By Michael Davis
Word of a county commissioner's arrest on shoplifting charges spread quickly through the ranks of county government. Arrested and booked Tuesday afternoon, District V Commissioner Lee Holman was taken to the county jail for allegedly stealing $1 in unidentified merchandise from the North Henry Boulevard Wal-Mart, according to police reports. H
olman didn't attend a first appearance hearing Wednesday morning in Henry County Magistrate Court as expected. Instead, his defense attorney Wade Crumbley told Chief Magistrate Judy Hayes that venue in the case has been moved to Stockbridge.
The city has first jurisdiction over violations of its ordinances, said Chief Magistrate Judy Hayes.
"When you have shoplifting in the city, it's supposed to be handled by the city courts," she said. "There's been lots of confusion but we get it all figured out when they come to court."
Hayes said some of the confusion may have resulted from the store, at one time, having a policy requiring shoplifting to be prosecuted beyond city courts.
"Wal-Mart used to say they don't want a city citation," she said. "You can't blame it on anybody."
A Wal-Mart spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
District II Commissioner Gary Freedman spoke about Holman's arrest.
"They need to find out all the details before they prejudge him," he said. "It doesn't fit the personality of the guy I know and have worked with for a year."
Holman was sworn in Jan. 3, 2003 as the District V commissioner after defeating a commissioner who had himself pleaded guilty to stealing from a Home Depot store in 1996. Holman was voted vice-chairman of the board Jan. 6 of this year in a decision that was not unanimous. Freedman cast the only dissenting vote.
In a statement released through his attorney's office, Holman said, "Without intending to do so, I did something to raise the suspicions of store security."
According to a Henry County police report, police met with the store's loss prevention officers who said they witnessed the alleged incident.
Holman posted a $550 bond shortly after his arrest and was released out the back door of the jail away from awaiting reporters.
Holman's next step is not yet known. On Wednesday, he said he would continue to attend to county business, but would not comment on the allegations.
"I've really been advised not to discuss this n I feel kind of gagged," he said. "I'd really like to respond but I've got to follow the line of advice that's been given to me."
District I Commissioner Warren Holder said that anytime an elected official is arrested, it impacts the integrity of all elected officials.
"It just spreads a cloud over all elected officials and gives people a reason not to have any confidence in their elected officials. And that's the part that hurts," Holder said. "The public's perception is that any elected official accused of anything is guilty."
Uncertain about the commission's next step, Chairman Leland Maddox said, "I don't really know what's going to take place."
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Holman could be in court in Stockbridge in March. City officials did not return a call for a court date confirmation Wednesday.