Thursday, April 06, 2006 Staff's Blogs

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Police arrest man accused of shooting at golfer

By Jeremy Craig and Kate Lewis Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 5, 2006 12:18 p.m.
Richmond County sheriff's investigators have charged a man in connection with Tuesday night's shooting of a vehicle driven by the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in town for the Masters Tournament.
Troy Willis Smith, 26, of the 3900 block of Wrightsboro Road, also faces charges for the attempted shooting of another vehicle Tuesday, Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Roundtree said.
Police have charged Mr. Smith with two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of posession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, reckless conduct and carrying a concealed weapon, Sgt. Roundtree said.
Tom Lehman, of Scottsdale, Ariz., who is playing in this year's Masters Tournament, told Richmond County sheriff's deputies that at about 11:30 p.m., while en route to Augusta Regional Airport in a 2006 Cadillac Escalade to pick up his son, he drove eastbound on Bobby Jones Expressway and had missed his exit, said Richmond County sheriff's Lt. James Young.
Mr. Lehman said he turned around in a median between the interchanges at Doug Barnard Parkway and Laney-Walker Boulevard, Lt. Young said. The golfer said he was in the right lane behind a slow-traveling, older-model truck when an older-model, 4-door vehicle sped past.
Mr. Lehman heard a "loud explosion," the lieutenant said, and found that a bullet had struck the lower part of the rear driver-side door.
He was the only person in the SUV and was not hurt during the shooting, Lt. Young said.
The Escalade is owned by General Motors but is being used by Augusta National Golf Club during the tournament, Lt. Young said. The vehicle does not have any readily visible signs that it is being driven by a tournament competitor, other than a small "player's decal" on the upper left side of the dashboard.
The lieutenant said Mr. Lehman reported that he had been having no problems with anyone, including fans or patrons of the tournament.
Sgt. Roundtree said there is no indication Mr. Smith knew Mr. Lehman or the occupants of a second vehicle he is accused of firing at.
Before taking aim at Mr. Lehman's vehicle, Sgt. Roundtree said, the gunman first fired at a Ford truck driven by Gary Law, of Appling. Clayton Steves, of Martinez, was a passenger.
The shooter did not hit that vehicle, Sgt. Roundtree said.
According to a sheriff's office incident report, the pair was traveling west in the 3600 block of Wrightsboro Road behind Mr. Smith's 2002 Chevy Blazer when Mr. Smith fired several rounds at them.
Mr. Law and Mr. Steves saw Mr. Smith pull into a driveway on Wrightsboro Road and then contacted police, the report said.
During a vehicle search, police found an unloaded 9 mm handgun, one empty 9 mm magazine, one loaded magazine with 16 rounds, 29 live 9 mm rounds and 20 spent 9 mm rounds, the report said.
Mr. Smith told police he "had been practicing shooting earlier in the day," the report said.
Sgt. Roundtree said alcohol played a role in Mr. Smith's actions.
Police linked the two shootings today.
Reach Jeremy Craig at 706-823-3409 or
Reach Kate Lewis at 706-823-3215 or
From the Wednesday, April 5, 2006 online edition of The Augusta Chronicle

Monday, March 27, 2006

Your comments are welcomed here please feel free to reply!

It is the week before the Master's...

Well the time has come for residents to pack up and the visitors to come in. We are 1 week away from the start of the tournament and all is getting preped. If you are coming to town I sincerely hope you enjoy your trip but don't let the small area fool you, I encourage all of you coming in to venture out a little bit and see what Augusta is really all about! Just take a drive down 3 main roads and you will see what I mean. They are: Gordon Hwy from downtown to I-520, Deans Bridge Rd. from MLK to I-520, and All of Peach Orchard Rd. Just look at the vacant buildings and we even have a vacant mall for sale! Please take a look around and enjoy. The golf is great and they will keep you focused on that!

