn't have been enough of them left to hold a meeting.

There is not room to detail all those I have run across since 1992, so we'll just touch on some.

Among the 1992 crew were Richmond County commissioners Willie Mays, the late Henry Brigham, Hobson Chavous; state representatives Robin Williams, now in prison; and Henry Howard, now deceased; City council members Hugh Cross and Carolyn Usry, both now deceased; and Johnny Hatney who is now an Augusta commissioner. Councilwoman Margaret Armstrong's city council pay was being garnished for a debt but not for late taxes. The list of delinquent taxpayers who turned up that year also included school board members Y.N. Myers and B.J. Annis, both of whom are now deceased.

NO SPECIAL FAVORS HERE. NO SIRREE. In 1994, another investigative piece began, "If paying taxes and bills on time were a requirement for public office, six of Richmond County's eight legislators would be out of a job. So would five of the eight county commissioners and six of 13 Augusta City Council members."

A sidebar to that story recounted that Tax Commissioner Jerry Saul had been cancelling penalties and interest on powerful elected officials' delinquent taxes for years, sometimes writing off the cost of filing liens on the property when the officials eventually paid the taxes. Among them were state Rep. Mike Padgett, now deceased; Sheriff Charlie Webster, now retired; Commissioner Henry Brigham, a perennial tardy taxpayer, now deceased; state Sen. Charles Walker, now imprisoned; and the late Rep. Henry Howard, another perennial slow pay.

Mr. Saul said he wasn't giving special favors. He said if a taxpayer had "a good excuse for being late" he'd excuse the penalty and interest. He wouldn't answer questions about specific bills. He said he probably wouldn't remember.

Some of the same names in the 1992 piece turned up in that 1994 story, but there were new ones, too, such as the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood who hadn't paid property taxes on his dental office equipment in the early 1980s. He said he was double billed. Others who'd had trouble paying taxes on time were state Reps. George Brown and Bettieanne Hart; Richmond County commissioners Moses Todd, who had his commission pay garnished to satisfy a $5,000 debt; Freddie Handy; City Council members Travers Paine III, Colis Ivey, Kathleen Beasley; and school board member Jeff Annis.

A NEW GOVERNMENT, BUT THE SAME OLD, SAME OLD: In 1995, the year three paupers ran for mayor of the new consolidated Augusta government, we introduced a whole new slate of candidates with records of paying taxes late, including Thomas Atkins, David L. Johnson, now deceased; Willie Law IV, Minnie P. Davis, Brian Wilson, Charles Evans, Kenneth Cone, Larry C. Stephens and Andrew Garnett, along with repeat offenders, such as Mr. Mays, and Henry Brigham. A.K. Hasan, who was also running for the commission that year, had gone bankrupt three years earlier owing almost $350,000. Andy Cheek had gone bankrupt five years before.

TAX RETURNS? WHAT TAX RETURNS? In 1996, then-Augusta Commissioner J.B. Powell had to cough up seven years' worth of personal property taxes for his electrical construction business - six years to Jefferson County and one year to Richmond County because he hadn't filed personal property tax returns for his business. Mr. Powell, now a state senator, said it was an oversight.

THEY MISSED THE TARDY BELL: In 1998, school board candidates Eloise Curtis and Venus Cain were on the list of candidates who had paid property taxes late.

MORE OF THE SAME: In the 1999 commission election, the only new face joining others previously mentioned was Brian S. Green with two outstanding judgments. Meanwhile, Mr. Chavous' judgments had grown to $45,818.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ... ? Election 2002 brought Bobby Ross along with lots of financial baggage, including a bankruptcy, out of the garden biz and into the mayor's race. Mayoral candidate Ed McIntyre, now deceased, also had his problems with the tax man.

State Rep. Alberta Anderson went bankrupt in 2001 with debts totaling $98,225. And Charles "Champ" Walker Jr., the Democratic nominee in the 12th Congressional District race, made his debut. He was being touted as a business wizard, but it didn't take much digging to find a whole list of judgments for debts and state taxes that, except for one, had been paid shortly before he announced he was running.

SIX OUT OF 10 AIN'T BAD: In 2003, six of the 10 candidates for contested seats on the Augusta Commission had had liens placed on their property for delinquent taxes or bills - Mr. Handy, Marion Williams, Charlie Hannah, Jimmy Smith, Bobby D. Cheeks and Sonny Pittman.

