Buie hearing set; county voids lease

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- Dougherty Superior Court Judge Denise Marshall will hear next week former Downtown Manager Don Buie's request that his trial on fraud and theft charges be heard outside of Dougherty County, court documents show.

Buie has been indicted alongside his former girlfriend Nicole Brown; his wife, Shanon Buie, and former downtown business owner Tim Washington in connection with a series of alleged schemes that prosecutors contend defrauded the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority of thousands of dollars while Buie was ADICA's CEO.

Buie's attorney, Johnnie Graham, filed the motion following Buie's bond hearing arguing that Buie's right to a fair and impartial jury may have been comprised due in part to the extensive media coverage of the investigation and his subsequent arrest.

Buie is being held at the Dougherty County Jail after Marshall denied bond during a hearing Oct. 26, citing concerns that he was a possible flight risk despite the fact he surrendered himself following his indictment.

A change of venue for high-profile cases involving public officials isn't out of the question.

In 2002, Albany was picked out of a list that included Augusta, Columbus and Savannah to host the trial of Sidney Dorsey. The former DeKalb County sheriff was accused of ordering the assassination of Derwin Brown, who was shot 15 times in the front yard of his suburban Atlanta home after beating Dorsey in the sheriff's race.

Albany was chosen because of its adequate courtroom space and the fact that the racial demographics of the area were similar to those in DeKalb County. Dorsey was convicted of murder and is serving a life prison sentence.

Meanwhile, the Dougherty County Commission voted unanimously Monday to forgive ADICA for the remaining term of a lease for the space Buie sublet to Washington's Dollar Square store. The decision comes after ADICA paid the county more than $10,000 in back rent on the space.

Buie negotiated both the lease with the county and the lease with Washington. The lease was later revealed to have been a verbal agreement for just $1 per month for the first two years of the agreement that was masked by a bogus written agreement calling for $700 per month.

ADICA voted last month to terminate the lease with Washington and demand his back rent and the repayment of a facade grant Buie had granted him without the knowledge of the board.

"I just want to take a moment and acknowledge the ADICA board and Mr. James Taylor for how they are working through their issues," Commissioner Gloria Gaines said during Monday morning's meeting. "I think they are to be commended for straightening things up."

The controversy has claimed the board's leader, local philanthropist and businesswoman Jane Willson, who announced that she will not seek reappointment to the board when her term ends Jan. 1. Talk circulating around city hall Monday suggested that two additional board members could also fall by the wayside come January, although Willson is the only one to formally announce her intentions.

"I just want to say how important Mrs. Willson has been to this county and city," Commissioner Jack Stone said, as discussion on ADICA closed. "She has give and give and give to our community and she will be missed."