Sunday, February 21, 2010

21 FEB 10: There Goes the Judge

The busy season is starting in my little corner of the world. I'm home from one road trip, but getting ready to make another. And Serious Spring Cleaning began Saturday night, with a quality hour in the bathtub. Please note this did NOT mean I took a Saturday night tub bath. The Formula 409 was for the tiles, not my toenails.

A little spring cleaning is coming to the upper floors at the Government Center as well. While I was away, Judge Robert Johnston suddenly announced his resignation on grounds of ill health. Part of me can't blame him - because I'm growing a little sick of all the Carlton Gary updates myself.

But the Ledger-Enquirer dug deeper, and discovered Judge Robert Johnson resigned in the middle of an investigation. The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission happened to have someone in Columbus. You always wondered how they chose the judges for the Miss Georgia pageant, didn't you?

But anyway: Judge Robert Johnston confessed to the newspaper he was interviewed during the week by a judicial investigator. But he couldn't remember if he announced the resignation during that meeting, or at another point during the day. If the judge can't remember the exact moment, maybe the claim of health problems actually has some merit to it.

It's not clear exactly why the Judicial Qualifications Commission was checking Judge Robert Johnston. Anyone can file a complaint with the state online. But I'm not sure if district judges can get away with the kinds of one-line insults Judge Judy and Joe Brown do on TV.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission received 376 complaints last fiscal year. But only 44 were found worthy of going onto a commission docket - which tells me more than 80 percent of the time, the crackpot is in front of the gavel and not behind it.

(We should note the Vice-Chair of the commission last fiscal year was Muscogee County Judge John Allen. Could it be that even judges sometimes need friends in high places?)

Your blog has been told numerous complaints have been filed with the state against Judge Douglas Pullen. They included two eye-popping cases we covered here last fall [14 Oct 09/15 Nov 09]. Yet Pullen remains on the bench -- and if veterans activist Jim Rhodes isn't complaining about him, maybe he hasn't done anything wrong.

But I digress: Judge Robert Johnston will leave office 15 March, leaving the choice of a temporary replacement to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. That's started a quiet guessing game about who will be given the seat. And no, my recent road trip was NOT for taking short courses at Emory Law School.

A source who wants to be kept anonymous tells your blog three Republican names have surfaced, which could be appointed by Georgia's Republican Governor....

+ Ron Mullins's interest was confirmed Saturday night by the Ledger-Enquirer's web site. Mullins will give up his State Senate campaign against Josh McKoon, explaining he's been on the "short list" of Superior Court candidates twice before. Mullins needs to remember another famous Republican. Robert Dole resigned from the U.S. Senate early, and still lost a Presidential race.

(Mullins explained he's returning about $100,000 in campaign contributions. In a related note, Josh McKoon will give up about 200 pages of accusations he was prepared to use in attack ads.)

+ But attorney Bill Rumer was given the "heavy favorite" label by our source. Governor Perdue named him to the state Public Defenders Standards Council in 2007. And he does his job so quietly, I've heard no nasty Rumers about him.

+ Former mayor Bob Poydasheff reportedly is interested as well. This at last explains why he's kept his law office directly across Second Avenue from the Government Center.

There was one name missing from our source's list, which I considered a surprise. Wouldn't former District Attorney Gray Conger be a likely candidate for this seat? He's been linked romantically with another Muscogee County Judge. And Conger has so much in common with Governor Perdue - since both converted from the Democratic Party several years ago.

The newspaper noted the timing of Governor Perdue's appointment could be very interesting. An appointment by 2 May would put Robert Johnston's judgeship on the November ballot. Otherwise, it would wait until the 2012 general election - and give Republicans a lot more time to stop Mark Shelnutt from running, by spreading new rumors.

-> "Big Monday" means poker as well as Kansas basketball these days. Read why at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION on Talbotton Road closed Saturday night, with the most fitting outcome possible. Six people voted for including a center median on the street. Six people voted against it. So yes, the median debate is split right down the middle.

