Washington Mayor’s residency called into question

CSRA News

The mayor of one CSRA city points to controversy in the wake of some in town complaining about his home address.  

NewsChannel 6’s Renetta DuBose received an email containing a tip that sent her to Washington, Georgia. It alleged that the Mayor, Ames Barnett, is a “gone” Mayor. We hit the streets to find out why his residency is being called into question.

“The mayor should live in Washington. The police should live in Washington. The teachers should live in Washington,” said Chris Andrews when asked where he thinks his mayor should live, though he was unfamiliar with the controversy. 

It’s the talk of the town, though. Where does the mayor of Washington live?

Willie Benson, who lives in the city said he has heard the talk.

He told us, “Well, I guess they want him to resign because his wife done moved. But he got his business here so he’s going to stay here.”

Irene Bonertz, sided with the mayor.

“If that lady out in California doesn’t have to live in her district why does he have to live in this district so? What’s good for one is good for the other.”

NewsChannel 6 dug deeper after receiving reports that the mayor’s residency was called into question at a city council meeting in June

“We got a bunch of confused council members trying to tear the city down and we just not going to let it happen,” Mayor Ames Barnett said. 

NewsChannel 6 spoke with the mayor about where he lives after finding out that he purchased a home in Oconee County in the city of Watkinsville.

The distance is about 45 miles from where the mayor said he does live – the 300 block of Sims Street in a home registered to a relative.

“I live at 302 Sims Street and I live in Washington so. We have another house in Watkinsville that my wife and kids stay at during the week while the kids are in school,” Mayor Barnett said.

Questions also came up after a home that Barnett built downtown recently sold, on East Court and Jefferson Streets. City Attorney Barry Flemming told NewsChannel 6 someone made the mayor an offer he couldn’t refuse. Flemming also said Georgia law leans toward where the elected official claims to live.

“In Georgia, the only entity that can say an elected official does not live where they say they live is the courts. And you would actually have to go before a superior court judge and make that case,” Flemming said. 

But where the mayor lays his head at night remains a non-issue for some.

“He had a lot to do with the square when they remolded the square,” Benson added. 

Bonertz agreed.  

“He saved $500,000 which for Washington is a lot of money.”

In addition to the Superior Court needing to weigh in on the matter, Barry Flemming told us the voters, the same people who voted the mayor into office, have the final say. 

Mayor Barnett added he does not plan to run for re-election when his term is up at the end of 2019.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps 

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