The last time most Augustans heard from former Fire Chief Ronnie Few it was during his unsuccessful run for mayor against incumbent Deke Copenhaver back in 2006.
Coming in a distant second with only 18 percent of the vote, Few simply vanished from the Garden City.
Who could blame him? His time in Augusta wasn’t a very pleasant one.
As many know, a Richmond County special grand jury released a 124-page report in 2002 accusing Few of blatantly misusing taxpayers’ money, mismanaging the fire department, promoting propaganda and lying to governmental officials about his actions.
The special grand jury spent more than two years investigating what the report called “possibly illegal” activities of the fire department’s leadership during Few’s three-year tenure in Augusta from 1997 to 2000.
For Few, the report was an example of Augusta politics at its worst.
The grand jury’s report painted Few as a tyrant and a “bandit,” who had complete disregard for city policy.
“With a smile and reassuring words, Chief Few pretty much did whatever he wanted and let the taxpayers do the worrying,” the 2002 report stated.
He had already accepted a position as the chief of the Washington, D.C. Fire Department in July 2000.
But, just two months after Few arrived in Washington, agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation very publicly seized a number of boxes filled with documents from the fire department’s main office.
Back then, Few was constantly battling this cloud of suspicion left by the special grand jury.
Finally in January 2005, then-Eastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Spencer Lawton, the prosecutor assigned to review the grand jury’s allegations against the former fire chief, sent the attorney general’s office a letter stating he did not intend to prosecute Few.
Legally, it appeared the investigation of Few was officially closed.
But now, more than a decade after the special grand jury released its report, Few is still battling those demons.
Earlier this year, the city of Morrow, Ga. hired Few as city manager, even though half of the council didn’t even know who he was, according to the Clayton News Daily.
Apparently, Few’s hiring raised red flags after the city’s human resources director told the public that she was not familiar with him or his background.
Few was also never interviewed by the full Morrow City Council before he was hired, according to the newspaper.
The decision to hire Few immediately raised questions and the Clayton News Daily began digging to find out more about Augusta’s former fire chief.
The paper didn’t have to dig very deeply.
It almost immediately found news reports of the grand jury investigation in Augusta. The paper also found articles about Few resigning from his position in Washington, D.C., after he faced allegations that his resume contained inaccurate information.
To make matters worse, the Morrow City Council also learned that another city council in Demopolis, Ala., voted 4-2 in 2012 not to reappoint Few as their fire chief.
The Clayton News Daily stated that Demopolis’ mayor cited a desire for a “new direction” and “overspending” during Few’s first three years with the city as part of the basis for the decision.
Morrow Mayor J. B. Burke reportedly defended Few’s hiring, saying his references spoke highly of him.
“I did a background check on Mr. Few,” Burke told the Clayton News Daily in January. “I spoke to the Richmond County chairman and I spoke to the [former] mayor of Demopolis, Ala., and they said, ‘If you can get this man, get him. I highly recommend him. He is commendable. He has integrity. He is a leader.’
“One was in Alabama and one was in Georgia,” Burke added. “Two totally different conversations and it was like, ‘Wow this is great to hear.’”
Hmmmm… the Richmond County chairman told the mayor of Morrow that he highly recommended Few?
No. 1, there is no such thing as the chairman of the Augusta-Richmond County Commission.
No. 2, very few of the current commissioners worked with Few.
In fact, the only commissioner that was really around during Few’s tenure is Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams.
If the mayor of Morrow talked to Williams as a reference, no wonder Few got the job.
And how did Few explain his controversial past in Augusta?
“When Burke was asked the next day about the controversies in the new city manager’s past, he said they’d talked about it,” the Clayton News Daily reported in January. “Few and his references told him they were racially motivated.”
Yep. That sounds like Marion Williams.
Despite the initial controversy over Few’s hiring, it appears the Morrow City Council has embraced Augusta’s former fire chief as the town’s new city manager.
Augusta wishes Morrow and its city leaders all the luck in the world with Few as its city manager.
But if it doesn’t work out, just please don’t send Few back this way.