News 12 First at Five / Thursday, July 5, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- News 12 spoke to state leaders today who say they are shocked by the local endorsement controversy that could cost a national organization its tax exempt status.
"You are not coming down here with a bunch b.s. to feed to our community," cried attorney Charles Lyons, who issued the fighting words before a highly attended news conference on Thursday.
This all comes after the Waynesboro police chief and others endorsed Cpt. Scott Peebles for sheriff on behalf of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. One day later, they were hit with a cease and desist letter.
"They are about as influential as these pack of lies that they brought," said Lyons about the group who gathered to endorse Peebles.
The retraction demand is coming as a result of a flurry of local complaints.
"We are not putting up with foolishness," Lyons said. "When you bring foolishness down here in this race, we are going to be on top of it. We are going to call you out."
Sheriff's candidate Lt. John Ivey is also speaking out about the controversy.
"I want things fair and I want things equal. This is not fair," Ivey said. "I'm concerned about individuals that don't even live in this county trying to affect what goes on in this county. "
Waynesboro Chief Alfonzo Williams was one of several who gathered claiming they had no idea the nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization "cannot and will not endorse a political candidate."
"These people have put their tax exempt status in jeopardy," Lyons said.
"You are not embarrassed by this?" we asked Williams.
"No," Williams replied, "It's an honest mistake."
But what about the letterhead with the original endorsement announcement?
"It was shocking, to say the least," said Patrick Labat, president of the Georgia NOBLE chapter.
The endorsement letter was signed by the alleged president, David Hannah of Georgia Chapter Region 7.
"Mr. David Hannah ... Is he president?" we asked Labat.
"I am the only president of the GA Chapter. It is as simple as that," he replied.
It turns out none of the men present that day were members of the national organization.
"As a result," we noted. "Can Hannah even hold office?"
"He cannot," Labat said.
"The evidence is mounting to the point where I am saying they are lying," said Lyons, who is advising Richard Roundtree for sheriff in his campaign.
Lt. Ivey shares that sentiment.
"It's almost like the man say a lie," Ivey said.
"A flat-out lie?" we asked.
"Take it how you want it," Ivey replied. "They weren't members. If you catch a person who committed a crime, he is going to tell you he didn't do it. What do you expect for them to say?"
"Did you mislead the public?" we asked Williams. "We did not intentionally mislead the public, and I would not stand for anything of that sort. One would have to be a fool to think that somebody wouldn't go after a candidate who has a strong endorsement and try to find some problem with it."
Cpt. Scott Peebles received the now-questionable endorsement.
"They can stay over there with Mr. Peebles," Lyons said. "They may be influential in Waynesboro, but they ain't nobody here in Augusta."
The Roundtree camp insists it was all a conspiracy.
"They knew that just bringing them from Waynesboro, 5,000 people population, didn't mean a thing," Lyons said. "So they are going to pump themselves up. You come down here trying to sell a boatload of crap, and we ain't going to have it."
Stay with News 12 as this story continues to develop.
Statement from Peebles:
"In response to Richard Roundtree's press conference today, I again assure everyone that there was no conspiracy on the part of my campaign to falsely represent an endorsement from any organization. I also believe all of the fine officers who have endorsed me when they say they were acting in good faith. Regardless of their association with any organization, I am honored to have the individual endorsements from men I respect and admire.
Today's press conference is a follow through of the threat Richard Roundtree made via Facebook on March 4th, in which he declared that it was his intent to be the next sheriff of Augusta Richmond County ... 'You can either get aboard this train or you can stand in front of it, the choice is yours.' In several recent public forums, Richard Roundtree has publicly praised the work of Police Chief Alfonzo Williams as an example of the type of policing he wants to bring to Augusta. Now that Chief Williams and others have failed to endorse him, Roundtree is determined to make an example of them by attempting to defame them and tarnish their reputations. It is my opinion that this is a prime example of why Roundtree does not need the power that comes with the office of sheriff."
Transcript from Roundtree news conference:
"Good afternoon, I want to thank everyone for coming to this press conference today. We are to discuss the fabrications of Mr. Alfonzo Williams and other members of his department.
