Posted: 5:58 pm Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

In Cherokee County, proof that the truth isn’t everything you imagine it to be 

By Jim Galloway

Over the past few years, Cherokee County has been a breeding ground for a style of politics that rewards the intensity of one’s beliefs, even in the face of actual facts on the ground.

If you believe passionately enough, and loudly enough, this line of thinking goes, then truth can be ignored as a mere inconvenience. Purity of heart and the higher cause trump all.

It is a philosophy that will be dealt a harsh setback Thursday, when a local school board member, her Republican political adviser and a Cherokee County GOP secretary are sentenced for trying to bend reality to their will.

This wasn’t small ball.

The trio accused Cherokee County’s school superintendent, Frank Petruzielo, of attempting to run them down with his SUV last year after a particularly raucous school board meeting. Had they been successful, Petruzielo might now be up on charges that required him to spend the next quarter century in prison.

Instead, a jury of their peers on Saturday declared school board member Kelly Marlow, campaign strategist Robert Trim and county GOP secretary Barbara Knowles to be liars — and, thus, felons.

It is a case of hubris run amok. But it is more than just a simple morality play because Thursday’s sentencing represents the final collapse of a political faction that ruled Cherokee County until just two years ago.

In 2011, the GOP-dominated school board rejected a charter school academy that had the support of the county’s political leadership. Not just once, but three times. Education officials declared that it would drain a school system already strapped for cash.

The next year, the Cherokee state legislative delegation, led by then-Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, redrew school board district lines in an attempt to remove opponents to the Cherokee Charter Academy (which ended up receiving state funding).

Trim served as a political consultant to Rogers and many other Cherokee GOP figures at the time through his firm, Spitball Consulting. Trim is well known for his rough tactics.

In 2012, he wrote a note to Michael Chapman, the Cherokee school board chairman who was ousted by the redistricting, who had offended Trim. It included this line: “I’m giving you a warning shot across the bow instead of grinding you into concrete like a bug.”

Trim was worth the tens of thousands of dollars he was paid. That fall, when critics howled over Rogers’ sponsorship of an all-day state Capitol seminar on an alleged United Nations conspiracy to erase American property rights, Trim was brought in to distance his client from the Agenda 21 crowd.

But by the end of the year, Rogers — about to be stripped of his Senate leadership position — left to take a radio job with Georgia Public Broadcasting. (Rogers was let go from his GPB position earlier this month.)

With Rogers’ withdrawal from the political scene, his allies quickly fell. No one who was a member of the Cherokee legislative delegation in 2012 is still in office. One member, Calvin Hill of Canton, died of cancer.

Trim began to focus, romantically and politically, on Marlow, a tea partyer narrowly elected to the school board in 2012. Marlow immediately began challenging the board’s procedures and the superintendent’s influence. She single-handedly wrote the school system’s accreditation agency and asked for an investigation.

She got slapped down. Hard.

Which brings us back to bent realities and the Painted Pig Tavern in Canton, where our trio of doomed politicos was headed when Petruzielo passed them in his car — after that June 13 school board meeting.

Someone called 911. Statements were taken. But things didn’t get really serious until July 2. That’s when the Canton police invited Trim, Marlow and Knowles to re-enact the incident, as authorities videotaped not only their words, but their movements.

It was a compelling demonstration of the truth as they wanted it to be. The actors/accusers showed how Trim pushed Marlow out of the path of the school superintendent’s car. How all three paused on the sidewalk to catch their breaths. How astonished witnesses gathered ‘round to discuss the incident.

Apparently, only afterward did the three find out that there was a real video, recorded by a camera prominently anchored under the eaves of the restaurant’s roof.

It showed Trim walking in front of Marlow as Petruzielo’s car passed. It showed Knowles already through the restaurant door. There was no panic. No one stopped on the sidewalk, and there were no witnesses.

The three actors were arrested the day after their video play. Perhaps cops have a lower tolerance for spin than the rest of us.

After news of the verdict spread, I called Chapman — the fellow who was ousted from the school board two years ago. He’s on the May 20 primary ballot. Chapman has an opponent, but he expects to return to the board.

“The folks that I run with, the board, the people that I know in the system, all the folks that support me — there’s an elation in Cherokee County,” the local plant manager said.

Things have been patched up with the county’s legislative delegation, but some animosity lingers. “This is like the reddest part of Georgia. It’s blood red,” Chapman said. He blames President Barack Obama — for exacerbating the lines between Democrats and Republicans.

“They’ve created at the national level such divisiveness that if anybody — all the way down to your local school board — even slightly hints that they’re not following the party doctrine, they castrate you,” the school board veteran said.