JUST THINK WHAT THEY COULD DO WITH YOUR MONEY: In the 2005 commission election, records showed that four candidates had gone bankrupt - John Butler, Bernard Harper, Robert DeMello and Mr. Hasan. Public records showed that Bobby Hankerson had paid seven county tax liens since 1992. School board candidate Robert Howard had paid liens filed against him three years running.

THEY GET A LOT OF HELP FROM THEIR FRIENDS: Now the big whoop is that somebody paid Mr. Williams' overdue property taxes in cash and didn't want his name on city tax records, and Mr. Williams won't say who that person was. He said he couldn't get down to the tax office, so he had someone take the money down there.

Now Mr. Merry is all atwitter, saying it "reeks of corruption.".

Here again, that's the way it's done here in the Garden City.

For example, in 1994, after Pilgrim Life Insurance Co. had paid $7,001 to clear Commission Chairman Mays' delinquent taxes, he still owed $5,425 in county business taxes until they were paid from money his supporters raised.

WE DON'T NEED NO STINKIN LICENSE: And, oh yes, there's former City Commissioner Keith Brown, barred from running for the District 4 seat he was appointed to last year because he had not lived in the state or district long enough. He had been in business here for years but didn't have a business license for First Impressions, a screen printing and embroidery business near Paine College, until the day after we checked with the license and inspections department.

WHAT'S FAIR FOR THE GOOSE: So far, two city employees have been fired for doing business on their city computers. They call it theft of services. But what about an employee, actually an elected official, who seldom comes to work? Tax Commissioner Jerry Saul puts in about two hours a week in the office and has become the talk of the Marble Palace. He might be the highest-paid tax commissioner in the state with an annual salary of $117,449.94, which is $875.56 more than Sheriff Ronnie Strength makes. And the sheriff is at work every day by 7:30 a.m. and seldom leaves before 5 p.m. and is on-call 24/7.

When asked about his absence, Mr. Saul said he doesn't come in as much as he used to but he does come in.

Wouldn't you just love to have a job like that?

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (43) Add comment
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Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/07 - 07:55 am
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WOW! good work Sylvia.

WOW! good work Sylvia.

PFLY775
2
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PFLY775 07/08/07 - 09:25 am
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A lot of skullduggery went

A lot of skullduggery went into that one. Great job digging up the facts.
Jerry Saul needs to get paid by the hour.

luckie
2
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luckie 07/08/07 - 09:31 am
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0
How old is Jerry Saul? Does

How old is Jerry Saul? Does anyone know? I think that there should be a cut off when someone reaches a certain age or an amount of years in a profession, especially in areas that effect the public, some people just need to retire. Many are saying that there are several at the RCBOE that need to retire, too. Change can be a good thing. I am shocked to hear about Hasan filing bankrupcy. Cain should have let her husband handle the taxes.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/07 - 10:04 am
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0
Jerry Saul is good person but

Jerry Saul is good person but should have retired years ago but why should he? he gets reelected over and over again by an electorate that doesn't even know who he is.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/08/07 - 10:52 am
0
0
Tech- i knew a lady who was a

Tech- i knew a lady who was a judge in a small south Georgia County. Her father had been a judge there until he died at age 84. The last time she was elected she was 86 and died in office several years later. Strom Thurmond was reelected to the senate at age 96(or about). The point is that as long as people continue to elect these people they will run. There are no laws to my knowledge that have age limitations. I agree with you that there should be.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 07/08/07 - 10:54 am
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As an addendum to last post.

As an addendum to last post. Every time I saw Strom on camera in a senate hearing he was asleep.

a.non.ymous
0
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a.non.ymous 07/08/07 - 11:24 am
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Fantastic reporting Sylvia!

Fantastic reporting Sylvia!

benzoboi
0
Points
benzoboi 07/08/07 - 11:31 am
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By GA law most counties

By GA law most counties charge a 10% penalty for late payment and 1% untill paid. Some charge 5% penalty.

If you need the money why pay? That sound like a very low loan rate and a good deal to me.

Now, if the law was changed and 20% was charged for the penalty, and 10% until paid I believe more people would pay on time.

