GBI probes spat between Roberta police chief and mayor’s spouse

jkovac@macon.comMarch 17, 2014 

An apparent weekend tiff at Roberta City Hall, an incident said to involve a pair of men -- one who serves at the pleasure of the mayor and another who is married to her -- has the GBI investigating.

A cryptic news release from the Crawford County sheriff on Monday titled “Disturbance at Roberta City Hall” mentioned a Saturday-morning “altercation” between the town’s police chief and the husband of the mayor.

The 82-word release, sent by email to area news outlets, said that shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday a Roberta cop “requested assistance” from a sheriff’s deputy at City Hall.

“Upon the deputy’s arrival,” Sheriff Lewis Walker’s release stated, “he was told that an altercation had occurred” between Police Chief Benjamin Thomas and Jack Smith.

The release didn’t say Smith, 68, was Mayor Becky Smith’s husband, but it noted that Walker had decided to call in the GBI.

“Sheriff Walker put out a news release?” Jack Smith said Monday afternoon when a reporter called and read him the sheriff’s statement.

“I have no comment,” Smith went on. “This is the first I’ve heard about a news release. ... What is an altercation? ... When you find out, would you mind calling me back?”

Thomas, who has been police chief in the town of 1,010 for about two years, said he and Smith had what Thomas described as “a little incident.”

The chief said no one was arrested and that it “was nothing physical.”

“We just had some words,” Thomas said. “I was off, and he called me wanting some complaint forms, and I went up there to give them to him (at City Hall) and couldn’t find the complaint forms, and told him he’d have to come back Monday when someone’s in the office.”

Thomas said that’s when Smith “started getting an attitude, saying smart remarks to me, and I just asked him to leave.”

The chief said the remarks continued.

“I told him I was tired of him harassing me, because he just harasses the police department. Any time he can cause the police department a problem, he tries to do that,” Thomas said.

“All I did was express my feelings toward him,” the chief said. “I tried to be nice as I could to him, and that wasn’t good enough for him.”

Thomas said he thinks Smith may claim “that I did lay my hands on him, but he’s lying.”

The chief said he would consent to a polygraph.

Told later of Thomas’ remarks, Smith chuckled at some of them and said, “Let him do all the talking he wants to talk. All I can say is he really sugarcoated it.”

Becky Smith, the mayor, said she couldn’t comment, what with the GBI involved and “since it is my husband.”

She also said she couldn’t say whether the squabble might affect the police chief’s job.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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