Columbus road crews clearly are preparing to do something on Talbotton Road. The western section of the street had a fresh coat of asphalt when I drove on it Saturday. I also saw tentative marks for two lanes of traffic, plus a turn lane. This obviously assumes "rails to trails" bike riders will have too much trouble climbing the hill from Veterans Parkway.

The only comment we received during our hideously non-scientific survey came from the man who suggested it - the founder of the Better Way Foundation:

That's exactly what we are looking for is a Better Way. We totally agree that something must be done to Talbotton Road. We listened to those business owners who pleaded with us to not go through with this, we even heard one person say he would have to close down shop and couldn't afford to re locate. We have to look at safety issues for several hundred children that live within Ashley Station.

Do we want a newer better road? Absolutely. But is this current plan feasible? We don't think so, especially at a cost of $20 Million per mile for 2.1 miles. We're not saying we don't want anything done and to scrap the whole job, we simply want them to look at it again and possibly come up with a Better Way or a more feasible plan that doesn't cost so much to taxpayers and business owners.

Jeremy S Hobbs

From what I saw this weekend, a "better road" already is on the way. All crews have to do for Ashley Station children is keep the large orange temporary fencing up, once the road is widened.

By the way, Jeremy Hobbs has posted a video declaring he plans to run again for Columbus Council in 2012. But did I hear Hobbs right - that Councilor Red McDaniel has been in Columbus since "reconstruction?!" I know McDaniel is up in years, but that's about twice as high as I thought.

We'll hold one other e-mail for another day, and make a quick check of other items we've missed in the last few days:

+ A Saturday afternoon drive downtown found workers fixing the roof of Ruth Ann's restaurant. Two months after the fire, managers hope to reopen by next weekend -- but hopefully you'll understand if the menu does NOT include fajitas.

+ Crews prepared to begin a one-week "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" project today, somewhere in the Columbus area. The timing of this puzzles me. Have the college students who do spring break Habitat for Humanity projects been told to stay home this year?

+ Gasoline prices jumped 15 cents a gallon across Columbus, to about $2.59 a gallon. It almost makes you long for another snowstorm, to shut down driving all over again.

+ Tony Snow of the Gateway car dealership downtown told WTVM he's "resigned" the Lincoln-Mercury franchise, and now only sells new Mitsubishis. Does this explain why Randy "Cohhhh-lumbus" Lajoie moved to Legacy Chevrolet? Maybe he still dreams of dating that Mercury spokesmodel.

+ Christian musicians Jeremy Camp and David Crowder headlined a two-night worship rally at the Columbus Civic Center called "Vision 2010." For some strange reason, this event was NOT sponsored by any local eye doctors.

+ A University of Wisconsin study concluded Quitman County is the least healthy county in Georgia. From what I saw on the news last year, residents get most of their exercise by marching to the county courthouse to protest drug busts.

+ The Georgia Legislature began a two-week recess, while lawmakers try to work out a compromise state budget. Governor Perdue's proposal for a tax on hospitals isn't going over well. After all, insurance companies tripled the cost of most medical procedures already.

+ A surprising column by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker contended Black History Month has become "obsolete," and so has the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Why do I have a feeling the Columbus Times will NOT reprint that column -- since the same logic could apply to that newspaper?

+ A zebra ran away from the Ringling Brothers' circus at Atlanta's Philips Arena, and was captured on the Downtown Connector. Some passing drivers presumed they saw referees on the run from upset college basketball fans.

(The best name for a sports bar I've ever seen was at a midtown Atlanta hotel. You might have to think about "The Blind Zebra" for a minute....)

+ Roundball Saturday night (tm) found Auburn's men outlasting Arkansas 92-83. Tay Waller made seven three-point shots for Auburn - which makes me wonder why the radio broadcast doesn't have a sponsored "Tay Trey of the Day."

+ Instant Message to Taylor Academy: I'm glad you're teaching children from pre-Kindergarten to sixth grade. But I think you're missing a wider audience - like the grown-ups who painted your billboard to say you're located on "Buena VISA Road."

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: The alternate-day schedule returns this week. Look for our next posts Tuesday and Thursday.)

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