Barbs fly in Lee County Sheriff's race

Reggie Rachals and David Cheshire

Reggie Rachals and David Cheshire

LEESBURG -- Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals and former Lee sheriff's deputy David Cheshire -- Rachals' opponent in the county's July 31 Republican primary -- responded to charges and offered countercharges last week as their campaigns moved into the critical final weeks of the election cycle.

And with early voting scheduled to start Monday, each candidate was eager to "set the record straight."

"Even though my family and I have endured the hardships of name-calling, false accusations, mudslinging and outright lies, I have chosen to take the high road and not give in to this slander of both my family and myself," Rachals said. "I have turned the other cheek more times than once and, in doing so, I still have kept the faith and fought the fight in an ethical and professional manner."

Cheshire, meanwhile, said he and his supporters feel an obligation to point out concerns they have with Rachals' running of the sheriff's office.

"I want to bring some issues to light so that the voters and the taxpayers in Lee County will have an opportunity to see that they have a sheriff who doesn't have the best interest of the public in mind when he makes administrative decisions," the challenger said.

Rachals said he is particularly concerned about allegations made by Cheshire that directly impact his family. Cheshire accused the incumbent sheriff of nepotism, noting that Rachals had hired his daughter, whom the challenger said "makes more than some of the road deputies who have been there longer than she has," and his nephew since taking office.

Rachals said, and his daughter, Cpl. Daphne Lindsey, confirmed Thursday, that she makes less money ($12.49 per hour) than starting deputy pay ($13.18 an hour). Lindsey is a public relations officer with the department.

"My opponent has taken offense to the fact that two out of 90 employees under my direction are related to me, even though he never objected to the multiple relatives employed by the previous sheriff (Harold Breeden, who Rachals unseated in the 2008 election)," the sheriff said. "It has been suggested that my daughter is being overpaid.

"She was hired in 2009 with a bachelor's degree. Her duties include neighborhood watch, Special Olympics, ladies firearms (instruction) and other community programs that require her to transport equipment and supplies working hours beyond 8 a.m.-5 p.m. I have also hired a nephew who worked his way through the jail as a jailer and then became a deputy in the uniform division. Both are qualified and dedicated employees."

Cheshire has also included in campaign literature a statement indicating Rachals "has two investigations through the EEOC that are on the verge of becoming lawsuits." The investigations, Cheshire notes, are based on claims of discrimination and wrongful termination.

Rachals said such claims and lawsuits come with the position.

"That's one of the first things they teach you at the Sheriff's Academy; you're going to make people angry and you're going to get sued," he said. "Of the two EEOC investigations mentioned, one is still pending and the other claim was denied. A former female employee, whose name cannot be mentioned because she requested a gag order, filed a civil suit that was settled by the county.

"What my opponent has not mentioned, though, is that there was a legal case filed during my first year in office that lists the Lee County Sheriff's Office and David Cheshire as defendents. This incident occurred under the previous sheriff."

Rachals also expressed concern over his opponent's "criminal history" in Sumter County, an incident from 1998 in which Cheshire -- then a deputy in Early County -- was arrested for a traffic offense after "cutting a doughnut" in a rural churchyard.

"I'm man enough to admit I made a mistake," Cheshire said. "Even though I was never convicted of any offense, I've learned from my mistake. It's made me a better man and a better law enforcement official.

"I'm surprised that this issue concerns the sheriff, because he had three opportunities to either punish me for it or to fire me. Instead, he gave me three promotions."

Many of Cheshire's supporters have accused Rachals of cruelty to animals in an incident that involved a horse under his care. The sheriff said an official ruling by the Georgia Department of Agriculture (which he provided) showed no wrongdoing.

"The Department of Agriculture inspected this false accusation against welfare of animals in my family's care and ruled that all care was humane," Rachals said. "There was no wrongdoing or inhumane treatment and the case was closed Dec. 19, 2011."

