In recent years, Cherokee County politics has begun to get a reputation statewide as some of the nastiest around. The local Republican Party has become a battleground for a number of issues that plague national politics as well.
One of the common denominators of the local political equation has been Trim, so it is perhaps poetic justice that he has been sentenced to life without politics for the next 10 years.
Trim, along with Marlow, a school board member he helped get elected in his role as political consultant and Knowles, the secretary of the Cherokee GOP, were sentenced Thursday to 10 years on probation, thousands of dollars in fines and 60 days to serve in jail.
They were also told by the judge that for the next 10 years they could not have involvement in politics as part of their sentence.
Their crime was to falsely accuse Cherokee School Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo of trying to run them down with his vehicle as they walked into a local tavern after a heated school board meeting.
As convicted felons they can no longer vote, purchase alcohol or own a gun. They can also no longer come within 500 feet of the school superintendent or attend a school board meeting, under terms of their sentencing.
Some think the trio received too stiff a punishment, but many, many more have expressed opinion that they got off too lightly. If the tavern had not had a security camera in play on the street outside, their tale of what happened would have been hard to repudiate.
That could have meant that a good educator’s career was destroyed and forever tarnished by what has now turned out to be nothing but a tall tale on the part of a man who has for years been a destructive force on the political scene.
Perhaps one of the lessons to be learned here is to make sure Trim does not resurface in local politics.
Trim has worked for a number of candidates who have been discredited, among them Charles Robertson, who was removed from his office of Magistrate Judge; Derek Good, who dropped out of the commission race in his re-election bid when information surfaced that he lied about his military record; and Chip Rogers, who resigned after being re-elected to the state Senate amid a swirl of controversy about his past.
The Tribune wrote in an editorial at the time that Good dropped out calling him out for getting Robert Trim to be his spokesperson.
“Instead of personally taking responsibility for the repeated lies about serving as a U.S. Army Ranger, Good turned to a “spokesman,” who is synonymous in this community with unethical politicians.
Trim, a political consultant who was arrested in 2002 for illegal campaigning — and given a preposterous “sentence” of creating campaign law brochures, as proposed by former Solicitor General Channing Ruskell, also a past client— has been connected to nearly every fall from grace in town from check bouncers to tax evaders to flat-out lying crooks.
A spin doctor, Trim’s story is “a ridiculous folly,” the Tribune editorialized in 2010.
Those words still hold true today.
Then there was Trim’s ex-wife Nicole Eberskotte, who the political consultant helped challenge Sheriff Roger Garrison for his job, and who he married and later divorced.
Now the latest is Kelly Marlow. In a case fraught with drama, the last scene in the courtroom Thursday included the revelation that Trim and Marlow are engaged to be married.
Trim, in letters to the editor of the Tribune, in 2006 called Petruzielo a whiner, and in 2004 called the voters themselves whiners.
“Quite frankly the problem with politics/government is the same as education. We have parents/voters who can’t be bothered to skip Starbucks one day to go vote but always have time to complain. Get over it and go vote” Trim advised.
The lesson Trim and the candidates he represented should have learned was stated in the editorial in the Tribune in 2010.
“And know this: If you want the public’s trust, if you want its respect, if you want its votes, then don’t tell lies or play games with the truth.”
The lesson the community can learn is that it is just as important to see who is supporting a candidate as to examine the candidate.
The good news is that the Cherokee County School Board can get back to the job of educating students and providing what is unquestionably one of the best educations available in the state of Georgia for public school students.
We have a school system of which to be proud, and we should not allow anyone to take that away from us. That lesson is clear.
Rebecca Johnston is editor of The Cherokee Tribune.