As many of you know, Mr. Williams and others on July 2nd, 2012, endorsed a local candidate for sheriff. They made this endorsement as representatives of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, (henceforth NOBLE). Through the efforts of several persons, this endorsement was proven to be a fraud. Since this time, Mr. Williams has decided to go to the airwaves and claim victimhood, mistake and misinformation.
Thus it became necessary to properly address Mr. Williams’ fabrication in a more thorough manner.
First, let me say I support Richard Roundtree for sheriff. But this press conference is not about Richard Roundtree. It is about five guys coming to Augusta on city time to make a bogus endorsement.
Mr. Williams has stated this controversy is not about race. In this assertion, he is correct. But understand the only person who has mentioned race is Mr. Williams. Those are Republican/Peebles talking points and he should take those back to the Peebles campaign headquarters.
So let's be clear, this controversy is not about race, it’s about five guys on city time (and unless they took an unpaid leave of absence, it was on city time and taxpayer expense) who decided to get in their in cars and make a fraudulent endorsement. That’s all this controversy is about. Mr. Williams and his employees created this situation.
Mr. Williams has also stated that the people should be united and not divided. The people of Augusta are united. They are united against persons coming to our town and making up endorsements.
Let me also say that as of ten minutes ago the NOBLE endorsement is still on Scott Peebles' website. So if Mr. Williams loved NOBLE so much, he would have asked his friend to take that endorsement down.
We must assume that Mr. Williams and Mr. Peebles know that NOBLE’s 501(c)(3) status is at risk. An organization with 501(c)(3) status cannot support candidates. Yet, as Mr. Williams travels the talk show circuit, it has yet to occur to him that he might want to protect the organization that he so dearly loves and ask his fried that he so dearly likes to take the bogus endorsement down. I guess neither one of them will be satisfied until NOBLE loses its 501(c)(3) status. But hey, politics is politics I guess, damn what happens to good people. Nothing can get in the way of Mr. Williams and Mr. Peebles.
You would think Mr. Peebles being a member of law enforcement would remove this bogus endorsement. He must understand that he is placing NOBLE in a bad situation. The retraction by NOBLE does not give Mr. Peebles permission to keep this bogus endorsement up. To hold otherwise would mean a 501(c)(3) organization could make an endorsement, claim ignorance, say I am sorry, I did not mean it and then keep the endorsement up.
A blind man can see how easy it would be to violate the law if what Mr. Peebles is doing was allowed to continue.
Everyone should understand this is a clear violation of the law. Let me read you the first sentence of the IRS Code prohibition of political activities by 501(c)(3) organizations. 'Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf or in opposition to any candidate for elective political office.'
This language is unambiguous, clear, direct and concise.
So, how does Mr. Williams reconcile this clear violation of the law? He simply states he made a mistake, he was misinformed. How many persons are sitting in the Waynesboro jail who said the same thing? For all we know Mr. Williams interrogated someone last night who said I made a mistake, I am sorry and you know where that person is today they are still sitting in jail, with Alfonzo Williams holding the key.
Today, in Waynesboro if someone is caught speeding, they will they will be given a ticket. That person will plead with one of Mr. Williams’ deputies not to give them a ticket. They will say they are sorry, they will say that made a mistake, they will say they are a good person and you know how they will leave that encounter they will leave that encounter with a ticket.
Yet, Mr. Williams can hold persons to a higher standard than he holds himself. So if someone in Waynesboro makes a mistake in violating the law, they receive a ticket or perhaps go the pantry. But if Mr. Williams violates the Internal Revenue Code’s clear mandate, he gets to say he made a mistake and parade around area talk shows.
But let’s examine this mistake.
Let’s start with the proposition that Mr. Williams and his buddies (two of which work under him by the way) are intelligent people. So Williams and the Waynesboro four are intelligent, precise, fact-finding law enforcement officials.
So these intelligent men decide to endorse a candidate and use NOBLE as the endorsing agency. These intelligent men would most likely inquire on the proper way to endorse a candidate. They would either call someone at NOBLE or do an Internet search. We know they did not call. So we must assume they at least conducted an Internet search. Because that is what a fact-oriented, smart, bright, precise, meticulous law enforcement officer would do. So when Williams and the Waynesboro 4 conduct their search, what do they find?
