Case of the open safe is a simple one to crack
By Sylvia Cooper| Columnist
Sunday, January 24, 2010

A funny thing happened last weekend at the Marble Palace.

Someone broke a window in the tax commissioner's office, supposedly climbed through and stole $25,000 and checks from an open safe.

There were no fingerprints, fibers or blood around the broken window. The case is as clueless as the employee who left the safe open and the part-time marshal's department employee who didn't do anything after a maintenance man told him the safe was open.

Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick has taken full responsibility. That is commendable. However, $25,000 of taxpayer money is still missing. So who should replace it? You be the judge.

A. Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick

B. Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick

C. Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick

There are many theories as to how this burglary happened. Which one is the best?

A. Inside job

B. Inside job

C. Inside job

City officials say they will take measures to shore up security at the Marble Palace, such as turning on security cameras and increasing security to 24 hours a day. What is the best description of these measures?

A. Locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

B. Locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

C. Locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Congratulations! You made 100 on the test!

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND. OR DOES IT? Remember how in 2007 everybody raked Dave Barbee over the coals for writing a private e-mail about changing demographics in the inner city and the political implications of black residents moving to west Augusta and elsewhere in the county and more white residents moving in?

Former state Sen. Ed Tarver, the attorney for the Augusta Housing Authority, helped distribute the leaked e-mail and said he had grave concerns about Barbee remaining on the authority. The Augusta Baptist Ministers Conference, the Rev. K.B. Martin and other black leaders held a news conference and blasted Barbee, and prevailed upon Mayor Deke Copenhaver to remove him from the board for making racial remarks.

Fast forward to November 2009, when the Baptist ministers, Martin and leaders from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference called a news conference to rail against the possibility of white District 1 Augusta Commission candidate Matt Aitken being elected in the 65 percent black district. They said a white man could not adequately represent the district. They also said it would be unconstitutional to upset the commission's 5-5 racial balance and that an injunction might be in order if it happened.

Martin, a member of the housing authority, was a principal speaker at that news conference, which Commissioner Don Grantham said warrants his removal from the authority. Grantham has asked the mayor to do just that, saying the remarks were more inflammatory than anything Barbee wrote.

"Don mentioned that to me on Dec. 16, which was over a month after the press conference," the mayor said. "I haven't heard from anyone else calling for his resignation, and since months have now passed, I believe it's time to move on."

Easy for him to say.

AS LONG AS THERE ARE HOODLUMS, THERE'S HUFFMAN: News reporters often get letters from prison inmates proclaiming their innocence or complaining about jail conditions. Almost all go into the big round File 13 after a read that would do Evelyn Woods proud. But the one I got from 49-year-old Edward Nettles caught my attention.

"We always like to read your columns," he wrote, which caused me to think, "The man can't be all bad."

Besides, he began the letter by saying, "How are (you) doing. Staying warm I hope." He then went on to say, "I have had to do time in N.C., and other places because I work hard and love to shoot pool, so that sums up a long story real short!"

Yes, he no doubt left a lot out. Then he got to his complaint, which was that the Charles Webster Detention Center on Phinizy Road has a nice library but won't let the inmates use it.

I called Capt. Chester Huffman , who said the library is a law library and not an inmate library. Furthermore, moving inmates out of their housing unit is labor intensive. They cannot leave the area without handcuffs and leg irons.

"Reading materials are quite limited," he said. "They get the Good Book and the newspaper."

Huffman said they're building more jail pods and when the next money from the penny tax comes in, they'll build some more. So one thing's certain: Huffman has job security.

Where are they now?

Frank Albert: The former Richmond County Commission chairman and state senator has been out of politics since his run for Congress against Democrat Don Johnson in 1992.

He's retired, out of the loop and living in pastoral Columbia County.

"Every now and then I have people come up to me and say, 'Did you used to be Frank Albert?' I say, 'I used to be, but that was a long time ago.' You know you're a has-been when they say that."

Albert said he liked politics when he was in it but couldn't stand it now because he's not politically correct enough. He was elected to the county commission in 1977 and served as chairman in 1979.

"When we had pre-meetings, I'd have them at the Pinnacle Club," he said. "I invited Phil Kent and Margaret Twiggs , and I picked up the check. They loved it."

So that explains why the late Twiggs, The Chronicle's government reporter during those years, once said the fun went out of politics when Albert left office.

In 1984, Albert ran for the state Senate as a Republican.

"I was lucky enough to have Reagan running for president," he said. "He dragged me on in with him."

But he found the Senate to be far less satisfying than serving on the county commission because there were only 10 or 12 Republicans in the Senate.

"It was kind of like being on a football team and never getting to play," he said.

JIM WHITEHEAD: The former state senator resigned that seat to run for the 10th District congressional seat when it was vacated by the death of Rep. Charlie Norwood . He lost to fellow Republican Paul Broun in a special election runoff. He said he's still in the tire business and "doing quite well."

He owns stores in Augusta and Evans and recently opened others in Columbia and Athens, but he "thoroughly misses the Georgia Senate."

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to go back, but I don't want to cause any trouble," he said. "(Sen.) Bill Jackson is a friend, and the people that would support me support him, and I wouldn't want to put them in that position."

But if Jackson decides not to run in 2012, Whitehead probably would, he said.

MAX BURNS: Burns won the 12th District congressional seat by defeating Democrat Charles Walker Jr. in 2002 but lost the seat to Democrat John Barrow two years later and became a lobbyist. He ran again against Barrow in 2006 but lost by 864 votes.

He is now dean of the Mike Cottrell School of Business at North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega.

JOHN STONE: Stone was the next Republican to take on Barrow and lose. The former communications director for Norwood was better at debating the voluble Barrow than Burns, but he lost by a wider margin -- 63 percent to 38 percent -- in 2008. Since then, Stone has been in Washington working for John "Judge" Carter of Texas, the House Republican secretary.

He plans to run for Congress again but says he is now playing whatever small role he can in winning back the House of Representatives.

LARRY SCONYERS: Everybody knows where the first mayor of consolidated Augusta is: Sconyers Bar-B-Que.

"I just love being in my business," he said. "I'm through with politics, as far as being actively involved."

BIG shots in the Big House: And everybody knows where former state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker , former state Rep. Robin Williams and former Georgia Superintendent of Schools Linda Schrenko are, too.

From the Sunday, January 24, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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