Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Camden Sheriff Questions; DONATIONS Smith Made Two More Donations, for $12,400, from Seized Drug Money. WHERE He Wrote Two Checks to a Spinal Clinic Fund on the Same Day in 2003

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Camden Sheriff Questions; DONATIONS Smith Made Two More Donations, for $12,400, from Seized Drug Money. WHERE He Wrote Two Checks to a Spinal Clinic Fund on the Same Day in 2003

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

KINGSLAND -- An audit of confiscated drug money expenditures in 2006 questioned Camden County Sheriff Bill Smith's $5,000 donation to a nonprofit spinal cord center in Atlanta.

Now, two earlier donations Smith made to the Shepherd Center are being questioned by elected officials.

County records provided to the Times-Union under the Georgia Open Records Act show Smith made two donations from the confiscated drug money account on May 7, 2003, to the spinal clinic totaling $12,400.

Lt. William Terrell, a Sheriff's Office spokesman, said he and Smith cannot comment about the donations because of an ongoing investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Larry Bowie, a spokesman for the Shepherd Center, said Smith donated a $10,000 check and a $2,400 check to the spinal clinic's family housing fund. The housing fund allows family members of patients to stay free in accommodations near the Shepherd Center during treatment.

Smith's paralyzed son, Blake Smith, has been treated at the Shepherd Center, Bowie said, but none of the drug money was used to pay for medical expenses. Bowie could not explain why Smith wrote two checks to the center on the same day and for the same purpose.

Commissioner Katherine Zell questioned if the donation was legal under federal guidelines and whether the money could have been spent in other ways to benefit Camden County residents.

"Without a doubt, we need to look at this carefully," she said.

Commission Chairman Preston Rhodes said he was still trying to determine whether Smith used some of the drug money for purposes not authorized by federal law. The money is returned by federal authorities to counties where cash seizures are made and is intended for law enforcement purposes such as investigations and equipment.

Rhodes said it would be "inappropriate" for him to comment about the way the sheriff spends the money until all the facts are known. …

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