Archive for the ‘"Do No Harm"’ Category

Trust and the transportation sales tax

If the referendum for a transportation sales tax in metro Atlanta fails this month, the cause is likely to be a lack of trust.

The most obvious trust gap is the one that separates most tea partyists from government spending. No surprise there. But the trust deficit that matters most in the July 31 vote, and the one that runs the deepest, separates white and black in metro Atlanta.

Or, if you prefer to keep things on a more civilized plane, it creates a divide between Democrats in Fulton and DeKalb counties on one hand, and Republicans in the other eight counties on the other.

All along, the strategy for passage of the transportation sales tax has been based on keeping the vote close in GOP strongholds such as Cobb and Gwinnett counties, then running up the score with strong African-American support in Atlanta and areas south of I-20.

This week, Channel 2 Action News released a poll, conducted by Rosetta Stone Communications, which showed only 38 percent of voters in the …

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11th Circuit rules that Ken Hodges can’t be sued over Phoebe Putney case

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this afternoon that former Dougherty County prosecutor Ken Hodges can’t be sued by an Albany accountant who said he was wrongly prosecuted for his criticism of a local hospital system.

However, the court ruled that a federal lawsuit against Hodges’ chief investigator, James Paulk, could proceed. Paulk allegedly gave false grand jury evidence that led to the arrest of Charles Rehberg on charges of aggravated assault, burglary, and six counts of “harassing phone calls.”

The 11th Circuit ruling has political significance: Hodges is now a Democratic candidate for attorney general, to replace incumbent Thurbert Baker.

“I’m gratified by the court’s decision, and I look forward to continuing my public service to the people of Georgia,” Hodges said.

Rehberg and surgeon Dr. John Bagnato were indicted by a local grand jury on three occasions. All charges that stemmed from their sending of anonymous faxes that were critical of the Phoebe …

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Getting rough in the Democratic race for attorney general

The Democratic side of the race for attorney general has formally entered the let’s-you-and-him-fight stage.

This morning, state Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) was getting some decent ink – and more importantly, attention from four TV stations – for a bill that would require police to take DNA samples from anyone arrested on felony charges.

Teilhet’s rival is former Dougherty County district attorney Ken Hodges. His spokesman, Jonathan Williams, couldn’t resist throwing some sand in the works:

“Ken’s a prosecutor, and he’s long supported strong DNA databases. But it’s ironic that, during an election year and in the midst of budget cuts, our opponent would propose an unfunded mandate for law enforcement, when he opposed giving it the money it needed only nine months ago.”

Williams helpfully pointed out that Teilhet voted against last year’s budget bill, which included $24.2 million for Georgia Bureau Investigation crime labs. (Which many local law enforcement authorities say …

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Your morning jolt: Georgia Public Broadcasting rejects Phoebe Putney documentary

Last year, we told you of an independent documentary that looked at the 2003 clash between two whistle-blowers in Albany, Ga., and the nonprofit Phoebe Putney Health System – southwest Georgia’s largest hospital group.

The film, “Do No Harm,” has political implications. It includes a deal of footage on the actions of then-Dougherty County district attorney Ken Hodges, who is now a Democratic candidate for attorney general. Hodges faces state Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna) in a July primary. Hodges leads in fund-raising.

Public broadcasting stations and networks in several states, including South Carolina and Louisiana, have scheduled “Do No Harm” for broadcast. But you will not see it in Georgia – at least not now.

Nancy Zintak, a spokeswoman for Georgia Public Broadcasting, said the statewide network has rejected the film. “The reason that we’re not airing it is basically is it was not balanced,” Zintak said. “It didn’t come to us like a vetted news journalistic program like …

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ATL mayoral doings: Arson, water meter lids, and a Facebook video from Andrew Young

Many things doing on the Atlanta mayoral front today:

Councilwoman Mary Norwood has called a 4 p.m. press conference at the Summerville home of Mattie Jackson, destroyed in 2008 by a fire that authorities determined was a matter of arson. Don’t know what the topic will be. A look at AJC archives indicates the response time by firefighters was four minutes.

The Atlanta water department has taken umbrage at a Norwood TV ad, in which the mayoral candidate says the city purchased 150,000 water meter lids that don’t fit. Commissioner Robert Hunter, who oversees the Department of Watershed Management, today declared the charge “absolutely untrue.”

Okay, maybe “absolutely” was the wrong word. This from the a press release:

DWM is replacing and upgrading approximately 150,000 meters. However, the number of meters reported with lids which do not fit properly represents significantly less than 1% of the meters.

