The Commerce News
June 20, 2001
Of Trust Is Worse Than Loss Of Money
It would be just like George Grimes to derive delirious pleasure
out of my discomfiture. I can almost hear him laughing after
the revelations of his malfeasance in office came out right after
my glowing endorsement of his tenure as police chief.
I herewith nominate myself for the Good Timing Award for 2001.
To vote, dial 1-900-335-5126. It's only $2 per vote.
Certainly Grimes has proven to be a lot more colorful in death
than in life and certainly disappointing. I considered
him a friend, as did more people in Commerce than would now admit
it, so I feel that sense of betrayal one feels when a friend
goes bad. There are a lot of others with reason to feel more
betrayed like the officers of the police department, the
officials of the Command College where Grimes was an instructor
and a director, and all the city's elected officials.
Perhaps city manager Clarence Bryant should feel the most betrayed,
for he is the one who hired him, trusted him and who is most
on the spot now that money is missing.
If you can't trust the person you've hired as police chief, who
can you trust?
Apparently, you can't trust the police chief so maybe you
shouldn't trust anyone and that sad message will shake
up the way business is done at City Hall.
Grimes should never have been able to get away with stealing
large quantities of money from traffic fines and forfeitures.
Whoever handled the money Grimes brought to City Hall probably
should have noted the fact that a lot of receipt numbers were
skipped. In addition, the city auditor probably should have insisted
on internal controls. It wouldn't have taken someone with an
adding machine two hours to add up the value of receipts in the
book at the police station so they could be compared with the
amount of money deposited to the city account from the police
department for any fiscal year. The job of the auditor is to
make sure internal controls are in place so anything amiss will
be discovered. Given that the auditor knows the volume of money
flowing through all the departments, one would expect the auditor
to insist on checks and balances with this money.
Meanwhile, if the reports of Grimes' alleged crime are not entertaining
enough, local gossip can fill the void. Anything and everything
about Grimes will be said and believed. Stories of complicity,
of cover-ups, girlfriends, drugs, pornography spread like wildfires
It says a lot about us that such pleasure is derived from soaking
up all the details of Grimes' alleged corruption. The very people
who once held him in high esteem are anxious to pass on any tidbit
of gossip, as though to atone for trusting someone who was not
The $300,000 officials say Grimes may have taken will be small
potatoes compared to the loss of trust in and by city government.
Every public official, every cop, everyone who handles money
will be more closely scrutinized and new checks and balances
will be instituted all because of Grimes.
The loss of trust is more costly than the loss of the money.
The Jackson Herald
June 20, 2001
Teachers give students copies of the test beforehand and even
provide them with answers during the actual testing. Pep rallies
are held to get students to "SCORE, SCORE, SCORE" on
While these scenarios haven't been reported in Jackson County,
they are being played out across the country as elementary and
middle school students take standardized tests.
It has even come to the point where real estate agents are using
the scores to try and sell a house near a "good school."
This is ridiculous. To find out if a school is "good,"
visit the school, talk to the teachers, talk to the parents,
talk to the students and decide for yourself. Don't look at scores
from one standardized test and judge a school or a teacher.
Students are judged throughout their academic career based on
standardized tests. CRCT, SAT and ACT are among the tests students
are given. These results are used to place students in academic
groups and to determine whether they are accepted into a university.
The problem is that these tests are given in pressure situations.
A student may have knowledge of a subject, but not be a good
Another problem is that while these tests are only one indicator,
they are often used to change the curriculum and textbooks. If
students test low in one area, educators immediately change the
way that subject is taught. If they score low in another area
next year, the same thing is done. This causes a lack of consistency
in what students are being taught.
Standardized tests should never be used to change the curriculum
or to judge how well a teacher is doing. If these tests are used
to reflect how well a teacher is doing it, all of the teachers
the student has ever had should be considered instead of only
the current teacher.
Standardized tests may be an indicator of how much an individual
student has progressed from one year to another. What the test
should not be is a tool to judge a school or a teacher. It shouldn't
be the only thing used to judge a student. It should be used
along with the day-to-day performance of the child.
The Jackson Herald
June 20, 2001
Video poker is hot red hot
I quickly learned that this issue over video poker, which I had
never given any time in contemplating, was stirring fires in
other people. This issue is hot - red hot.
I parked my truck outside the ice cabinet in front of a local
grocery store that houses a few video poker machines and loaded
my camera with film.
Once I got my flash in place (or so I thought), I exited the
truck and I walked into the store. I had been sent to do a story
on video poker, to find out who plays it, what kind of games
are played and what people win.
I decided I would start with the people because business owners
have something to protect - their income. I walked into the back
of the store where the games were. There were two people playing,
a woman close to me and a man at the end of the row of games.
The woman looked at me questioningly and I said, "I'm Todd
Simons, I'm with The Jackson Herald and I am doing a story on
these video poker machines and I was hoping I could talk to you
a little about what you're playing, how you feel about the controversy.
That sort of thing. You do know that Mike Beatty is trying to
get these machines outlawed?"
She said, "I don't want to talk to you. I better get the
manager. Have you talked to the manager? "
I replied: "No, but if you're not going to tell me anything,
I would appreciate your getting the manager, that is. I'll want
to speak with him too."