Williams and the Waynesboro 4 (after conducting an Internet search) would discover NOBLE has never endorsed a political candidate. They did not endorse Obama, Clinton, Kerry, Gore, Max Cleland, Saxby Chambliss, Roy Barnes or Nathan Deal. So Williams and the Waynesboro 4 are about to make history. These five guys from Waynesboro are about to do an act no one in their organization has ever done. They are set to become the first NOBLE representatives to endorse a political candidate.
Yet, Williams and the Waynesboro 4 would have you believe that nothing triggered in their smart, bright, precise law enforcement minds to wonder if they could actually endorse a candidate. And since we know how smart they are, we know they went to the Georgia NOBLE chapter website to inquire about political endorsements.
We know they did this because Mr. Williams said he knew he would get heat from this endorsement. Mr. Williams stated he knew this endorsement would cause controversy. So, based on these facts, we know Williams and the Waynesboro 4 examined the Georgia NOBLE
Chapter website. And so what did they find.
On the fist page of the Georgia NOBLE Chapter website, they saw NOBLE is a 501(c)(3) organization. Now perhaps Williams and the Waynesboro 4 do not understand the term 501(c)(3).
Yet, Williams and the Waynesboro 4 are smart guys, so they inquired about 501(c)(3) organizations. And when these smart law enforcement men looked it up, they saw that 501(c)(3) organizations cannot endorse candidates.
So upon learning of this information what do these smart intelligent, upstanding, precise, fact-checking law enforcement guys do, they create a letterhead with NOBLE on it, they type up a letter which mentions NOBLE on numerous occasions, they call a press conference, they fax the letter to the media, they never call NOBLE to tell them their intentions, they get in their cars on city time (and unless they took unpaid leave they were on city time) drive to Augusta to make a political endorsement, an act they know their organization has never done.
On Tuesday, they wake up and they see on Facebook that persons are questioning whether NOBLE is a 501(c)(3) organization. They know it is a 501(c)(3) because they are intelligent men who have checked all the facts. Yet, do these guys call NOBLE and let them know there could be a problem. No, Williams books an interview to go on a local radio show. That is how much he cares about NOBLE. He does not try to protect NOBLE he goes to cover his butt.
At the same time, they start to hear rumors that they may not even be members of NOBLE. So do these guys call NOBLE to clear it up? No, they (all five of them) jump on the Internet, most likely on city computers and certainly on city time (unless they took unpaid leave between 2 p.m. and 2:35 p.m.) and try to apply to become members of NOBLE. They still have yet to call NOBLE and alert them there is a problem occurring in Augusta, Ga.
Now the applications are important. The applications are not automatic. This is a law enforcement organization and thus NOBLE has a filtering process for membership. The application mandates that an applicant provide a sponsor and sponsor membership number.
The applications also suggest that it is advisable to have the Georgia chapter president and regional vice president approve the application before submission. So although they submitted the applications, they had to know there would be a grace period before their application would be accepted. So even if a computer generated a message saying your application was accepted, anyone with common sense would know that the membership and sponsorship requirements would have to be approved.
So, Mr. Williams knowing that there are some issues with his application goes on a local talk show and claims to be a member of NOBLE. He fails to say there may be some issues with his application. Mr. Williams did not provide full disclosure. But you know when dealing with Mr. Williams, his answer will only be 'I made a mistake.'
Mr. Williams, I made a mistake defense is a defense every person in Waynesboro would like to have. Thus Mr. Williams in the interest of fairness, should go to the City Council of Waynesboro and declare that for about six months every citizen gets a free pass for all non-violent offenses.
Anyone caught speeding, they should get the Williams defense of I didn’t mean it, run a stop sign they get the Williams defense of I didn’t mean it, anyone fail to yield they get the defense of I didn’t mean it, any young kid who takes a candy bar gets the Williams defense of I didn’t mean it.
So the city of Waynesboro should pass an ordinance called the 'I didn’t mean it defense' and every citizen gets to use it one time.
In conclusion, Mr. Williams and the Waynesboro 4 came to our city and lied to the citizens of Augusta. Mr. Williams has two choices: be quiet and go back to police work or continue to use his I didn’t mean it defense and get that ordinance passed so the citizens of Waynesboro can be treated the same as him. He does not have the right to hold citizens of Waynesboro to a higher standard than he holds himself."