But that ain't gonna happen. Those folks help make the laws.

owensjef
13
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owensjef 07/08/07 - 11:46 am
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thanks SC for that.

thanks SC for that.

owensjef
13
Points
owensjef 07/08/07 - 11:47 am
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Thats Fair and Balance

Thats Fair and Balance

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 07/08/07 - 11:54 am
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Great article. Keep

Great article. Keep impressing us Sylvia, you're good at it.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 07/08/07 - 11:56 am
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raymond, maybe coalminer was

raymond, maybe coalminer was just using the past tense of skull diggery.

owensjef
13
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owensjef 07/08/07 - 12:01 pm
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Oh where is Pat, and the

Oh where is Pat, and the crew.

ronnyb
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ronnyb 07/08/07 - 12:11 pm
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high officials not paying

high officials not paying taxes???? And getting away with it?? NOT a surprise, WELCOME to the criminals of AUGUSTA.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 07/08/07 - 12:19 pm
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0
what is owen and his kru.

what is owen and his kru.

kudzunroses
2
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kudzunroses 07/08/07 - 12:23 pm
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Good Job..........$117,ooo

Good Job..........$117,ooo for Mr Saul? Outragous!!!! Give that money to the Sheriff!!

kudzunroses
2
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kudzunroses 07/08/07 - 12:26 pm
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awwww come on patricia...is

awwww come on patricia...is that what you call "selective" spelling? :)

owensjef
13
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owensjef 07/08/07 - 12:45 pm
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Owen is the bomb, you my

Owen is the bomb, you my friend act as if you did not think Williams was the only one in history who could not pay a tax bill up front. Now what are your thoughts on the others?

owensjef
13
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owensjef 07/08/07 - 12:51 pm
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Holly it's bloody Merry time

Holly it's bloody Merry time at pat's house.

owensjef
13
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owensjef 07/08/07 - 12:57 pm
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Better yet how does that

Better yet how does that divisive partisan Hack Woody Fat boy Merry feel about them. This guy does nothing to up lift anyone, he just keeps crap going on in the community. Sort of like Austin.

owensjef
13
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owensjef 07/08/07 - 01:04 pm
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Just as I thought, you won't

Just as I thought, you won't see 200 comments on this article.

coco rubio
53
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coco rubio 07/08/07 - 01:21 pm
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sylvia cooper for

sylvia cooper for commissioner!!!

intheknow
16
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intheknow 07/08/07 - 01:35 pm
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Come on Owen, did you really

Come on Owen, did you really think otherwise?

trashman63
0
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trashman63 07/08/07 - 01:37 pm
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Yeah! I second coco rubio's

Yeah! I second coco rubio's idea for Sylvia. As usual, Sylvia, you did a great job, keep up your great work.
Why aren't the rules and laws enforced? Sylvia, I would love for you to address that subject.
As for Saul, if somebody would oppose him in an election, maybe we could vote him OUT!

intheknow
16
Points
intheknow 07/08/07 - 01:57 pm
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Well, we do not know the

Well, we do not know the whole story on SAUL. He may be working out of his home? A lot of companies are allowing that. So, lets not jump too quick on this one.

Rose
17
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Rose 07/08/07 - 02:18 pm
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0
I tried to get my husband to

I tried to get my husband to run for some kind of office, and he said he is not dishonest enough to win!

a2
1
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a2 07/08/07 - 02:33 pm
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0
I'm quoting from an obnoxious

I'm quoting from an obnoxious simpleton yesterday "they should be hanged" for a @@@!!!!!!!! tax bill. As usual you just tried to hold someone to a higher standard than the you did for the other slackers. I didn't see many comments for the "molestation commissioner or the judge that retired ( because he didn't report an improper relationship between his assistant and an inmate). White men and women miss the mark all the time, but everybody is just not suppossed to say anuthing about that. BIG STINKING DOUBLE STANDARD! What about the image that it projects? Augusta had major problems long before Mr. Williams.

Interested Citizen
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Interested Citizen 07/08/07 - 03:28 pm
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A very good job of

A very good job of reporting.......but is there nothing that can be done about these kinds of things? It seems as though anytime someone tries to hold another accountable the one trying to hold them accountable is made out to be the villain!!

Khaaaaaan
2
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Khaaaaaan 07/08/07 - 03:41 pm
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The AC does a "who owes

The AC does a "who owes property tax and who got arrested" article for all candidates right before election day. They have done ot for YEARS. I love Sylvia, but this week's column was the easiest work she ever did. She just went back and looked up old articles...half of which she wrote. Don't any of you folks have a memory past yesterday? All this stuff was discussed on the radio several weeks ago...many of the same articles were quoted.

Carleton Duvall
6305
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Carleton Duvall 07/08/07 - 05:01 pm
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Isn't it good that she did

Isn't it good that she did this article Khaaaaaaaaaaaan, it is nice to be reminded of things that we seem to forget.

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