Humbug Square - Sonny Lied: The Sequel
Does Perdue's possible perjury parallel Clinton's?
The official state sign is far more visible than the official state bird these days. The state bird is the brown thrasher and, as we all know, the Thrashers didn't show up this year.
The state sign, on the other hand, is a reproduction of the Confederate battle flag with the words "Sonny Lied." Once you get out of town, you see it nailed to trees throughout Georgia.
The signs were put up to protest a double-cross by Gov. Sonny Perdue. When he was running against Gov. Roy Barnes in 2002, Perdue gave supporters of the old Confederate-X state flag the distinct impression that he would let them vote to bring the old flag back.
The flag folks voted in huge numbers, which is one of the reasons Sonny won. Once elected, he let them vote on a flag - but it was a new version, not the battle flag they wanted. It passed, replacing the blue Barnes flag, but Perdue never let them vote on the old 1956 "X" flag.
Thus, "Sonny Lied."
Perdue tricked the very people who put him into office. I guess he thought they'd forget. But the flaggers are the same people who say "Fergit, hell" about a war that ended 140 years ago.
Anyway, it probably doesn't matter now that all but 11 people in Georgia are rabid Republicans - unless somebody like Ralph Reed challenges Perdue in the GOP gubernatorial primary next year.
The concern is that once a guy in power gets away with a whopper, it's hard for him not to tell another. Which is why some of us think ol' Sonny may have done it again.
Perdue's possible perjury rises out of the official state soap opera, "The Governor's Daughter's Trooper." Perdue's daughter, Leigh, dumped her schoolteacher hubby last year and married a state trooper who was assigned to protect the governor. In the wake of the scandal, her new husband's old boss, Capt. Stewart Hicks, was removed as supervisor of the governor's security detail and transferred to a job as acting director of a training facility. He wasn't qualified to be permanent director.
Perdue was asked about Hicks' removal during a sworn deposition in another case - a lawsuit by former trooper Mike Boyd, who was demoted for blowing the whistle about the governor piloting a state helicopter without a license.
In a Nov. 15 deposition, Boyd's lawyer, Hue Henry of Athens, asked the governor, "And as I understand your testimony - correct me if I'm wrong - you have never requested that anyone be removed from the security detail?"
"That would be accurate," Perdue said.
Later, Henry asked again, "Is it true that you have not asked for any member of your security detail to be redeployed out of that detail?"
"That's correct," Perdue said.
In subsequent depositions, Henry asked how Col. George Ellis, who retired as head of the State Patrol in December, was ordered to move Hicks to the training post.
On Feb. 7, Henry asked Perdue's Chief Operating Officer Jim Lientz, "Did you make a call to Colonel Ellis and tell him to place Stewart Hicks in charge of the training facility at the Georgia State Patrol?"
"Yes, I did," Hicks said. "I called him and told him that I had talked to the Governor and that we thought that Stewart was the right person for that job, yes."
Henry later asked, "So there's no doubt in your mind that the Governor had authorized you and desired for you to call Colonel Ellis and ask Colonel Ellis to put Stewart Hicks in that job?"
"The Governor was interested in Stewart Hicks being considered for that role, yes, sir," Lientz said.
In a Feb. 14 deposition, Ellis said he was at a breakfast with the governor "and he told me at that point that he thought the best qualified person [for the training job] was Captain Hicks. And I told him - I said, 'Well, he didn't apply, for one thing. But he doesn't have the credentials, either.' He said, well, he still thought he was the best qualified and he'd get back with me on it later."
A few days later, Ellis said Lientz told him to put Hicks over training. When Ellis reiterated his concerns, he said Lientz told him, "Well, do it."
Henry also deposed Hicks about the transfer. "You're telling me you didn't apply for this job, but the Governor asked you about it and then you got a phone call saying you had the job?"
Hicks said, "Not so quick. But, yes, sir, that's the nuts and bolts for my involvement in it."
So let's see: Three people said under oath that Perdue was personally involved in transferring Hicks from the security detail to training. Perdue says he wasn't.
Somebody might be lying.
I can't help but think back to the days when Bill Clinton was president and told a lie under oath about cheating on his wife with Monica Lewinsky. Republicans went on the warpath, foaming at the mouth with impeachment hysteria drummed up by people like then-Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia (who is now my column-writing colleague at CL). Both Perdue and Clinton made allegedly false statements as a result of troubling family matters. Perdue's sworn statement came in a case that could cost taxpayers damages, and that originated with his flying a state helicopter like an over-caffeinated Cub Scout. Clinton just lied about a fling with a fat chick.
But Republicans are in charge now. They're deeply concerned about morals as long as they can focus on the wrongdoing of Democrats. They don't give a damn about their own behavior. Perdue will skate.
The governor might have been in trouble if Thurbert Baker were alive.
Baker is the Democratic attorney general of Georgia. He's alive, but his office represents the state in the Boyd lawsuit. If Baker really wanted to, he could appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the inconsistencies in Perdue's statements. But Baker is mild-mannered when compared with such tenacious prosecutors as New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Baker's spokesman said they didn't have copies of the transcripts and couldn't comment. But anybody who wants copies of the transcripts - such as the media - has obtained them.
Another possible investigative agency is the new public corruption unit formed by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, who's not exactly batting a thousand in big cases.
The saddest part of the case is the deposition from Perdue's new son-in-law, trooper Jim Brown, who transferred to Gainesville last fall. He said Feb. 7 he hasn't spoken to the governor since he married Perdue's daughter. The family values must have kicked in.
Senior Editor Doug Monroe suspects he was kicked off Fox 5 Atlanta's "Georgia Gang" for calling Bob Barr "the Joe McCarthy of sex." You can reach Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org.