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Onyemenam brings up Eldrin Bell's past

By Justin Boron

Michael Onyemenam continued the push to discredit his opposition in the race for chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners Wednesday, disclosing information on Eldrin Bell that he says reveals a past business relationship with an Atlanta Police Department suspect from the 1970s.

The information surfaced after Onyemenam delved into Bell's 33-year A.P.D. personnel record.

Bell retired from the department as police chief in 1994 and denied the existence of past malfeasance.

"Any charge made against me was investigated and I have been found guilty of nothing," he said.

Internal investigation memos dated August 1978 link Bell to the suspect through a $2,700, security-services contract for the Southeastern Fair Association of 1978.

At the time the A.P.D's suspect was under investigation for auto theft, mail theft, worthless checks, and embezzlement but could not be prosecuted for lack of evidence, the internal memos said.

Onyemenam claims the relationship illustrates that Bell had ties to organized crime even though the memos do not mention the presence of crime syndicates. He also said Bell thinks he is above the law.

Bell contends that he received equal treatment under the law and that the probe into his past is a desperate attempt for publicity.

"I don't think I or anyone else is above the law, and I have never demonstrated that.

"If he wants to debate the issues of Clayton County, I'll debate him because he doesn't have an original plan for the community," he said. "It's politics of the worst kind ? dirty and underhanded."

The relevance of Bell's past lies in the risk it poses to the community, Onyemenam said

"One of my main campaign themes is a new and better image for Clayton County," he said. "The personal and leadership characters of the county commission chairman are of great importance."

His press secretary, G.B. Osborn, said he worried that patterns of behavior in Bell's past would resurface to the detriment of the community.

"Why would we want to allow Bell to come here and bring with him all kinds of problems," he said. "He will do the same thing in Clayton County as in Atlanta."

The focus on Bell's past is part of an overarching attempt by Onyemenam to discredit Bell's candidacy, Osborn said.

He promised two more press conferences that would expose more history of what he says is Bell's illegal activity.

Onyemenam also has filed a civil action requesting a temporary restraining order against Bell's campaign signs, which he said violate Georgia Election code because they present Bell as the current chairman instead of a candidate for the job.

The case will be heard today at 10 a.m. in the Clayton County Superior Court by an appointed judge. All local judges removed themselves from the case.