Cheshire has also complained about what he said was Rachals' failure to follow "proper county procedure" in securing bids for such items as a camera system at the Lee County Jail and a $24,000 fence job at the jail.

"After taking office, Sheriff Rachals awarded a fence job at the jail to his father-in-law and he has yet to produce any bids for this job," Cheshire said. "He did the same thing with the camera system at the jail, and when a local vendor complained that he hadn't been allowed to bid, Sheriff Rachals allowed him to bid.

"When (the local vendor's) bid came in $17,000 less than the original ($45,000) bid and included more features, the sheriff stayed with the original bid. He continuously refuses to comply with county policy for accepting bids on projects."

Rachals said Cheshire's claims are not valid.

"From day one, I have had an open-door policy when it comes to the bidding prtocess," Rachals said. "My opponent has never inquired about that process, and now he questions me in public about the procedure. Let me set the record straight: On any item above $10,000, I request multiple bids, then I accept the lowest qualifying bid and submit it to the County Commission for payment."

Rachals also said Cheshire's claim that he "fired an employee because he did not come in on his off day when asked because he was taking care of his disabled son" is not an accurate accounting.

"That employee's termination was based solely on his own conduct and his failure to report to duty on time as required of all employees who work for the sheriff's office," Rachals said. "I would never terminate anyone because they have a special-needs child. I have a brother with cerebral palsy, a nephew, several close friends and even other employees who have special needs or children with special needs.

"I have always treated (these employees, friends, etc.) with the respect, consideration and dignity they deserve."

Advance voting in the sheriff's and other races starts Monday and ends July 27. Special Saturday advance voting will be held July 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Early voting in Lee County will be conducted in the Kinchafoonee Room of the T. Page Tharp Governmental Building.


FryarTuk 2 years, 12 months ago

Looks like you folks in Lee County don't have much of a choice for sheriff. When a controlling leader directs tax money to family members or associates the electorate had better pay attention. Credit Cheshire's candidacy with bringing Rachal's conduct to light. There is more you can believe that.


countryman 2 years, 12 months ago

Looks to me like Lee County has a clear choice. Reggie Rachals. It all boils down to the fact that Cheshire and his buddies are still upset that they lost the last election. It doesn't have a thing to do with helping the citizens of Lee County, it is for their ego. This is nothing but a "getting even" ploy. David Cheshire is out for himself and nobody else. Just like the nails at the blue hole incident. Also, it's amazing that Jim Wright found David Cheshire's wedding ring in the middle of a bunch of dumped nails. I can read between the lines on that one. To top it all off, David has now changed his picture on his Facebook page to include a handicapped child that he has never, ever posted a picture of before so that he can look like Mother Theresa. They are using that poor child as a pawn in this sick game that he and his crew are playing. Reggie Rachals is not perfect, there was only one perfect man and we put him on a cross, but Reggie Rachals is by far the best man for the job. David Cheshire when you lose this election, and you already have, I want you to know that it was because of the negative and nasty campaign you and your supporters ran.


Eaglesfly 2 years, 12 months ago

I was at a gathering and observed the Sheriff's opponent displaying pictures taken with cell phone of inappropriate material from calls he responded to. This exposing of material was not being used for purposes other than entertainment. Is this really who we want running our Sheriffs dept???


ram0818 2 years, 12 months ago

whats not mentioned it how dirty it is to promise multiple "bad" people the same jobs in exchange for their votes, if cheshire is elected that would be the only way how, because obviously if a low life dirt bag is promised a job they wont be smart enough to figure it out for themselves its probably not true. wether its reggie or cheshire that gets put into office it needs to be based off of them and what they can and will do for the county (be a do-er like reggie, not just talk about it). not off of false promises to citizens of lee county. that right there proves just what type of man he is to do so. sneeky and dirty and obviously doesnt think he can win on his own morals and values.


willie 2 years, 12 months ago

While I don't know these two, it seems like Lee County is pretty safe and sucure. As to the bids and jobs, those things happen everyday, look at your county commission. Small Town mud slinging at it's best.

