In Democratic county chairman candidate Hubert White's campaign efforts to woo voters, a number of irregularities have emerged, including his continued financial support of the Republican Party and a large number of citations for housing projects his company has built.
White, a prominent developer, and his various holdings have been issued 19 citations in the last five years for violations of the county's Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Ordinance, according to records obtained through an Open Records request.
Though he hasn't received any new citations in the last year and a half, White is still listed as one of the county's 'high' violators of the ordinance.
White served as a Democrat on the board of commissioners from 1992-2000. After leaving the board, he switched his party affiliation to Republican. In a previous interview with The News, White said he made the switch as the result of his strong personal respect for President George W. Bush.
Since that switch, White has given more than $73,000 to the Republican Party and its various candidates for office, according to Federal Election Commission records.
When White qualified for office in May as a Democrat, he said he made the decision because of his affiliation at the local level with Democratic politics. If elected White has promised to serve only one term.
Since qualifying, White has campaigned hard for the votes of newcomers to the county, particularly the votes of black residents. In a recent mailer reminding voters of the early voting taking place this week, White is pictured with former county NAACP presidents Archie Shepherd and Rev. Harold Cobb, who are both listed as endorsing him.
As black voters have typically been the Democratic Party's most loyal voting block, White's heavy lobbying of their vote, with his recent record of Republican Party contributions (and no Democratic contributions) is peculiar.
As recently as the end of May, White donated $2,300 to presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain's campaign, under the alias of Huberto White. He had already donated $2,300, the maximum allowed under FEC regulations, as Hubert White in March. In late June, White also donated $2,300 to Republican Rick Goddard, who will challenge Congressman Jim Marshall in November.
Asked about the incongruities in his party loyalties, White responded that the voters he is courting know him "so personally" that he wouldn't comment on the issue.
"I'm not going to work from that angle," White said.
Shepherd said he agreed to endorse White, knowing his financial contributions to the Republican Party, because "out of the three [Democratic candidates], I knew more about Hubert than I did the rest of them. He did ask me for my endorsement and I told him that I'd be glad to do it."
Though Shepherd said he was surprised at the financial extent of White's contributions to Republicans, he added that White "sort of flourishes his money around."
"I've known him for a long time," Shepherd said. "He has to reach out to the new people because some of the older people, that's been around here, won't vote for him."
Lingering citation questions
Despite his assertions to the opposite, in the last five years, White and the various housing companies he owns, have received more citations (19) for violations of the county's ENS ordinance than any other company. The companies that come closest to him in terms of violations have nine.
White has estimated that in his lifetime he has built 750 homes in Newton County.
In July 2006, White was issued a letter from the Newton County Planning and Development Department stating that in the last three years he had received 17 citations for violations of ENS ordinance. In accordance with the ordinance, sanctions were placed on him, which included the planning department's right to require the posting of bond, up to $3,000 per acre, prior to the issuance of a building permit.
Since receiving that letter, White's Orchard Park development has been cited twice for "failure of best management practices, thus allowing silt to enter state waters," in violation of ENS ordinance. The most recent citation was issued in November 2006.
Each citation came with a $1,500 fine. Neither one of those fines has yet to be paid, according to Renea Strickland, deputy clerk of the county's Magistrate Court.
"This is exactly the way he operates," said Kathy Morgan, one of White's Democratic opponents. "He does one thing and he does the least amount."
White refused to answer questions about the specific citations and how they reflected on his ability to lead the county saying, "I am probably the most conscientious soil and erosion person there is."
He went on to accuse his political opponents of a "setup."
"I'll sue them along with the whole crowed if they put me in an attitude that I have the most citations," White said.