< Nobody knows the whole story. You know, I don't even know it, so I don't think people should, you know, say things to be hurtful to other people. >
In the Wilkinson County town of Ivey...the wife of the water superintendent responds to charges he stole money...from the city he worked for.
Hello, every one.
I'm Frank Malloy.
And I'm Leah Johnson.
We'll get back to that story and other local news of the day in just a moment, but first... We're taking a look at a major decision overturned from the nation's highest court on part of the Voting Rights Act.
Passed in 1965, the Act was a milestone in the civil rights movement.
It outlawed discriminatory practices at polling places during a time when many minorities reported being turned away, harassed, even abused when they tried to vote.
Two parts of the law were in question.
One section says some states need federal approval before they change their election rules. That's called pre-clearance.
Most of those states are in the South... and include Georgia.
Another section of the law covers which states need that approval.
That's what Supreme Court overturned today.
They said Congress needs to update that section of the law ....since it is based on information that's almost 5 decades old.
Legal analysts...like Mercer law professor David Oedel...say pre-clearance is out the window...unless the law is clear on which states are covered.
Georgia is one of those states that once showed a huge divide between how many whites and African Americans voted.
Today... Those numbers are about the same.
13WMAZ's Katelyn Heck spoke with Bibb County legislators today about how this decision could affect the Macon-Bibb consolidated elections.
Today's ruling apparently allows Macon and Bibb County to move forward with nonpartisan elections... Without approval from the Department of Justice.
As we said...that's how Mercer professor David Oedel...and other experts....are reading the decision.
Some Central Georgia legislators... Like state representative Robert Dickey ... Say the decision keeps future elections from getting stuck in limbo...waiting for federal approval.
<it would prevent a delay like we have now. We don't know when the elections will be because of the justice department delay and hands tied over what the delegation did.>
Dickey is a Republican from Musella...in Crawford County.
But State Representative James Beverly says it's possible that the U-S justice department may still intervene...to keep Macon-Bibb elections from going nonpartisan and and moving to July.
Beverly is a Macon Democrat...and he was opposed...when the Georgia general assembly made those changes in the Bibb elections.
So Beverly says county officials shouldn't move too quickly to reschedule the elections.
<I'm afraid they may set an arbitrary date sometime in august, september, and we're going to say 'no we think it's unconstitutional. We think it still violates section 5,' and we'll start this thing back over. So I say let's let the justice department do what they're going to do, give us the information we need, and then let's sit down and figure out the best date to get the most people involved in the election process for this new government.>
Macon-Bibb County Elections Supervisor Jennetta Watson says the Bibb County commission must schedule the election.
Commission Chairman Sam Hart is out of town....and couldn't be reached for comment.
But we did speak to one person today...with a historical perspective on the Voting Rights Act .... And what it has meant in Georgia.
We join Randall Savage for more.
The Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965,...was aimed at ending practices....like poll taxes and literacy tests...that kept prevented many African-Americans from voting.
Thelma Dillard is currently serving on the Bibb County school board.
She's here to discuss the law...and its impact....through the eyes of someone who lived it.
- You were active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.. attended the March on Washington.. what did the Voting Rights Act mean to you at that time?
- Chief Justice John Roberts said section 4 of the Voting Rights Act does not take into account the progress we've made in our country.. have we made enough progress in terms of the right to vote?
Thank you, Randall, Dr. Dillard.
You can read much more about the impact of today's ruling at 13WMAZ-dot-com.
The Water Superintendent for the city of Ivey...is in some hot water himself, charged with stealing city money.
Tom George spoke with the chief of police about accusations against Kenneth Helms...and to Helms' wife.
The small town of Ivey isn't immune to problems lots of cities face.
< You know all the towns are running short cause of the budget cuts and everything.>
But two weeks ago, the City Clerk noticed something unusual...
< There was some unusual things on his credit card statement.>
Chief of Police John Richards says, over the last 5 to 6 six months, the city's water superintendent, Kenneth Helms had been using his city credit card to take out cash advances of about 100 dollars at a time.. Totaling around 1,000 dollars.
Chief Richards reported it to the GBI, and investigators charged him with theft by taking.
Helms is now in the Wilkinson County jail without bond.
< I consider him a friend, never had any problems out of him, he did his job, worked hard doing his job. I find it hard to believe, but the facts are the facts.>
< With all the waterfront properties that sit on on Lake Tchukolako, being Water Superintendent in Ivey can be a tough job, but Helms has done it for 10 years, and his wife says it's not a job he wants to jeopardize. >
< He gets sprayed with feces and everything else working on pots, I mean he really works hard.>
In fact, these work clothes were still drying...after a long night on a sewer project just the other day.
Amanda Helms says the arrest has taken her whole family by surprise.
< He helps other people all the time, I mean, you know, when he doesn't have to. I mean he goes above and beyond his job duty, most definitely.>
In Ivey, Tom George, 13WMAZ Eyewitness News.
This is not Helms first brush with the law.
The Wilkinson County Sheriff's Department says Helms was charged with child molestation in January 2012...for alleged sexual contact with a girl under 16.
He spent three weeks in jail...and was later indicted.
But the charges were dropped two months ago...when the alleged victim recanted.
The GBI says it is still investigating the theft charge.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ann Evans says she plans to meet with the Ivey city council Friday...to discuss Helms' job future.