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REGIONAL ROUNDUP: Macon council votes to sue over air traffic control towers

MACON — Macon City Council's Public Properties Committee unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to authorize the city to join a multi-city lawsuit that seeks to prevent the closing of air traffic control towers as part of federal budget cuts.

Because of sequestration, the Middle Georgia Regional Airport is one of 149 airports across the country scheduled to have its control tower shut down. Originally, the Federal Aviation Administration announced the towers would close this month, but federal officials pushed the closing date back to June 15.

The lawsuit originally was filed by the Spokane, Wash., airport board in federal court in Washington, D.C., assistant City Attorney Tina Helms told council members Tuesday.

When other cities across the country joined the lawsuit, the case was assigned to a district court in California. Helms said the court has expedited the process to the case but might not issue an injunction before June 15.

Interim City Attorney Judd Drake told the committee that city attorneys would be handling the lawsuit as opposed to hiring outside counsel.

He said costs to Macon associated with the lawsuit should be minimal.

Erick d'Leon, operations manager at Middle Georgia Regional, told the committee that officials are looking into the impact closing the tower would have.

"All of the elements (of running the airport) are still there," he said. "The tower is a layer of safety, and you're removing that layer."

The closure also could hurt Macon if the airport is competing with another airport for a service and that airport has an operating air tower, d'Leon said.

Committee Chairman Rick Hutto said after the meeting that it's ironic the city is having a discussion about the tower closing even while the city's new airline, Silver Airways, began passenger service to Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta earlier this month.

"We fought so hard to get a new airline, so it's ironic that this is happening just when it's getting started," he said.

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Farmer will run for U.S. House seat

BRUNSWICK — An Alma Republican who worked in the administration of President Ronald Reagan hopes to replace Rep. Jack Kingston, R-1, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Darwin Carter, a farmer, international consultant and a businessman, said he will run for the 1st District seat in 2014.

He said he decided to run after hearing Kingston will seek election to the Senate next year.

"We've got a major problem in this nation with our economy and the fact that we are looked at not as a first rate country any longer," said Carter, who worked for the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1989.

"Our stature in the world is diminishing by the hour. We do not have time for on-the-job training. We need some mature, experienced leadership in Washington."

He is that person, he said, noting his experience in government under Reagan.

Those experiences include serving as executive director of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service in Georgia and as a confidential assistant to the administrator of ASCS. Other roles included assistant to the undersecretary for international affairs and commodity programs, and assistant to the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Carter asserts that he's not shedding any tears over sequestration, saying, "It's not really cutting the budget. It's cutting the increases out of the budget.

"My concentration will be to try to stop the runaway spending that's going on up there. This country is in a sad state of affairs."

Another focus would be to bring more industry and trade in the district, he said.

Carter grew up on a farm in Bacon County and has been involved in the family owned agricultural business, as well as in the economic development in rural and metropolitan areas.

Calling himself a friend of Rep. Kingston, Carter said he decided to announce his candidacy after being assured by Kingston himself of the congressman's intention to run for the U.S. Senate.

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Attorney accused of bilking $280K from client

ATLANTA — An Atlanta attorney is accused of stealing $280,000 from a client, according to police. And investigators believe she may have used the money to pay for her wedding, restaurant meals and clothes.

Kristen Richbourg, 37, was arrested April 4 and charged with forgery and theft by conversion, Fulton County jail records show. She remained in jail Tuesday night and was being held on $100,000 bond, according to booking records.

Richbourg was arrested after a former client reported the alleged theft to Atlanta police.

"He had requested documents from the attorney to prepare his taxes," Sgt. Paul Cooper told Channel 2 Action News. "When she sent him the documents, some of the numbers didn't add up."

Detectives traced the money to places around town, including the W Hotel, the Pink Pony and Bench Warmers, Cooper told Channel 2. Money from the client's trust fund may have funded Richbourg's wedding, he said.

Richbourg was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in November 2000, online records show. She is currently an active member in good status, but it was not immediately known what impact her arrest would have on her status.

Richbourg has several prior arrests on drug and theft charges in both Fulton and DeKalb counties, jail records show.

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