Augusta-Richmond County schools Superintendent Charles Larke's Salary

Larke's pay is among highest
By Greg Gelpi Staff Writer
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Michael Holahan/Staff
While questions continue to arise about the compensation of Richmond County schools Superintendent Charles Larke, a review of his annual pay by The Augusta Chronicle shows he not only made more last year than the superintendent of Georgia's largest school system, but also earned $100,000 more than Gov. Sonny Perdue.
When three school board members called a news conference last week to continue to ask questions about Dr. Larke's contract, school system spokeswoman Mechelle Jordan gave media members information she obtained from the Georgia Department of Education that Dr. Larke is the eighth-highest-paid superintendent in the state and is paid comparably to those in similar-size school systems.
But those numbers might be misleading, according to a review of superintendent compensation conducted by The Chronicle.
Mrs. Jordan characterized the list as superintendent salaries for last fiscal year, but it actually is the amount that systems paid for the positions, not the people occupying the jobs, according to Rebecca McClain, the chief financial officer for Savannah-Chatham County schools.
That means the list might have skewed the amounts if a school system had more than one superintendent during that particular year, Ms. McClain said. Also, the figures didn't include total benefits.
The Chronicle contacted the school systems with the 10 largest enrollments and the school systems with the 10 highest-paid superintendents, according to Mrs. Jordan's list, and requested the total compensation for their superintendents. Of the 10 school systems that responded, Dr. Larke received the most in total compensation.
His $278,578 is more than the superintendent of the largest school system in the state receives. Gwinnett County, which has an enrollment more than four times that of Richmond County, will pay its superintendent $260,775 in total compensation this year, spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.
Richmond County has 33,910 pupils, ranking ninth in the state.
Dr. Larke also is paid more than the DeKalb County superintendent. The head of that school system of 102,000 schoolchildren is paid $227,606.
For comparison, Richmond County's superintendent pay far exceeds that of Mr. Perdue. Heather Hedrick, a spokeswoman for the governor, said he is paid $171,585 with benefits.
Annuities in Dr. Larke's contract push his total compensation past that of most other superintendents in the state.
The annuity provision is one reason school board members A.K. Hasan, Barbara Pulliam and Joe Scott held the news conference Monday and called for changes in the contract.
The provision, which they want removed, pays Dr. Larke 25 percent of his total compensation into three annuities. This year, his annuities amount to about $55,000 on top of his base salary of $176,393 and other benefits.
In Savannah-Chatham County, another system of like size, the superintendent could receive $15,000 in annuities, but that is contingent on his meeting certain goals set forth by the board.
Dr. Larke said Tuesday that he will be flexible when it's time for contract negotiations and that he is willing to accept a contract, but he is not backing off the annuity clause.
"I'm not going to take that one out," Dr. Larke said. "That one stays for the next two years. That one stays, and I don't think I would accept a third year without that."
Since 2000, taxpayers have paid Dr. Larke more than $270,000 in annuities, Mr. Hasan said.
Former board member Jeff Annis said he was on the school board when Dr. Larke was hired to be superintendent.
He recalled the yearlong process it took to hire Dr. Larke and said board members weren't in the mood to "haggle" over financial details of the contract.
Instead, board members accepted the recommendations of board attorney Pete Fletcher, who advised them the annuities and other portions of the contract were standard for superintendents in Georgia.
Mr. Annis didn't recall the annuities being as high as they are.
"I found the $50,000 thing a little startling, because I didn't have that good of a memory of it being so much way back then," Mr. Annis said.
Mr. Fletcher was in school tribunals Friday and did not return messages seeking comment.
The school board will continue its evaluation of the superintendent Wednesday and Thursday. Once the evaluation is complete, the board could begin negotiating a new contract with him.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or
Superintendents' payThe following is a listing of large school systems and what they pay their superintendent in salaries and benefits:
School system
Total compensation
Charles Larke
Richmond County
J. Alvin Wilbanks
Gwinnett County
John Phillips
Muscogee County
Michael Bull
Glynn County
Crawford Lewis
DeKalb County
Steven Ballowe
Gainesville City
Thomas Lockamy Jr.
Savannah-Chatham County
James Wilson
Fulton County
Jack Parish
Henry County
Emily Lembeck
Marietta City
Sources: DeKalb County, Fulton County, Gainesville City, Glynn County, Gwinnett County, Henry County, Marietta City, Muscogee County, Richmond County and Savannah-Chatham County school systems
By definitionAnnuity: A contract or agreement by which a person receives fixed payments on an investment for a lifetime or for a specified number of yearsSource:
From the Sunday, March 26, 2006 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Augusta hotel owners quadruple room prices for Master’s Week