The truth is considered an absolute defense in journalism. Perhaps we should give it some protected space in politics as well.

44 comments
Charles50
Charles50

Indirectly I guess President Obama is to blame.  Because if the President had not won two elections the GOP might not be waging war on the American people, or at least not as aggressively as they are.  But with him in office, and many of their constituents about to blow a gasket over it, they just keep ginning up the masses to act against their own best interest.  You can be sure they are going to try to wring every ounce of political capital they have over the next two years in order to position themselves in such a way to get as much traction as possible.

Spexman
Spexman

I read the article on the Cherokee County school board with interest. I can relate to the cross current and back biting mentality of such situations having once served - as vice chairman - on a state licensing board along with other regulatory type agencies during my 40 year career. Although - apparently - it was "merely" reported, when the comment from the former school board chairman was referenced regarding President Obama's "alleged" divisiveness, this story lost what up to that point - IMO - was objectivity. As with all things where one stands on such matters, depends on where one sits. In a state where reportedly the high school drop out rate persistently ranks near the top nationally, and is a perennial bottom feeder regarding SAT scores, etc., I submit Georgia has much bigger (educational policy) fish to fry. Frankly, I think Mr. Chapman's reported comment(s) was a totally irrelevant effort to score cheap political points to a target audience and - attendantly - a gross disservice to otherwise excellent reporting on this particular matter.

PatrickThompson
PatrickThompson

Thespians all, and bad ones at that. Cherokee County, home of the National Tea Party leadership and fleecers of people they've hoodwinked...

silentjay
silentjay

It's The George Costanza School of Lying.

"It's not a lie if you believe it."

GaBlue
GaBlue

Mr. Galloway,


What a great, juicy read this was! Thank you for breaking it down. 

MartyMartin
MartyMartin

So many frightwing conspiracies and lies....Agenda21, Obama's country of birth, death panels, etc.

sigh


honested
honested

PREDICTION:

It will only get worse!

Not that Thomas Picketty has kicked the last air out of one of the bases of 'modern conservatism' (the laffer curve-supply side-trickle down) and clearly demonstrated the social ills and enforced disorder caused by inadequate taxation, some orchestrated pushback to divert attention should be expected.

When the truth is clearly demonstrated that NOBODY is 'taxed enough already' the lie behind the entire astroturf movement laid bare. What else would you expect when very rich people pay stupid people very large amounts to attract the support of more stupid people?

One can hope it will be the last time but I doubt it.

EricPearson
EricPearson

This is exactly the kind of garbage I expect from republicans and tea bags.  It started when Ronald Reagan got away with his criminal activities in the Iran-Contra affair and it's only gotten worse since.  Reagan should've died in jail and that's exactly where most of the Bush-Cheney administration should be right now.

BufordIndependent
BufordIndependent

"He blames President Barack Obama — for exacerbating the lines between Democrats and Republicans." The President is to blame for Republicans in Congress who put party first, country second.  Sigh.... that line of thinking is so old the record is beyond broken. 

petel
petel

The Tea Party has never been about facts.

DaPoet
DaPoet

Unfortunately corruption just doesn't just affect the Republicans but the Democrats as well nor is Georgia's Law enforcement community any better. So I'd suggest keeping the celebrations at the recent downfall of the R's on the Cherokee County’s school board fairly tame, because it won't be very long before another corruption scandal hits the Democrats just as hard if not harder.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

And Mr. Chapman should also give the truth a chance~

BuckheadBoy
BuckheadBoy

I suppose it was Obama who said, "Our number one goal is to deny another term to all Republicans". Must have been at that meeting of a small cabal of Democrats at the DC eatery the night of his Inauguration, when they were hatching the plot to obstruct all Republican initiatives. No, come to think of it, that must have been said during one of those times that the Democrats were holding the debt ceiling hostage, and threatening to collapse the world's economy; or maybe when they shut-down the federal government.

Bernie31
Bernie31

This is a classic example of when you are planning another's injury....Plan Two!

EdUktr
EdUktr

So what you're saying, Jim, is that not every partisan shyster works for the AJC?

Lynn43
Lynn43

Chris,  Please don't forget their hatred and war on women.  The war is real.  Republican "facts" aren't biased, they are flat out lies. 

Chris30338
Chris30338

"If you believe passionately enough, and loudly enough, this line of thinking goes, then truth can be ignored as a mere inconvenience. Purity of heart and the higher cause trump all".

