Within days of commenting on the reluctance of Gov. Sonny Perdue's spokesman to come right out and say the governor had "endorsed" the re-election of state Sen. Joey Brush, it looks like I've blundered into a similar controversy.
In Wednesday's column, I wrote that I'd decided to support Herman Cain in his quest for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Zell Miller. I ran into Cain Tuesday morning at the Chamber of Commerce Post-Legislative Breakfast and told him the column was coming; he seemed genuinely, humbly appreciative.
Shortly after the Wednesday papers hit the driveways and the Web, Cain's campaign snapped up the column and excerpted it on www.cainforussenate.org. The site's home page carried the headline, "Columbia County News-Times endorses Herman Cain," with similar language on the page to which it was linked.
Within hours, candidate Johnny Isakson's folks were calling. "Just from a standpoint of keeping the record accurate, I wanted to verify whether Herman Cain has actually received the en-dorsement of The Columbia County News-Times," said Isakson Communications Director Brad Alexander in an e-mail message.
I explained to Alexander that while it's understandable that a candidate would construe my comments as the newspaper's endorsement, The News-Times offers such institutional support only in local races. Also, the newspaper doesn't endorse in primaries when there is General Election opposition.
And I had to be careful, lest my words then be used by Isakson's campaign as a "gotcha" on Cain.
At my request, Cain's staff reworked their site to say the candidate had received the endorsement of the newspaper's publisher, which probably doesn't sound quite as hefty as the stamp of our venerable, 121-year-old paper.
But at least we're all clear on it now. I hope.
There were no minced words at Tuesday's County Commission meeting, when a couple of members of the Columbia County Coalition for CHANGE blasted Chairman Ron Cross.
Earlier in the day, Cross had removed from that night's agenda the request from Fatz Caf for a temporary gravel parking lot for its overflow dining traffic.
Commissioner Tom Mercer, see, was on vacation. If it went to a vote and deadlocked, 2-2, Fatz couldn't have the variance. Cross is counting on Mercer to tip the balance in favor of passage, so he pulled the item off the agenda until Mercer could be there to vote.
And the opponents were furious.
CHANGE organizer Jeri Whitworth, who had been scheduled to speak against the variance as an improper waiver of county rules, unloaded on Cross.
"Mr. Mercer knows when the Commission meetings are held, and he chose to go on vacation, which means to me that he gave up his right to vote on any issue willingly and voluntarily," Whit-worth lectured.
She called Cross "unethical" and accused him of abusing his authority, of manipulating the system for his own ends and for showing disrespect to the county's planning staff and Planning and Zoning Commission.
Two other citizens also put the chairman in the cross-hairs, but in the end the decision stayed the same -- the variance will be on the Commission's next agenda.
That normally would have been July 6, but commissioners voted to change it to a called meeting June 29 -- because July 6, Commissioner Steve Brown would have been absent.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal@newstimesonline.)
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