Domonique Benn
With thousands of people headed to Augusta for Masters Week, businesses will benefit big time.
And with Masters Week just three weeks away, area hotels are beginning to cash in.
News 12's Domonique Benn talks to hotel management about rooms that have been booked since last year.
Finishing touches are being put on the historic Partridge Inn...just in time for Masters guests, most of them invited back from last year.
"We have been booked for some time now and we do have quite a bit of repeat customers,” says David Jones, general manager of the Partridge Inn.
But this time, repeat customers will see a different Partridge enlarged lobby, a private dining room and 33 renovated guest rooms.
"In preparation for Masters, what we are doing is making sure we are ready for each one of those guests and knowing what those specific needs are," Jones says.
Area hotels stand to make big money during Masters Week. At the Partridge Inn there's a 7-night minimum stay, starting at $4000.
"We have seven night minimum and that includes as a package their breakfast each day, so the pricing does escalate during that week," says Jones.
Just like the Partridge Inn, Sleep Inn off of Washington Road is nearly sold out.
And its sister hotel next door, Quality Inn and Suites, is all booked up.
"I'm getting more calls every single day so I look to be booked in the next week or so,” says Natasha Bridges of the Sleep Inn.
A room at the Sleep Inn would normally cost $59 a night.
The prestigious Masters golf tournament is helping to quadruple that you will pay $250 per night.
"I don't think I have any doubles left,” Bridges says.
For the Masters fans calling for rooms, it's not the price they are worried about, but the availability.
Hotels are not the only places people can stay for the week.
Homeowners cash in big by renting their homes to Masters patrons.

Around Town...

Well you can tell it is getting closer to time for that Golf tournament. The prison inmates are walking the streets around Washington Rd. and around the highways picking up trash and the city is actually putting the mowers and street sweepers to use. It is amazing how much effort this city puts forth to impress visitors during this time of year. Construction around this area has increased in speed. Demolition of old ragged out buildings near the course have increased for parking lots. In a few more weeks, the county government, whose problems have been the subject of almost every post, will suddenly be getting along like a chorus. We will see what this year has in store.

Man washing car says gunman robbed him

A 45-year-old Augusta man told police he was robbed at gunpoint while washing his car Sunday evening, according to officials.
The man said the robber pushed a small pistol into his back as he washed his vehicle at Star Car Wash at 2919 Harold Road at about 6 p.m.
According to a Richmond County sheriff's incident report, the robber got away with the man's gold ring, wedding band, watch and $78.

Discrimination suit begins against Board of Education

Monday, March 13, 2006
Trial began Monday in a discrimination case against the Richmond County Board of Education.
Ellen A. Cauthen filed the U.S. District Court lawsuit nearly three years ago. It is now for a jury to determine whether her demotion from assistant principal at Lucy C. Laney High School to middle school teacher was based on racial discrimination.
The school board members, through their attorneys, have denied any discriminatory reasoning in her 2003 transfer.
Board members' grounds varied, but in general they supported Superintendent Charles Larke's request to transfer Dr. Cauthen because of her behavior at the 2003 graduation ceremony.
Laney was the only high school for black students for decades, and its student population remains majority black today.
In the school's history, no white person has served as principal at Laney, and only two whites have been assistant principals, including Dr. Cauthen, said her attorney Eleanor Attwood in an opening statement Monday.
Dr. Cauthen was the obvious fall guy for a glitch at the Laney graduation ceremony, during which officials ran out of diploma covers, Ms. Attwood said.
School board attorney Troy Lanier countered in his opening statement that it wasn't just the diploma covers. Dr. Cauthen disobeyed explicit instructions, behaved insubordinately, refused to assist and smirked at the other staffers' embarrassment, Mr. Lanier said. She was already on thin ice for her previous poor performance as the Sego Middle School principal, he said.
Laney Principal Hawthorne Welcher Sr. testified Monday, however, that he had given Dr. Cauthen very good performance reviews when they worked together at another school from 1998 through 2001, and again at Laney.
Neither he nor Dr. Cauthen knew that Dr. Larke intended to demote her at a June 2003 meeting, Dr. Welcher testified.
Although he was extremely embarrassed by the graduation ceremony glitch, he didn't blame Dr. Cauthen, he testified. He investigated but couldn't discover the cause of the diploma-cover shortage, and no one from the central office talked with him about it or about Dr. Cauthen before her demotion, Dr. Welcher testified.
Testimony continues today.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or
From the Tuesday, March 14, 2006 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle

Richmond County Schools Superintendent Contract issues

Larke says his contract is legal
Specialist says superintendent's interpretation is incorrect
Superintendent Charles Larke cited Georgia law in his statement.
Richmond County schools Superintendent Charles Larke defended his contract Thursday, calling it an agreement made fully within the law.
Mr. Larke's response came a day after Super District 9 Board Member A.K. Hasan raised questions about the legality of automatic extensions to the superintendent's contract each time Dr. Larke gets a favorable review during his annual evaluation.
Dr. Larke said in a statement he was "happy to respond" to Mr. Hasan's concerns and cited Georgia law as validation for his contract.
"Any provision of any such contract which provides for an extension of the duration of employment thereunder, whether automatic or contingent upon the occurrence of one or more events, shall be void if that extension would result in employment under the contract, as so extended, for a period which exceeds three years," according to the statement, citing state code.
Don Rooks, the legislative specialist for the Georgia School Boards Association, interprets the law differently.
Dr. Rooks, who advises school boards across the state on superintendent contracts, said the law "specifically forbids automatic rollovers."
The General Assembly ended tenure for school administrators in 1995, so school systems began including automatic rollovers in contracts, he said. A year or two later, the state prohibited those, too, because they amounted to tenure.
"It really cannot be automatic because the superintendent gets a favorable evaluation," Dr. Rooks said.
Extensions can be given, but they must be approved separately from the evaluation, he said.
According to Dr. Larke's statement, his current contract was negotiated by board attorney Pete Fletcher and his attorney in 2004 and included provisions requested by him and board members.
"The contract complies in all respects with legal requirements," the statement said.
On Thursday, Mr. Hasan reiterated his concerns over the contract and again said it's his opinion that it is illegal.
"I have no personal problems with Dr. Larke. I like him personally," Mr. Hasan said. "I think that most people who understand contracts know that contracts have a beginning and an end."
The issue wasn't raised with the intention of talking about firing the superintendent, he said. It was brought up to help the board retain its power of negotiation and prepare the board for the eventuality of Dr. Larke's departure or retirement.
"We do not want to put ourselves in a position where we have to buy out a contract because we didn't plan better," Mr. Hasan said.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or
Members of the Richmond County Board of Education will submit their evaluations of Super-intendent Charles Larke by 5 p.m. March 6.
From the Friday, February 17, 2006 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle

Monday, March 13, 2006
Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he will use the power of his office to rule on abstentions ''when the situation calls for it.''
Mayor Deke Copenhaver said Monday he will use the power of his office to limit the effect of abstentions on the Augusta Commission, but only to break deadlocks and not in every situation.
Responding to last week's ruling by Richmond County Superior Judge Carlisle Overstreet, the mayor said the judge had clearly laid out the duties of the mayor.
"When a court says it is the legal 'duty' of the mayor to do something, I must take that seriously," Mr. Copenhaver said in a prepared statement.
In a brief interview, however, he said, "I'm not going to use it willy-nilly. I'm not going to rule that every abstention is a negative vote."
He said there are often valid reasons for people to abstain.
"I don't think it should become a divisive issue. It is simply up to me to use this authority the judge has codified in a wise and judicious manner," he said in the interview. "I am not a power-hungry person, and I'm not going to use it to upbraid people but will use it when the situation calls for it."
Commission reaction was divided, with Commissioners Jerry Brigham and Joe Bowles supporting the mayor's decision.
"If an abstention is used to prevent an item from being passed or rejected, I feel that the court has given the mayor the authority to determine the abstention is a 'yes' or 'no' vote, so he could be allowed to break a tie," Mr. Bowles said.
Commissioner Betty Beard said that so long as the mayor didn't overdo his ruling on abstentions, she could go along with it. But Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams and Commissioners Richard Colclough and J.R. Hatney said for the mayor to change their abstentions to "no" votes would be unconstitutional.
"The legislators created this government, not the judiciary system," Mr. Colclough said. "I think any changes that are made to this government need to come out of Atlanta with our ratification."
Mr. Williams said he has a right to vote 'yes,' 'no' or to abstain.
"And if I choose to do that, he can't decide he wants it to be a tie," he said. "Suppose he don't want it to be a tie? He can make it be either way he wants it to be. And that's not fair. That's unconstitutional. I think he's going to have a lot of trouble out of the commission if he does that."
Mr. Hatney said if Mr. Copenhaver decides an abstention is a "no" vote and uses it to create a tie, then vote to break it, he would be voting twice.
Commission rules are silent on how the mayor should count an abstention, but the judge said Roberts Rules of Order controls where specific county rules do not, and it says to count an abstention as a "no" vote.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or
Statement from Mayor CopenhaverMayor Deke Copenhaver sent out this press release on Monday, outlining his interpretation of the judge's ruling.
From the Tuesday, March 14, 2006 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Augusta's Armed Robberies Up