Now that's what I call poetry!!!! The facts be damned! The very same "truth be damned attitude" that exists today in the Republican Party and their Tea Party allies. Examples of this are too numerous to list here but here are a few: Trickle down works! Obama caused the recession! Death Panels! Raising the minimum wage will kill jobs! Voter IDs to combat widespread voter fraud! Regulations are bad, bad bad! The War on Christianity! Agenda-21! Gay marriage destroying the "Sanctity of Marriage", Etc etc etc. All these myths have been repeatedly proven wrong and have data to back up the truth but it doesn't make a difference. These people create an alternative reality and then reside in it.



honested
honested

Wow, what a clear definition of the whole teaklan movement.


Invent an enemy, hang ludicrous charges on it, ignore all the facts, absorb outside money that helps pay the bills.


When do Georgia voters wake up an realize how much they have been played?

btn
btn

Republicans committing felonies to entrap other Republicans= Obama's Fault


At least they can all agree on something up in Crazy Cherokee.

Joeleejohnson
Joeleejohnson

Look at 'em in Cherokee. AND, LOOK AT 'EM SOME MORE!

Other 158 counties---'Specially those in N.E. Metro gotta be thankful for Cherokee's 'leaders'.

NWGAL
NWGAL

Truth so often has a liberal bias.

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

So much for another of Jim Galloway's favorite (female) Republicans with Debbie Dooley's AJC covered attack on Speaker David Ralston this morning:

"An InsiderAdvantage survey of voters in Speaker David Ralston’s home district shows him leading his opponent Sam Snider by a 61%-to-26% margin, with very few likely voters (13%) in the district left undecided."

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

"The truth is considered an absolute defense in journalism."

And that is the biggest lie in this blog item.

DannyX
DannyX

“They’ve created at the national level such divisiveness that if anybody — all the way down to your local school board — even slightly hints that they’re not following the party doctrine, they castrate you,” the school board veteran said."


Just wow!  The tea party folks sure love living in their own little fantasy world, don't they!


OBAMA made me do it!  


Or is that Nobama? Oblama? The Chosen One? Obumma?  Obummer?  Teleprompter in Chief?  The Annointed One?  Barack Ovomit? Barry Soetoro?  Campaigner in Chief?  Food Stamp President? Nobama? Obama Bin Laden? Obama Osama, Odumbo?  The Messiah?

NWGAL
NWGAL

Sorry, Jim, about the ensuing moans and lamentations about the liberal press. Facts do seem to have a liberal bias.

NWGAL
NWGAL

Hubris. Gets you every time.

Kamchak
Kamchak

If you believe passionately enough, and loudly enough, this line of thinking goes, then truth can be ignored as a mere inconvenience. Purity of heart and the higher cause trump all.

As Pastor Long used to say, "You can be sin-ceeeeeeerah, but you can be -- sincerely wrong."

GaBlue
GaBlue

@MartyMartin  


How tedious that this nonsense can't be summarized without the obligatory "It's Obama's fault!" thrown in. Good grief!


Hey, "blood-redders," did Barack Obama come down to Cherokee County and interfere with your local business? NO, actually, he didn't. Then stop being whiny little babies and OWN your own bee ess for a change. Geebus!

DS
DS

@DaPoet  I don't celebrate their downfall because they're Republicans --- I celebrate because they're corrupt. 

I tip my hat to any elected official who's smart, capable, effective and does a good job. That just wasn't in the make up of this sorry bunch.

MoFaux
MoFaux

deleted duplicate post

MoFaux
MoFaux

@EdUktr  You're so right!  Writing a blog containing one's political leanings is EXACTLY the same thing as accusing someone of attempted murder.  Bravo.  Long live blind demagoguery.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@honested - The will Never! Wake UP! for GOOBERVILLE is where they Live and they Love it!


The-Centrist
The-Centrist

Lessee you said it yesterday and it got no response, but it was so important that you had to post it again?

LOL

honested
honested

@The_Centrist  

Why?

Because the lies that feed wrong wing ideology wither in the face of the truth?

Kamchak
Kamchak

@DannyX

OBAMA made me do it! 

Since Jim frowns upon YouTube links posted here, search youtube for Thanks Obama by Jenna Marbles.

Warning: Not Suitable For Work

RickDDay
RickDDay

@NWGAL  says the guy who uses the word 'liberal' in every sentence.

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

This is a screen name stealing liberal sock puppet.  While it shows his/her lack of integrity and ethics, it also shows how far at least this one leftist will go with such "debate" tactics and those who won't condemn them.

Scum.

The-Centrist
The-Centrist

...says the guy who steals other people's work without attribution...