Now I'll tell you, I'm going to vote for the man in office as he is just completing his first term, got his feet wet and his face slapped, however this man has it in him to stand up and lead his troops in the right direction all the while his opponent is making attempts to slow him and break him down.

Now as for the other fellow, it seems to me that he should be running for the position of Fire Chief. His bio would indicate that is where his expertice lay, along with three promotions in the sheriffs office, my personal opinion is that he would better serve the community in that position.

Here we have two persons qualified for two different jobs and one on the verge of embarrassing himself, rather than seeking the office he should.


Shinedownfan 2 years, 12 months ago

I know neither man personally, but I feel Rachals has done a fine job. He will get my vote.


VSU 2 years, 12 months ago

I don't live in Lee County, but I feel Rachels has done a great job and I encourage voters to re-elect Rachels. There is something about Cheshire I just don't trust. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


FryarTuk 2 years, 12 months ago

Willie wrote: "As to the bids and jobs, those things happen everyday, look at your county commission. " My point exactly. Vote for whom you please. But as Barney Fife said, you'd better "nip it in the bud" as far as handing tax payers money over to family and friends. The good thing Cheshire has done is to bring that conduct to your attention.


bigbob 2 years, 12 months ago

Lee County has an excellent sheriff dept. & sheriff. I will stick with Mr. Rachels because he has made Lee Cty a safe place to live which is quite an accomlishment with Albany next door.


Cartman 2 years, 12 months ago

Both Reggie and David are fine men. I am a little disappointed that either are participating in this cheap political behavior. The accusations are petty and its not like either of you to do this. I wish you would each get a grip on yourselves and act like the men that I know you to be. And you need to consider mending this fence once the election is over.


Moe 2 years, 12 months ago

Awarding a contract to his father in law? Is Rachals that stupid or does he think the voters are?


waltspecht 2 years, 12 months ago

I don't care which one your voting for, just get out there and vote. Show that you have some real interest in what these folks are up to. Especially let this be a precursor to November. Show the Politicians there will be a massive turnout, and really give them something to worry about.


chinaberry25 2 years, 12 months ago

I have lived in Lee Co. for 23 years and knew Reggie as a deputy. He was good then and I have no complaints now. Other stuff mentioned goes on everywhere. That is life. He is just finishing up his first term and no major pitfalls have happened. They may be there, but look at TV. Top dogs hire their children in police forces all the time. It runs in families. The Irish ruled all the major cities for generations. That is usually the norm.


VSU 2 years, 11 months ago

Who is to say Cheshire would not do something questionable?


Mark32208 2 years, 11 months ago

I first met Reggie a couple years ago. He's a good man and has great values. I support Reggie and I'm proud that he has held his head high and is running off of his record in office and not slinging mud. Lee County has been a better community because of Reggie's leadership while in office.


DoctorDorite 2 years, 11 months ago

We need 158 more Sheriffs like Rachels in Georgia but I'm shocked/surprised/disappointed there's no over-sight on the Sheriff Office finances and purchases. I think this is where the commissioners and county administrator fail in their jobs of protecting taxpayers money.


FryarTuk 2 years, 11 months ago

Not saying which one is better, but don't skate over Rachel's use of county tax money to hire family and handout contracts without bids to in-laws. Because it's done in Chicago or Atlanta or among the Irish doesn't excuse it. How many in Lee County want jobs or business contracts for work?


Shinedownfan 2 years, 11 months ago

Okay, fryartuk, you are either a friend of Cheshire or you just don't want Rachals to win, and you don't live in Lee County and you cant vote in this election, so you are trying to sway all of us voters with your three comments. It ain't gonna work...


Mr_Heatmiser 2 years, 11 months ago

Tough choice, but I'm probably going to be voting for the candidate who does NOT have a history of vandalizing church property.


Sign in to comment