Almost $2 Million of Taxpayer-Money Wasted By Sumter County Commissioners

October 2019

Randy Howard

Mark Waddell

George Torbert

Sta ff Reports

The Americus Sumter Observer staff, through use of the Open Records law has investigated the amount of taxpayer money that was spent by the three white commissioners to maintain the Sumter County illegally drawn school districts to prevent proper and fair changes.

Surprisingly, the County Attorney Kimberly Reid received the largest share of the taxpayers’ money.

Remember,White Republican State Representative MikeCheokas and Black Democrat State Senator Freddie Powel-
Sims passed GA House Bill (HB 836) that changed the majority Black school board to a majority Whiteboard. The Local NAACP President Reverand Matt Wright filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Albany. Black retired Federal Judge Louis Sands first ruled in favor of Sumter County Commissioners and the Board
of Elections.

President Wright recruited the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with chief attorney Laughlin McDonald to assist him with an ACLU appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, GA and they ruled in Wright’s favor. The Commissioners brought in a Republican Law Firm, Strickland, Brockington, Lewis and paid them $404,406.79, to defend the first decision by Sands.

Judge Sands ordered a trial in December 2017. The Sumter County Commissioners could have dropped the case; instead, they hired another law firm, Baker & Hostetler LLP for $421,004.33 of our taxpayers’ money in this losing effort as they failed with all that taxpayer money in the federal appeal court.

In March 2018 Judge Sands ruled in favor of Wright and the ACLU, as mandated by the Atlanta federal appeals court. Their expert witness, Attorney Fred McBride was able to prove that the Cheokas and Sims districts
were discriminatory.

The County’s expert witness, Karen L. Owen, PhD, was paid $31,800 of the people’s money for a failed and flawed discriminatory plan which was rejected by the courts.

The three White Commissioners apparently figured that they had not spent enough so they appealed Judge Sands’ decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals May 2018. They sent an amended appeal in the Fall of 2018 before a decision came from the Eleventh Circuit. Finally, the Court of Appeals answered and sent back to Judge Sands that there was nothing to review and rejected the County’s appeal as frivolous.

The most foolish appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was a desperate attempt to suggest that if
Gubernatorial Candidate, Stacy Abrams, carried Sumter County, that was proof that a Black person could win an At-Large seat. The House Bill that Cheokas was able to obtain has two At-Large districts [That means those districts are elected by the entire county voters]. So the Sumter County Commissioners spent more time
and money trying to hold on to the illegal school districts. The federal appeals Court instructed the county morons not to send anymore such frivolous appeals.

The most disturbing amount of money that was spent was paid to the current County Attorney, Kimberly Reid of the law firm, Lawson & Reid of Cordele, GA; who did nothing but watch the case being appealed and was paid a whopping $894,560.12 of the Sumter County taxpayers’ income. We obtained the financial information from the Sumter County Commissioners by demand under Georgia’s Open Records law. The three Commissioners who repeatedly voted to spend the money were: former Commission Chairman Randy Howard, Commissioners Mark Waddell and George Torbert. The two Black Commissioners, Thomas Jordan and Clay Jones voted against spending such huge sums of taxpayers’ monies, the report shows.

There needs to be an investigation of the enormous amount of money paid to County Attorney Reid. The county
attorney was paid double the amount given to the two high profile law firms. We wonder why?. Taxpayers have an obligation to speak up and challenge wasteful spending by commissioners.