Kristen Cosby
January 27, 2006
Richmond County investigators say armed robberies are on the rise in Augusta. The best way to curb this trend: you. Thursday evening around 7:30 two men robbed the Food Lion off Washington Road with a handgun. A few minutes later, a CVS on Gordon Highway was robbed. They’re the two most recent armed robberies in a rising crime.
Thursday night two armed robberies hit the Food Lion on Washington Road. About half an hour later, two armed men robbed the CVS on Gordon Highway. Investigators believe the robberies are by the same men because the victims at both businesses gave the same descriptions of the suspects.
The first suspect is described as a black man, about 5 foot 7 inches with a goatee and an earring in each ear. The second suspect is also a black man, but he is taller and heavier. This suspect is bald or has very short hair.
And if you think you’ve been hearing about a higher number of robberies lately, you’re right.
“We have had a spike in armed robberies which we normally have around the holidays, but we’ve kind of started the year off with a spike in armed robberies also,” said Lt. Scott Peebles, Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Just this week armed robberies hit the China Express and Express Cash Title Pawn Store off Peach Orchard Road and Maxway in South Gate Shopping Center.
Augusta had 16 armed robberies in January 2005. The city’s had 25 this January and the month isn’t over yet. But in December, armed robberies were much higher with 53.
Investigators say many people see these stories on the news and give them leads.
“The public having this information is so vital to our success making arrests,” Lt. Peebles said.
And if you have any information on an armed robbery, called the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department at 706-821-1080.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Just to prove I am not the only one...

This weeks Whine Line from the Metro Spirit:

  • Mayor Copenhaver apparently doesn’t seem to understand that holding closed commission meetings is illegal in the state of Georgia. Or maybe he wanted to give his pal Billy Morris’ paper, The Pravda of Augusta,the inside scoop. What’s next? Holding committee meetings at The Augusta Country Club, where only members are allowed?
  • Television network news each evening is kind of like talk radio in that it is entertaining, informative and thought provoking. But with as many ads as one must endure these days, it’s just not worth it. In the case of our own local talk radio, WGAC stands for We’ve Got Another Commercial.
  • I think that we need to fire all the Richmond County Commissioners and rehire them with two black, two white, two Hispanics, two Asians and two Indians. Then maybe we can have some common sense shown.
  • My electric bill was over $250. How is this possible when last month and all the months before it was $180 or less? I knowI did not use more electricity last month than in previous months. Someone is cheating me royally!
  • Hephzibah powers-that-be, clean it up. The folks who are trying can’t keep up with the people that are keeping it trashed.
  • Richmond County is one of the worst air polluters in the United States, and now they want to put a drag strip in Richmond County so we have more air pollution. When are the commissioners going to wake up and start regulating the air pollution in this county?
  • I wonder what the post office will do with the extra money from postage. Here’s a suggestion: Why not send some of your mail carriers back to school so they can learn how to read?
  • My gas bill was $439 with the thermostat set on 65. We can thank our so-called governor Sonny Perdue for these inflated bills. He’s the one responsible for the deregulation of natural gas that was supposed to lower our gas bills.
  • Andy Cheeks said in your article about the drag strip that some of the people who are griping would be against anything. I haven’t seen any whines for the drag strip.I haven’t seen any race fans show up to the sound level check. I haven’t seen any race fans show up at the council meetings. Come on race fans. Who really wants this thing?
  • Can commissioners be impeached?
  • The things that will destroy America are: “prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft livingand the get-rich-quick theory of life.” That’s according to President Theodore Roosevelt in a letter in 1917.
  • Judge, when you and your attorney buddy go golfing, do y’all talk about the next individual you’re going to screw? Seeing how you guys are best friends, how can justice prevail? You look out for your buddy’s clients whether they are in the wrong or right.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Some good things about Augusta...

There are at least SOME Positives to living in Augusta. This is one.... (on the right).