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Former water authority manager pleads guilty

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Attorney Michael Martin (left) and his client, Herbert Etheridge, listen to Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier explain the sentencing process.

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats Attorney Michael Martin (left) and his client, Herbert Etheridge, listen to Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier explain the sentencing process.

A former Clayton County Water Authority department manager pleaded guilty, Tuesday morning, to lying to a grand jury, and making false statements.

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson dropped a third charge –– conspiracy –– against Linton Herbert Etheridge, Jr., 55, as part of the plea negotiations.

"We oppose treatment under the First Offender Act, but he is eligible for it," said Lawson.

Superior Court Judge Albert Collier sentenced Etheridge under the First Offender Act, over that objection. Etheridge was ordered to serve five years on probation on each count, concurrently. He will also pay a $1,000 fine.

As a first offender probationer, Etheridge won't be adjudicated guilty if he successfully completes his sentence. If he completes the probation without getting into more trouble, his record will be expunged.

If he violates the terms of probation, he can be sent to prison for up to 20 years, said Collier.

Lawson said Etheridge hid the fact that his son, Cody Etheridge, worked for the company awarded the contract to landscape water authority property.

Lawson also said Etheridge was the facilitator of the evaluation team that rated vendors' proposals, and rated the company his son works for as the highest.

Based on that rating, Etheridge recommended, in August 2010, that Georgia Landscape Management be awarded the annual lawn maintenance contract.

When called before a Clayton County special purpose grand jury, Etheridge lied about staying at a Florida condo owned by the landscape company, said Lawson.

Etheridge made no statement in court, allowing defense attorney, Michael Martin, to speak for him.

"He worked for 36 years at the Clayton County Water Authority, and had an exemplary record there when he retired," said Martin. "He did fail to disclose to the evaluation committee that his son worked for the landscaping company. He also made statements to the grand jury that he denied he ever stayed at the Florida condo, when, in fact, he stayed there one weekend."

Martin said when Etheridge told him about the lies, Martin tried to rectify the situation.

"I contacted the District Attorney's Office and tried to resolve it," he said. "He's coming before the court now and admitting these two things."

Etheridge, the authority's former distribution and conveyance manager, was indicted in November.