Bibb-Monroe border dispute pops up in murder case

December 6, 2013 

It’s a strange world when arguments about the Bibb-Monroe county border dispute cross into a murder case.

At a sentencing and plea hearing for Stephen Lober, 22, an Eagle Scout who pleaded guilty to felony murder and agreed to testify against another Eagle Scout, the border dispute came up. The core subject was the events of Jan. 27, 2012, in which Lober and Kyle Dougherty, 23, are accused of killing 21-year-old Trevorius Thomas.

Monroe County assistant District Attorney Mark Daniel told the court that, “On that date in question, the date of the homicide, Mr. Dougherty and Mr. Lober started text communication at approximately 7:05 in the morning. During that morning, Mr. Lober would text Mr. Thomas. Prior to Mr. Thomas and Mr. Lober ending up in the same vehicle together, Mr. Dougherty and Mr. Lober went to Bass Pro Shop in the south end of the county.”

Daniel interrupted himself. “Well, it’s still Bibb County. One day it may be Monroe County. We never can tell. But nonetheless, at Bass Pro Shop, they were on video -- at least Mr. Dougherty was -- buying ammunition ...”

Though a Monroe County Superior Court judge then ruled on the fate of Mr. Lober -- 30 years in prison -- it’s next up to the Georgia Supreme Court to decide on the border’s location. Even after the state’s highest court rules, the border dispute is likely to be mentioned in more court hearings.

Unlikely expectations

This column called out the National Republican Congressional Committee when it spent $1.7 million trying to beat U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Augusta, saw its candidate get squarely beaten in a Republican-leaning district, and then asked Barrow to resign anyway.

So it’s fair to point out something from the other side of the aisle: Americans United for Change sent out an email titled “Resignation Watch: GA Insurance Commissioner Compares Pre-Existing Conditions to Car Wrecks: ‘It’s Your Fault.’”

More emails soon followed, as well a telephone news conference with several state representatives and an attack by a White House spokesman.

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens appears to have backed away from his phrasing and notes that he has a pre-existing condition.

But don’t look for Hudgens to resign anytime soon. Hudgens spent $1.2 million in his election bid in 2010. He also has about $335,000 in his campaign war chest.

These kinds of things aren’t really about expecting an actual resignation. They’re off-season efforts to get a partisan base interested in an upcoming election. Hudgens drew 53.8 percent of the vote against Democratic and Libertarian opponents in 2010. Hudgens faces another election next year.

Let Doc do the negotiating

During Tuesday’s Bibb County Commission Finance Committee meeting, commissioners and department heads marveled at the long list of equipment Parks and Recreation Director Dale “Doc” Dougherty asked for -- nearly all of which was granted.

Dougherty’s wish list took up more than a third of the agenda and included some big ticket items, such as $72,000 for a 32-passenger bus.

The highlight of the meeting was when Dougherty and commissioners discussed what was supposed to be four zero-turn radius mowers for the department, one of the last items on his list.

As soon as the agenda item was reached, Dougherty immediately changed the request to eight mowers instead of four, to the amazement of some commissioners. Ultimately, commissioners tabled the item to allow the original bidders to adjust their bids from four to eight mowers.

Dougherty also had asked for a new water slide at the East Macon Park swimming pool. However, no company put in a bid with the county, commissioners were informed.

Tom Buttram, director of the county’s Inspections & Fees office, couldn’t help but quip, “In that case, Doc will take four of them.”

Beautiful Commission gets state honors

The Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission will receive several honors this week at the state’s Keep Georgia Beautiful meeting in Atlanta.

The organization has been named the affiliate of the year by the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation. In addition, Steven Lawson of Macon’s Public Works Department was named the Public Works Employee of the Year for the state.

Macon’s Wesleyan Woods Garden Club earned the top honor among garden clubs across Georgia.

Your leaders sing for you!

If a $10 donation to the Georgia Civic Awareness Program for Students isn’t enough to get Bibb County residents to the Douglass Theatre on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., consider what you will be missing.

Among the highlights for the first Taste of Macon Follies are Bibb County Commissioner Bert Bivins and Clerk of Superior Court Erica Woodford impersonating Ike and Tina Turner for their rendition of “Proud Mary,” while Macon-Bibb County Commissioner-elect Scotty Shepherd brings back the spirit of the Big Bopper by singing the classic “Chantilly Lace.”

Other scheduled performers include Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, Councilman Larry Schlesinger, state Sen. David and Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, Judge William Randall, the Charles Brooks Band and others. Macon Telegraph Editorial Page Editor Charles Richardson will serve as master of ceremonies, and Francar’s Buffalo Wings will cater the event.

Time jumpers

Macon and Bibb County governments have both agreed to a consent order -- which Bibb Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis signed Friday morning -- that will allow the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government to begin at midnight ... sometime.

The consent order, proposed by Macon-Bibb Mayor-Elect Robert Reich­ert, is meant to clear up confusing language in the consolidation charter that might leave a gap between the time current city and county governments dissolve and the new government takes over.

But in discussing the consent order before Macon City Council, Councilman Henry Ficklin -- who’s still seeking a seat on the new commission, with a rematch election yet to be set against fellow Councilman Larry Schlesinger -- noted that the order’s language might create a new gap.

“I would like the city attorney to specify, just so I am sure I understand, whether midnight is the end of the day or the beginning of the day,” Ficklin said.

The last page of the consent order says the new government will begin “midnight, Jan. 1, 2014,” he said. With the old governments ending Dec. 31, that might leave a 24-hour lapse.

“In that sense, it would be the beginning of the day,” interim City Attorney Judd Drake replied. But Drake added that he’d consult further with Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams and with Jeffery Monroe, the attorney who presented the consent order. The final order set the effective date as simply Jan. 1.

Pre-meeting meeting

On a related note, Reichert told officials, including Ficklin, on Friday afternoon that he wants to hold a swearing-in ceremony for himself and the new nine-member Macon-Bibb County Commission at 11 a.m. Dec. 31 in City Hall. That would be followed by a quick meeting to ratify essential items, such as a list of ordinances, personnel policies, department-head appointments and a regular meeting schedule, he said.

Ficklin and Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, a commissioner-elect, spoke up to say commissioners could pass those items at the first meeting, but didn’t think they’d be compelled to pass all of them, certainly not any that might still be under debate.

Commissioner-elect Scotty Shepherd said he hopes an earlier gathering of the new commission on Dec. 20 will hash out disagreements, so that items can pass Dec. 31 by general consensus. Reichert agreed. He wants a short, upbeat meeting, followed by punch and cookies.

Writers Jim Gaines, Joe Kovac Jr., Phillip Ramati and Mike Stucka contributed to this report.

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