GBI checks employment of lawmaker's relative

COLUMBUS, Ga. --- The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the employment of a relative of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop by a program partly funded by an appropriation he helped secure.

Mr. Bishop's stepdaughter Aayesha Owens Reese, the daughter of Columbus Municipal Court Clerk Vivian Creighton Bishop, began as an administrative assistant for the Junior Marshal Program of the Muscogee County Marshal's Office on Sept. 22, according to city Human Resources Department records.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports that by Feb. 20, she had been paid $7,575.

The GBI investigation was requested by Marshal Greg Countryman. Mr. Countryman, who told the newspaper he is confident there is no wrongdoing, started the Junior Marshal Program in 2005 as an outreach to at-risk children. It is partly funded by a 2008 federal appropriation of $118,000.

"Basically, we are trying to determine if there was any criminal misappropriation of funds," said Rodney Wall, GBI special agent in charge.

Mr. Countryman said he initiated the probe as a result of "whispers in the building."

"Rather than hearing whispers, I aggressively dealt with it," he said. "The talk was we had people not earning their money in the Junior Marshal Program.

"This is politically motivated and personal," Mr. Countryman said.

In a letter to Mr. Countryman on Feb. 24, a day after the inquiry began, Mr. Bishop said it was brought to his attention on Feb. 20 that his stepdaughter was hired last fall. He wrote, "Aayesha should not be paid from Congressionally Directed funds."

In an interview Monday, the congressman said he had "no idea" Ms. Reese was working for the Marshal's Office before Feb. 20, the newspaper reported.