Gov. Brian Kemp has signed an executive order suspending embattled 4th District Augusta Commissioner Sammie Sias from office.
The move comes after Sias was indicted on counts involving lying to the FBI and destroying evidence.
The governor’s office expects a replacement to be named soon. According to Augusta Elections Board Director Lynn Bailey, whoever is chosen as a replacement will serve until the next election.
The indictment alleges that on or about Aug. 5, 2019, Sias “did knowingly alter, destroy, mutilate, conceal, and coverup records, documents and other objects, to wit, digital files belonging to Sandridge Community Association (SCA), which included invoices, spreadsheets, work orders, payments, agendas, minutes, financial reports and other documentation of Jamestown Community Center (Jamestown), Jamestown Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), SCA Board of Directors, SCA Summer Camp, with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation and proper administration of a federal criminal grand jury investigation.”
The second count of the indictment alleges that on or about Aug. 9, 2019, Sias “did willfully and knowingly make a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement and representation in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, an agency of the United States,” when Sias told an FBI special agent that he had provided all electronic and paper files in his possession related to the investigation.
Sias’ legal troubles began after his former lover and employee of the Jamestown Community Center, Willa Hilton, wrote a letter to the Augusta claiming Sias misused SPLOST funds and claimed Sias drank alcohol on the premises, viewed porn on city owned computers, installed a blow-up mattress in the center and abused the children attending functions at the center.
The Augusta Commission passed along the letter to the GBI, which, in turn, contacted the FBI to conduct a joint investigation.
In August 2019, FBI and GBI agents raided Sias’ Sandridge home and carted away computers and other records.
Sias has acknowledged the affair with Hilton, who is also his next door neighbor, but denied any financial malfeasance.
According to Barry Paschal, spokesman for Acting U.S. Attorney David Estes for the Southern District of Georgia, the charges against Sias carry a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Sias is the first Augusta commissioner to be charged with a felony crime since the city and county consolidated in 1996.