Athens Republican and Governor-elect Brian Kemp unveiled a transition team on Monday that included dozens of Republican politicians, conservative activists, former aides, prominent GOP financiers and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. An outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act, Price resigned from his post in September 2017after drawing bipartisan condemnation for racking up at least $1 million in travel on private and military jets. Kemp said Price, an orthopedic surgeon and former U.S. House member, will help him hone healthcare policy that includes a staunch opposition to expanding Medicaid but a promise to seek federal waivers to help stabilize insurance premiums. Price and other members of Kemp’s “Georgians First” team will spend the next two months further developing policy initiatives, hashing out his initial budget proposal and proposing appointments to a powerful posts and boards. “We are going to uphold the promises of our campaign when I get in office,” said Kemp, days after a final vote tally confirmed his narrow victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams. “I’m going to do exactly as governor what I told people I would do on the campaign trail.” Kemp previously tapped Tim Fleming, his campaign manager, as chief of staff, and David Dove, a top aide in the secretary of state’s office, to head the transition. He also said Monday that campaign strategist Jeremy Brand would be an adviser to the transition team. Among the other members of the transition team are Alec Poitevint, a top Sonny Perdue ally and influential Republican National Committee figure; Allen Fox, the LGBT advocate who has long opposed the “religious liberty” measure; and Virginia Galloway, a leader of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition and supporter of that bill.
Athens-Clarke County Commissioners will meet tonight, 6 o’clock at City Hall. Commissioners will begin the process of reworking the County’s alcohol ordinance to allow for earlier Sunday sales in restaurants in Athens. Athens voters approved earlier this month the measure that will allow for sales to start at 11am on Sundays, 90 minutes earlier than the 12:30pm that is now mandated by state law. Commissioners will also consider a possible ban on Bird scooters. With a new legislative session set to start in less than two months, there is an afternoon meeting of the Clarke County School Board’s Government Relations Committee: it’s a 4 o’clock session at the HT Edwards Building on Dearing Extension in Athens. The Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission meets this afternoon, 4 o’clock at the Government Building on Dougherty Street. There is an evening meeting of the Board of Directors for the Morton Theatre Corporation: it’s a 6:30 session at the Morton on Washington Street. The Gainesville City Council meets this afternoon, 5:30 at the Public Safety Complex in Gainesville. The Council will vote on a land purchase for a new park and on a new tax allocation district officials hope will spur retail development in Gainesville.
The bizarre case of a retired Florida firefighter accused in the grisly death of a friend inside his Lake Oconee mansion took another unusual turn Monday when a judge granted Chad Haufler bond, reversing the decision he made more than two months ago. Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge William A. Prior had little choice. Georgia law, with minimal exception, gives criminal defendants the right to a bond within 90 days of their arrest. It has been 83 days since Haufler was charged in the murder of Marc Dimos, and prosecutors acknowledged they would not have the case ready to present to a grand jury by next week. Haufler emerged from jail late Monday afternoon offering condolences to the family of Marc Dimos. Haufler is alleged to have bludgeoned Dimos with a stainless steel popcorn kettle before shooting him in the face. “I think it was self-defense,” Haufler told Channel 2 Action News. “I wouldn’t say I murdered him.” Bond was set at $750,000. Haufler, who was initially denied bond because he lacked any ties to the community, won’t be able to leave Greene County without the court’s permission. He’ll reside in his recently purchased $1.9 million home on Lake Oconee, where Dimos was killed. Greene Assistant District Attorney Allison Mauldin said the delay in indicting Haufler should not be interpreted as prosecutorial indecision. “We just haven’t gotten everything back yet from the state crime lab,” Mauldin said. Crucial blood and DNA evidence has yet to be returned, she said, adding that she’s hopeful the case will be ready when the next grand jury convenes during the last week of January. Former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said such delays are uncommon but not unprecedented. “Better to wait until you have enough evidence not just to indict but to win the case,” said James, now a defense lawyer. “They have to be very unequivocal.” Mauldin said the case is likely to be decided on physical evidence. GBI Agent Michael Maybin testified at a probable cause hearing that while it’s likely that Haufler and Dimos fought in the basement, Haufler went upstairs to retrieve his gun, returned and shot the already bloody and battered Dimos, who was visiting from Ohio. That account would seem to contradict Haufler’s claim of self-defense. He said he remembers little about the incident other than waking up in a chokehold, struggling to breathe. Haufler’s lawyer, Manny Arora, blames his client’s fuzzy memory on a night of heavy drinking. Haufler offered several versions of what happened inside his home in the early morning hours of August 28. He told a 911 operator he shot an intruder, then told deputies he shot “two, maybe three” intruders, according to Maybin. At first he said they were strangers. Then he said he knew the men. Maybin said Haufler even suggested a hit had been taken out on him and “his wife may be involved somehow.” Finally, he told investigators he assumed Dimos had attacked him because “we were the only two there.” Arora said there were clear signs of a fight, noting Haufler had bruises on his back and elbows. And he has hammered away at the state’s lack of motive. Haufler, who has no history of violence, had invited Dimos to Georgia for some “guy time,” Arora said. They had met the previous October while hunting elk in Colorado and became fast friends. Mauldin said she still worries that Haufler, because of his wealth, is a flight risk. As conditions of his bond he was ordered to turn over his passport, fitted with an ankle monitor, and prohibited from consuming alcohol.