The Madison County Sheriff’s Office has transferred its investigation of an incident at a county board of equalization hearing involving county commissioner and House District 33 candidate Tripp Strickland to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

County appraiser Bill Waldrop filed a report with the sheriff’s office, alleging that Strickland grabbed his arm and scratched him at a board of equalization hearing Tuesday afternoon. Meanwhile, Strickland adamantly denies grabbing or scratching Waldrop.

Capt. Jimmy Patton with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said the sheriff’s office consulted District Attorney Parks White, who said the case should be sent to the GBI for investigation.

“We will send our case file to them (the GBI),” said Patton.

The dispute between the two men originated online, where Strickland and Waldrop had contentious interactions.

According to a report from Officer Jason Gaddy, “Strickland engaged Waldrop in a verbal exchange (Tuesday) and Waldrop did not wish to have such an exchange there since he was trying to participate in a meeting.”

“When he walked away from Strickland and went back into the meeting room, Strickland followed Waldrop into the meeting room and sat beside Waldrop,” wrote Gaddy. “Waldrop stated he told Strickland they were not going to discuss the matter at that time. At that time, Strickland grabbed Waldrop’s right arm and tried to pull him out of the seat so they could discuss the ongoing matter outside the room. During that physical grabbing motion, Strickland scratched Waldrop’s arm. I did observe a small scratch on Waldrop’s arm.”

Strickland said he was at the assessor’s office and talking to chief appraiser Robin Baker about the interactions he had with Waldrop on Facebook.

“I just wanted to talk to him (Waldrop),” said Strickland. “Robin said, ‘Come on, he’s down here,’ and he led me to the room.”

Strickland said he didn’t know board of equalization hearings were being held and that he just followed Baker. He said Baker called Waldrop out in the hall to talk to him during a break in the meeting. He said Baker introduced him to Waldrop, who he said began disparaging him saying he was an “@$$#@**.” Waldrop went back into the meeting room. Strickland said he lost his temper and followed him back into the room and sat down at the table next to Waldrop, trying to get him to talk to him. He said Waldrop had turned his back to him and that he verbally lost his temper. But he said he didn’t do anything physical, “nothing malicious.”

“I didn’t scratch that man,” said Strickland.

He said he went to Baker’s office about an hour later and saw Waldrop there and apologized. He said Waldrop said something like, “thank you,” or “I appreciate it.” And Strickland said he thought the matter was over, adding that he was shocked to learn the Waldrop had filed a report with the sheriff’s office. Strickland said the allegation that he scratched Waldrop is a “lie from the pit of hell” and that the filing of the report is purely an attempt to hurt him politically before Tuesday’s runoff election. Strickland will face Robert Leverett Tuesday for the Republican nomination for the House 33 seat. The winner will face Democrat Kerry Dornell Hamm in November.

“He’s just trying to ruin me,” said Strickland.

Waldrop said he didn’t call Strickland any names Tuesday. He said there were heated online exchanges but that he repeatedly told Strickland Tuesday that he wasn’t going to argue at the meeting.

“He was ranting and raving and I told him this is inappropriate and I’m not going to play that game,” said Waldrop.

He said that when he refused to talk, Strickland grabbed him.

“He grabbed me by my arm and his nail scratched my right forearm area,” said Waldrop.

Waldrop said he wants Strickland prosecuted.

“If he wasn’t who he was, he would have been arrested,” said Waldrop.

Waldrop said Strickland stopped by the office after the incident and apologized, and he said he told him he appreciated the sentiment, but Waldrop said Thursday that the apology didn’t change what happened and he wants a charge filed.

“If I had done that at a commissioners’ meeting, I’d be sitting in jail,” he said.

Patton said those attending the meeting were interviewed.

“All the witnesses were interviewed and their accounts were similar to the victim’s,” said Patton. “Not sure if the GBI will re-interview.”

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