This week’s cover story talks about two different massage parlors in Columbia County — Gold Spa and King’s Spa — that were recently busted on sex-related charges involving prostitution.
While the arrest of these four female employees from these Asian spas might not have surprised too many local citizens, it is still mind-boggling to some Columbia County residents that such establishments are allowed to thrive and flourish for years in one of the most conservative counties in Georgia.
After all, Columbia County doesn’t even allow bars within its county limits, but these spas promoting prostitution are allowed to go on for years and years without anything but an occasional slap on the wrist.
Does that make any sense to anyone?
Even though the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office conducted these recent undercover operations to expose the illegal sex acts at the two massage parlors, it was shocking to hear that Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle has not made any recommendations to the county commission regarding the business licenses of these spas.
It’s tough to say, but chances are he might prefer the courts to review and handle these cases or the sheriff’s department to just pressure these spas into cleaning up their act or closing their doors.
It seems to have worked with King’s Spa. The massage parlor has been locked up and closed since the undercover operations by the sheriff’s department last month.
In Richmond County, such investigations of massage parlors are much more open and discussed in public.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t seem to have a problem recommending whether a business license should be placed on probation, suspension or completely revoked if there is illegal activity occurring at an establishment.
However, Columbia County seems to deal with its problems by playing things a little closer to the vest.
For those citizens possibly living under a rock, Columbia County definitely doesn’t like to air its dirty laundry in public, especially when it comes to something as seedy as prostitution.
If the sheriff’s office sends a recommendation to the commission that a business license should be revoked, commissioners would likely be forced to publicly vote on the matter.
They may even have to publicly discuss it.
And, heaven forbid, if the owner disputes the recommendation given to the commission by the sheriff’s office, the county’s licensing and permits department would possibly have to present its recommendation and the details of the case to the commission.
Again, in a public meeting.
At least in Richmond County, such a situation means a representative from the sheriff’s department has to make a statement regarding the activity and provide evidence about why a business license should suspended, put on probation or revoked.
When it comes to the Augusta Commission, elected officials even typically have a few questions for the sheriff’s office. They want to know specifics. Not about the act itself if it involves prostitution, but the circumstances surrounding the case.
Commissioners want to talk to the business owners and hear what they have to say. They want to see if there is another side of the story and sometimes those discussions aren’t pretty.
But, you know what? They are real and immediately get to the heart of the problem.
Such discussions don’t really happen in Columbia County.
Most of the commissioners have their minds already made up before they even enter the building.
So, why would the sheriff want to mess with that no-win situation?
Simply put, he wouldn’t. It is much easier to head to court if a business license is challenged and present the facts to a judge. Chances are, there won’t be any press covering a small hearing in Columbia County.
The facts of the case can be completely handled without any major fanfare or attention from the local media.
Just feed the local press the mugshots and the two-sentence incident reports and call it a day.
Columbia County still looks good, the press has their two-minute story for the day and the problem is either swept under the rug or put on a shelf to be dealt with another 12 months down the line when someone complains that their husband is getting sexual favors from a shady spa in a strip mall.
That’s one way to handle it.
Or you could fully address the problem and really treat the massage therapists that spend years in training to receive a proper license and pay thousands of dollars for a professional degree with more respect.
Own the problem.
Respect the profession.
Revoke the licenses of those businesses promoting prostitution.
Those aren’t massage parlors.
They aren’t spas.
Let’s get real, those establishments are brothels that have young, foreign women who are likely trapped in the profession working there because they are basically being held hostage by their employer.
Many don’t speak English, they have no money, they are in this country illegally, they don’t have a passport, they may be addicted to drugs and some carry sexually transmitted diseases.
Oh, right, and many are sexually servicing the citizens of Columbia County on a regular basis.
Does Columbia County really want to ignore that?
If so, thank goodness the county will have its own hospital pretty soon.
Some residents will definitely need it.