During election years, allegations fly — that’s a given — and for years, long before he started campaigning for the post of Columbia County Commission chairman, local builder Jim Bartley has been on the pitching end of many such fastballs, most of them directed at his current opponent, incumbent Ron Cross. The last time Cross ran, Bartley’s Columbia County Taxpayers’ Council used open records documents to attempt to show that Cross should be put on trial for the commission’s 2009 Marshall Square decision, which ultimately doomed the promising development project.
Bartley is well known for having a hot temper and a love of intimidation, and he brags about not backing down from a fight. Stories of his bullying behavior are traded about as often as he makes open records requests. Between January 1, 2012, and April 3, 2014, the unapologetic activist made 24 of them.
Now that he’s a candidate, he appears to be taking some high hard ones himself.
Insiders within the Columbia County Republican Party, not all of whom are fans of Bartley, have questioned whether or not Bartley is paying his fair share of property taxes on his Spotswood Circle home. And while Bartley has frequently thrown up Ron Cross’ bankruptcy back in the 1980s as evidence of poor economic leadership, it seems Bartley is no stranger to litigation himself.
A quick document search shows that he’s dealt with a few legal cases of his own — a $3,200 default judgment against Bartley Construction for money he owed Augusta Overhead Door Sales and a $17,570 judgment against Bartley and Bartley Construction regarding “numerous construction and cosmetic defects which were unknown to Plaintiffs, but were know to the Defendants, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have been discovered by Defendants, and their agents and/or employees.”
More incendiary, however, is a 1996 judgment against him that found he took $87,000 that was transferred to him by his parents for the purposes of managing it for them and deposited it into his Bartley Homes business account and used it for the purchase of land upon which he planned to build houses for sale.
The judgment ruled Bartley was “not authorized or empowered to deposit said funds in his business account or to use them for his personal profit” and directed him to “within six months from the date of this order, deposit all sums received by him” into an interest drawing trust account.
Perhaps the most disturbing allegation was that Bartley was purporting to act under a power of attorney signed by his mother on September 12, 1995.
“On that date,” the complaint alleges, “Katherine H. Bartley was a psychiatry patient in the University Hospital, Augusta Georgia and was not mentally competent to execute and deliver any legally binding document, and defendant was well aware of her status and mental condition.”
Bartley’s opponents insist this is all just the tip of the iceberg, but one thing is for sure — the race is poised to get interesting.