Politics & Government

Warner Robins councilman accused of illegally holding office; Thomas calls attack political

WARNER ROBINS -- City Councilman Tim Thomas says he’s under politically motivated attacks that falsely claim he’s breaking the law.

A statement emailed Monday to several midstate reporters accuses Thomas of still engaging in the bail bondsman business while serving in an elected capacity. That would be a misdemeanor offense under state law. Thomas said he first heard of the claim several weeks ago.

“From the day I was elected, I quit signing any bonds in the city or the county, and I haven’t done any since,” Thomas told The Telegraph. “There’s not a bond out from November 2013 (or later) that’s got my signature on it.”

Thomas said he quit the business the day after his 2013 election, weeks before he took office. He said he removed his name from all the bank accounts and completed all the other paperwork to separate himself from Parkway Bonding Co., which his family launched in 1972. His son and mother continue to sign bonds for the company. His son’s name is also Timothy Thomas, but he and the councilman have different middle names. Thomas said that could be contributing to some of the confusion.

“It was my company for a lot of years, and I knew when I was elected I was going to have to step away from it,” said Thomas, who said he has since focused on his real estate business.

Houston County Sheriff Cullen Talton said he and his chief deputy spoke several weeks ago and found no indication that Thomas was signing bonds.

“He used to sign some bonds, but when he got elected, to my knowledge he hasn’t signed any bonds,” Talton said.

Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans, City Attorney Jim Elliott and Mayor Randy Toms said their own inquiries found no evidence that Thomas was still signing bail bonds. The email to the media also said an ethics complaint would be filed with the state attorney general “requesting his office intervene since Mayor Randy Toms has chosen to ignore the law and protect Councilman Thomas.”

Toms told The Telegraph, “I did my due diligence. To say that I have ignored the law is absolutely inaccurate. ... It’s all false, and it’s all based on somebody (who) got ticked off at Tim Thomas.”

Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said any such complaints to that office would be forwarded on to the state ethics agency. Kane said Monday she couldn’t find a record that her office had received a complaint about Thomas.

The email sent Monday to reporters purportedly was from “Citizens for a Better Warner Robins.” No contact information was included in the email itself, but it was sent through an email account signed by Luke Stevenson of Warner Robins. The email address doesn’t show up in a Google search, and there are no Warner Robins registered voters with the last name of Stevenson who have a first or middle name similar to Luke. County records list no real estate belonging to a person with a name similar to Luke Stevenson.

Toms said that name and email address was similar to the one on a message he received Oct. 7.

The release accurately quotes state law, which says, “It shall be unlawful for any elected official ... in this state to engage either directly or indirectly in the bail bond business.”

The Telegraph emailed Stevenson and requested a telephone call. A reply began, “I think the law is self-explanatory. Also, there are city employees concerned about retaliation should the sources be revealed. I would like to recommend that you research this on your own and proceed as you see fit.”

Stevenson then made allegations about unfairness in proposed changes to the city’s pension plan and concluded, “I am afraid the stench of self-serving mendacity has befallen our city leadership.”

Stevenson did not reply to another email asking for specific evidence that Thomas is still participating in the bail bond business, or to provide proof that he and the Citizens for a Better Warner Robins group exist.

Thomas said he suspects another City Council member is behind the claims, but he refused to identify that person.

“I’ll let you speculate on that one,” Thomas said. “The warning I was given from this particular person was he was going to make sure I wasn’t re-elected. I think it’s all political.”

Thomas has one year left in his term and said he suspects the claims are tied to the upcoming election.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.