Attorney wants senator on stand

  • Follow Metro

SAVANNAH, Ga. --- A Savannah attorney wants to question Sen. Saxby Chambliss about whether Imperial Sugar Co. enlisted the Republican lawmaker to help the company avoid blame after the deadly explosion at its Georgia refinery.

Attorney Mark Tate, who is suing Imperial Sugar on behalf of two injured workers and the families of two employees killed in the blast, subpoenaed Mr. Chambliss to testify Thursday -- five days before the Nov. 4 election in which he faces Democrat Jim Martin.

"We think it's important we do it now because we're concerned about what might happen to e-mails and other things if we don't move on it," Mr. Tate said Friday.

Mr. Tate wants to ask Mr. Chambliss whether Imperial Sugar executives persuaded him to harshly criticize a company whistleblower during a Senate hearing on the Feb. 7 explosion. He also wants the senator to respond to plaintiffs' claims that Imperial Sugar arranged a meeting between Mr. Chambliss and victims' families to dissuade them from suing.

Mr. Chambliss issued a written statement saying he had referred the subpoena to Senate lawyers.

"I continue to sympathize with the families who were devastated by this tragedy, and I will continue to work to protect the interests of those families who experienced loss during this horrible incident," Mr. Chambliss said.

But he has drawn criticism from those who think he took Imperial Sugar's side in the explosion, which investigators determined was caused by sugar dust that ignited like gunpowder. The blast killed 14 workers and injured dozens more.

At the July Senate hearing, Mr. Chambliss strongly criticized a whistleblower who told investigators the company ignored repeated warnings about potential dust explosions.

Vice President of Operations Graham H. Graham, had worked at Imperial Sugar for three months before the blast. Yet Mr. Chambliss accused Mr. Graham of trying to protect himself by coming forward and said he should have done more to improve conditions before the explosion.

"This guy Graham knows he's on the hook," Mr. Chambliss said in an interview after the hearing.

Mr. Tate said he believes Mr. Chambliss was enlisted by Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor "to bias the Chatham County jury pool against Graham Graham."

"We believe that Saxby Chambliss was given information about what happened at the plant by John Sheptor directly," Mr. Tate said. He also said some of his clients have told him Mr. Chambliss spoke to them at a July meeting arranged by the company.

Mr. Chambliss works closely with the sugar industry as the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Comments (4) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
HTN007 10/26/08 - 03:35 am
Does any of this surprise

Does any of this surprise anyone? Remember, Sen. Chambliss voted against SCHIP to protect the cigarette industry from the 60 cent per pack tax that was going to pay for children to have healthcare. So, if he would stoop so low as to deny healthcare to children to protect cigarette manufacturers, why would his siding with Imperial Sugar to influence the outcome of a lawsuit shock anyone? Remember folks, November 4th is right around the corner.......let's send this creepy guy packing!!

Ga Values
Ga Values 10/26/08 - 06:20 am
Where Saxby gets his money,,

Where Saxby gets his money,, Guess why he voted for the $700,000,000,000.00 Wall Street Bail out and added $153,000,000,000.00 of PORK for the LOBBYIST.. Fire Saxby NOW, Fire SAXBY Here, Pay less .........Agribusiness $1,390,331... Communic/Electronics $271,104... Construction $318,237... Defense $146,650 ...Energy/Nat Resource $286,055 ...Finance/Insur/RealEst $1,352,121... Health $475,759... Lawyers & Lobbyists $652,285... Transportation $251,500... Misc Business $682,499... Labor $16,000... Ideology/Single-Issue $491,240... Other $601,332

Ga Values
Ga Values 10/26/08 - 06:24 am
The Chicago Mercantile

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is employing the son of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) to lobby members of his father’s congressional committee and other lawmakers on legislation that may increase trading at the exchange. Clarence Saxby “Bo” Chambliss Jr. is one of two staff lobbyists at the Merc charged with “providing information on issues that impact our industry to decision-makers in Washington,” Merc spokesman David Prosperi said Friday. Saxby Chambliss heads the Senate Agriculture Committee, which jointly oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and must this year pass legislation reauthorizing the futures regulator through 2011. The CFTC’s current authority expires Sept. 30. The panel may vote as early as this month on a bill to reauthorize the CFTC, said a committee spokesman.

justus4 10/26/08 - 06:29 am
Of course Chambliss did it.

Of course Chambliss did it. They all do it. Nothing new here...

OscarLewis 10/26/08 - 08:29 am
Chambliss is shameless and

Chambliss is shameless and corrupt.

The earlier post is correct; Chambliss has received large campaign donations from the sugar industry and specifically Imperial Sugar.

During the senate hearing, he falsely accused the whistleblower of being the one who was responsible for the conditions that led to the tragic explosion.

But this is Chambliss' pattern. Consider the tragedy of Katrina. Afterward, he voted against all legislation that would have helped schools and individuals. He was opposed to investigations of the government's response to the hurricane. Instead, he voted for tax breaks for businesses.

Also, consider his response to the financial markets plunge. There are a large and growing number of foreclosures taking place in Georgia. There are hundreds of thousands of mortgages that are 60 days past due. Instead of trying to figure a responsible way to reduce the number of foreclosures, he hands $700 billion to the former CEO of Goldman Sachs. For those of you who do not know, Goldman Sachs was one of the biggest players in sub prime lending and derivative trading.

Chambliss is a corporate lackey.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
Hyde Park activist not pleased with city buyout offer
Charles Utley, who fought to get Augusta to address contamination concerns in the Hyde Park community, now is questioning the city's offer of $90,500 for his four rental properties there.