I turned to the man who was playing when the women left and before
I could say anything he said, "I'm not talking to The Jackson
Herald. They ran some bad information about my girlfriend."
After a pause, he said: "It wasn't wrong, but they shouldn't
have run that."
I just leaned back against the wall and watched cherries and
gold bars roll across the screen and come to a stop.
I heard: "You sir, you will need to leave." I turned
to find a reasonable looking man in a shirt with the store logo
on it, so I assumed he was the manager.
I quickly said: "I'm sorry. I don't think you understand.
I'm trying to do a story on the video poker industry. There are
people who want to get rid of them and I just wanted to get your
He said: "Leave. Leave now. Please leave the store."
"Leave? I just want to ask a few questions."
"No sir," he said. "Please leave the store or
I will have to call the police."
"Call the police? I'm trying to do a story on video poker,"
"Please leave," he said. "I will have to call
I said: "Will you come talk to me outside?"
He agreed. I walked out, camera on shoulder, note pad in hand.
I was ready to figure out what had just happened.
He didn't come. I looked inside and didn't see him, so I went
back in this time camera in hand.
I didn't go in looking for him. I went to the back where the
machines were. I didn't know what I was going to do, probably
tell the lady I had talked to earlier that the manager had nothing
to say, but I would appreciate a few words from her and wouldn't
have to get her name.
Just as I was about to enter the game room, my camera took a
blow. My flash went flying and my finger set the shutter snapping.
The manager had come to get me.
"I'm calling the cops." he said.
I picked up my flash and stuffed it in my back pocket. I put
my camera over my shoulder and took out my note pad.
"I am calling the cops," I wrote.
"What are you writing?" he asked.
I wrote that too.
He motioned for someone to bring him the phone and then yelled,
"Bring me the phone! Call 911 and bring me the phone."
Now there were two men who joined the one on the phone and I
was backed up into a corner in the back of the store with mops
and mop buckets and pails.
"I have a man here who is in my store causing trouble,"
he said. "He is trying to take pictures and is bothering
my customers. Could you please have an officer come down here
to help me get him out of the store?"
"Are you holding me here?" I asked.
"Yes, you cannot leave until the police come," he said.
"You are kidnapping me then," I said.
"No, no we are not"
"Can I leave?" I asked.
"Then you are kidnapping me."
My mouth was dry. I pulled out my wallet and held up a dollar
and asked, "Could I buy a bottle of water?"
"I'll get you a bottle of water." He didn't take my
We stood there, the four of us. Me looking at them, them looking
at me with my back in a corner. The two people at the video poker
machines never stopped playing, except once when the lady I first
talked to stood on the bottom rung of her stool to see over the
men surrounding me to say: "You should have asked first.
You really should ask."
I rolled my eyes and we quietly waited on the police.
When the officer arrived, he came without sirens or lights. I
was a little disappointed that I didn't seem to be a bigger threat.
The sergeant pretty much rolled his eyes at the situation he
had been called too.
"I am just trying to mediate here." he said. "It
is not illegal to take pictures in a public place, or for him
to ask people questions, but you do have the right to ask him
"I want him to leave," he said.
"That is fine," I said. "But I want it to be clear
that right now I am going to write that I came into your establishment
to ask about video poker, a legal and prosperous industry, and
you attacked me, possibly breaking my flash, and held me in a
back corner and you won't have any way to explain."
He did finally agree to talk to me and we went into the back
of the store through some coolers stocked with beer. As we discussed
video poker he spoke openly, but "off the record."
When I asked why he reacted the way he had, he said, "I
didn't know who you were or what you were going to do with the
pictures and information." Then he said, "I thought
you might be the GBI. "
Todd C. Simons is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers.
The Commerce News
June 20, 2001
City Must Improve
Its Internal Controls
Once the details of the George Grimes investigation are announced,
what reaction should the taxpayers expect from the city government?
Some taxpayers just want somebody to blame, if not for corruption,
then for negligence. But this is not the time to throw the Christians
to the lions; a view of the larger picture is warranted.
Commerce's government has enjoyed a good reputation for more
than a decade. It is fiscally sound, progressive and responsible,
no matter what the result of the Grimes investigation might suggest
otherwise. But clearly the city manager, mayor and city council
need to make some kind of public statement once the GBI investigation
is completed to show citizens that this isolated incident is
being treated seriously.
The city did have the right reaction when evidence of missing
funds surfaced; the police chief's office was sealed and the
Georgia Bureau of Investigation was summoned. This was not the
time for an in-house investigation.
The most troubling aspect of this case is that it took the police
chief's death to uncover it. How, taxpayers are asking, was it
possible that so much money could be stolen without being missed?
It is a fair question. Most of us would have assumed that the
city audit covered the fines and forfeitures turned in to the
police department; it did not. The response that officials trusted
the police chief is insufficient; no employee should ever be
put in a position where he or she alone is responsible for significant
amounts of money. Trust is good, but trust without checks and
balances can create temptations some people cannot resist.
Commerce's government needs to improve its internal controls.
It can start with subjecting every individual and every department
that handles money to routine controls that will make stealing
more difficult, and it should expand the audit to cover funds
not previously reviewed.
It appears that George Grimes fooled most of us. We expect at
least to be told exactly why that kind of theft will never happen
again. As for our next police chief, trust him (or her), but
if we audit him as well, it may help him stay honest.