Presently there are 994 open work orders to replace meter lids, not 150,000 …

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Your morning jolt: Glenn Richardson’s overseas phone call to Sonny Perdue

House Speaker Glenn Richardson informed Gov. Sonny Perdue of his attempted suicide last week, before the matter became public.

“I talked to him in a very personal, emotional conversation. I told him I wanted to visit with him as soon as I got back, because we all want to help him be successful – not just politically, but to be successful personally,” Perdue said in a WSB-TV interview conducted in Dubai, where the governor is attending an air show.

WSB’s Lori Geary, who is traveling with the governor, said Perdue talked to Richardson during a flight between Afghanistan – where the governor was visiting U.S. troops – to Germany.

“I told him there are a lot more important things out there than this other job that we do, which is public service,” Perdue said. “He and his family and his health is more important than any other political decision there. I know that while he is currently broken, he has a great ability to bounce back.”

Details of the incident from Paulding County law …

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Your morning jolt: A documentary and the race for attorney general

A documentary of two whistleblowers who began a 2003 fax campaign to expose the finances of Phoebe Putney Hospital Systems down in south Georia had its formal debut in Atlanta on Wednesday evening.

“Do No Harm” focuses on two Albany locals, accountant Charles Rehberg and surgeon John Bagnato. Their faxes described the hospital system’s generous executive salary structure, extensive political and business connections, and its financial holdings, including a Cayman Islands account.

Phoebe Putney filed a civil suit against both whistle-blowers, alleging defamation, fraud and racketeering. Then the fax-senders were indicted and booked on criminal charges of harassment, aggravated assault and burglary.

More details can be found here. The question has been whether “Do No Harm” and its story would become part of Georgia’s political dialogue. The answer, it appears, is yes.

Much of the documentary’s focus is on Ken Hodges, then the Dougherty County prosecutor. Hodges is now running …

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Your morning jolt: Think about Mary Norwood winning ATL race for mayor without a runoff

A poll has fallen into our hands, conducted by a reputable firm for a private company with an interest in who will be the next mayor of Atlanta.

It was performed in mid-September, so the results are slightly dated. But the survey of 600 city voters (MOE is plus-or-minus 4 percent) says we need to begin thinking seriously about the unthinkable:

Mary Norwood could win the Nov. 3 mayoral race without a runoff.

This poll shows the councilwoman running stronger against rivals Lisa Borders and Kasim Reed than anything we’ve seen previously. It has Norwood even taking a plurality of Atlanta’s African-American vote.

This is the analysis accompanying the poll that’s being passed around Atlanta’s business elite:

Norwood’s impressive support measures translate into a better than 2:1 lead over second-place Borders (41% Norwood, 19% Border/14% Reed). Norwood’s advantage is built on a 41 point lead with white voters and a surprising 8-point plurality among African-Americans. Despite a …

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Your morning jolt: Chambliss coached for refinery witness

The 2008 refinery explosion near Savannah still has a few aftershocks left.

In today’s Savannah Morning News, reporter Larry Peterson has this:

Imperial Sugar Co. prepped U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss to rebut testimony by a whistle-blower witness at a Senate hearing last year, a lobbyist’s memo indicates.

In addition to Chambliss being given hundreds of pages of documents, the senator, Imperial’s CEO and its lobbyist discussed the July 29 hearing in advance of the session itself, a Chambliss spokeswoman confirms.

The hearing focused on the causes of the explosions and fires that ultimately killed 14 at the Port Wentworth refinery. One of the key witnesses was former Imperial executive Graham Graham, who testified that Imperial Sugar hindered his efforts to make the plants safer, a claim the company denies.

Peterson writes that Chambliss received a package of documents from Imperial lobbyist George Baker. In a cover memo:

Baker wrote that Imperial disputed what Graham was going to …

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A film placed —for the moment — out of harm’s way

Updated at 10 a.m. Monday: Links to several court documents added.

Georgia is on the verge of its very own Michael Moore moment. The question is whether that moment will be allowed to happen.

In September 2003, fax machines owned by Albany’s business and political elite began spitting out a series of anonymous newsletters that detailed the inner workings of the nonprofit Phoebe Putney Health System — southwest Georgia’s largest hospital group.

Based on publicly available documents, the “Phoebe Factoids” described the hospital system’s generous executive salary structure, extensive political and business connections, and its financial holdings, which included a Cayman Islands account.

Two locals, accountant Charles Rehberg and surgeon John Bagnato, ultimately copped to the faxes. The pair said they wanted to shed light on a hospital system that wasn’t fulfilling its charitable obligations as a tax-exempt entity.

Ex-FBI agents were sent to confront Rehberg. Phoebe Putney filed a …

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