AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A formal ethics complaint ties Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis and others to a campaign billboard from an unregistered political group, something Davis vehemently denies.
Political strategist David Barbee remembers seeing the billboard three years ago, and something didn’t seem right.
“They listed the name of an organization, immediately when I saw the sign…I’ve never run across that group, so I called Lynn Bailey, I checked with her, she said it wasn’t listed,” said Barbee.
The name on the sign was the Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, and under state law the group needed to register with local election board but never did, prompting the ethics complaint.
“That’s what bothered me. I just wanted to know who was behind it. That’s why I filed it,” Barbee said.
Now the state Campaign Finance Commission is alleging that Mayor Hardie Davis, his former Chief of Staff Tonia Gibbons and the son-in-law of the owner of Regency Mall were behind the billboard, paying almost $4000 dollars to put the sign up before the primary vote.
Mayor Davis responded to the allegations at a press conference called Wednesday afternoon.
“Alluding that we were the concerned citizens of Richmond County, this assertion is vehemently denied. I am not, nor ever have been part of a Concerned Citizens of Richmond County group,” said Davis.
Davis says he wasn’t mentioned in the original complaint and points out Dave Barbee’s long association with the local Republican Party.
“I believe this is a politically motivated event, an effort three years after the non-binding ballot initiative failed,” said Davis.
But Barbee believes the allegations, that’s why he filed the ethics complaint in the first place.
“It’s a case now. Let it follow its course. The only thing we can do as good citizens and voters is to try and hold our elected officials accountable, that’s it.”
Mayor Davis says neither he nor his former Chief of Staff have anything to be accountable for when it comes to the billboard.
E-mails included in the complaint from the Billboard company show Mayor Davis and his Chief of Staff were CC’ed on e-mails concerning the design of the billboard.
Mayor Davis left the press conference without taking any questions.