(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Augusta Press.)
Being the mayor of Augusta was a tough undertaking for Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. It nearly cost him everything.
Davis is leaving office with his personal life in shambles amidst a bitter divorce, state ethics investigation and multiple lawsuits pending.
After campaigning on “One Augusta,” he leaves the city divided. Currently, the city is dealing with the threat of secession from the residents of Summerville, soaring crime, rising taxes, crumbling infrastructure and a strong public distrust of local government’s ability to manage taxpayer funds.
Because I’m writing in place of Sylvia Cooper who is out sick this week, I spent some time reflecting on what I believe it cost Davis to be mayor. Going through all the information, I must admit I actually feel a little sorry for him even though his troubles are his own creation. Davis would have been better off staying in the state legislature or working as a lobbyist because being mayor was just too big of a job for him.
Being mayor cost King Hardie his integrity, his reputation, his wife, his personal finances, his home and his political future.
I would include a moral compass in the list of things Davis lost after taking the oath of office, but based on his entire tenure as mayor maybe he never had one.
His Finances: As mayor, Davis was to be a trusted steward of taxpayer funds. Instead, he used them to ingratiate himself at every corner. Despite the city paying for Davis’ lunches, video equipment, haircuts and vehicle, he leaves office in a dire financial situation personally.
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Davis’ divorce lawyer made the mistake of including an online link to the mayor’s personal financial info in an email that was later made part of the public record as part of the divorce proceedings. Because the link was not deactivated, anybody could go and view everything in the dropbox folder as the records were no longer private records but in the public domain.
Later, a social media post linked to the folder that contained Davis’ personal financial records. The link was quickly deactivated, but the records were out in the public and shared by others.
Tax returns, credit card statements and investment account info were all made public. A Review of those financial records show that Davis’ personal spending habits reflect the same ethos as his credit card spending while mayor.
What is clear from the records is that Davis will have to get a job when he leaves office. After his $20,000 in credit card debt, he has a net worth of approximately $6,000 to $7,000 before any equity he may have in any real estate holdings. After the divorce is complete, that number is likely to be much lower.
His wife: It did not come as a surprise to most that a divorce proceeding was filed between the Davis’s. Mayor Davis’s former consultant who has been alleged as his mistress has been a source of investigation by The Augusta Press for nearly two years. That investigation led to the public learning that the city had paid Carla Smith thousands of dollars of city funds while Davis was mayor.
To add injury to insult, Davis booted his wife from the church that they were co-pastoring and had her barred from entering the building. On Dec. 11, someone even changed the church’s profile picture on its Facebook page to an image of Carla Smith. Davis’s son commented on the post “baby y she look like dat.” The post was quickly removed and picture taken down.
Needless to say, any ethics Davis had as a minister has experienced a Chernobyl size meltdown.
His home: Davis purchased a home in 2015 located at 214 Barfield Court for $324,999. Zillow.com estimates the home to be worth $436,600. Davis refinanced the house in late 2021 for just under $300,000, indicating he has roughly $136k in equity in the home.
In a very public encounter, Mayor Davis used the Richmond County Marshall’s Office as an escort at the home while he removed personal belongings and his soon to be ex-wife watched. Whether the large law enforcement presence at the Davis residence was to intimidate his wife, protect the mayor or just keep the peace is unclear. What was clear is the large number of marshals present were not needed for him to remove his personal belongings.
His reputation: Just because Davis leaves office does not mean his legal troubles will end. Currently, the mayor has an outstanding state ethics investigation. In addition, Davis has two lawsuits pending related to his failure to produce records under the Open Records Act. So much for his campaign on openness and transparency.
The first of those lawsuits was ruled on against Davis with a civil penalty of $1,000 for refusing to provide the documents. Davis has since appealed the ruling, thus racking up an even larger legal bill he clearly doesn’t have the money to pay.
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Not to worry though the taxpayers of Richmond County will continue to bail Davis out of his legal bills. To date the taxpayers of Augusta-Richmond County have had to foot the bill for the lawsuit despite the suit involving Davis political campaign.
The second lawsuit is related to the Mayor’s Masters Reception, Inc., and Davis’ refusal to produce documents. The non-profit puts on an annual event during Master’s Week and has in previous years used substantial city resources in addition to the $15,000 in direct city funds form the city coffers. This case in ongoing.
If you are reading this column, more than likely you helped pay the legal bill for this lawsuit also since the city just wrote a check for over $22,000 to Davis’ lawyer.
His Political Future: I would like to say that in the future, Davis will just be a footnote in Augusta’s history. However, he has made it clear that he plans to stay a fly in Augusta proverbial ointment. Davis has told many political leaders in the area that he plans to take a year or two to restore his reputation and get his life in order so that he can run for governor.
Don’t fear The Augusta Press will keep its eyes open even after Davis leaves office. The file will stay open on senior reporter Scott Hudson’s desk.
Lastly, despite the blatant moral failures and disregard for fiscal responsibility, Davis felt the need to send a letter to all Augustans outlining his achievements. That letter cost over $8,000, and enough copies were made that every citizen of the county could have one according to the marketing company that produced it. A copy of that letter is below.
Joe Edge is the publisher of The Augusta Press. Reach him at email@example.com
What a worthless POS he was and good riddance. But no doubt he could run tomorrow and win because of Richmond County voters mentality. We have a lot of potential. We have replaced a sorry Mayor but crime fighting is still in a pathetic state. But never underestimate the Augusta voters ability to pick a loser
He would be re-elected as Mr. Stephens stated. The reason this is so is because there is a difference between the voters and the people paying the bills. They ain’t the same.
Your comment on feeling a little sorry for him is hopefully in jest. The only ones who anyone should feel sorry for are the citizens of Augusta. He’s cost the taxpayers thousands in attorney fees and bad spending habits amongst other things. I pray our new Mayor and especially the Commissioners will turn things around from Davis’ terms.
Hardie Davis was an abject failure but I disagree with Mr. Edge’s early comment. The position of mayor did not cost Davis his integrity, wife, personal finances, home, and political future. Davis scored a zero in all categories and this was not caused by the position of mayor. The position was like a bright yellow hi-lighter used when reading a book. It made his failures in all areas easier to see and read.
Davis displays no shame or humility. He trods heavily on the suffering of slaves and those in the Civil Rights movement.
I hope Mrs. Davis finds a new path in her life and overcomes all the agony and deceit that has been thrown her way.
Governor??? He has got to be kidding!!!
Hardee Davis Govenor of Ga.!Please say it ain’t so! Enough of this money grubbing, lying, Pastor. Now he’s gonna teach our up and coming at Aug Tech. what a farce. Teaching young people to lie, and put money in their pockets. AT should be ashamed. Investigate this man and prosecute to the fullest!
It’s no secret I never wanted him to be mayor. Mostly my issues with him were political, but how a lying, adulterer can lead a church, and that parishioners actually listen to him, is beyond me. Jetting off to Qatar, acting as if he were some big-time expert on something, mugging at every chance he could get when he visited the White House. HIs sneakiness with the Regency Mall/Arena deals with the developers/architects in Atlanta…which I called him on and he lied to my face. I even have a Commissioner that witnessed that. Good riddance. I find great irony in the fact that his first campaign opponent, who his campaign smeared because of her personal financial situation at the time, has now built a very successful business of her own, while he clearly has dug himself into a financial hole. Good riddance. YOu will never be governor.
I’m glad the investigations are continuing!
Hardie better turn over those receipts!
OMG!He has 0 chance of ever becoming governor of Georgia!His arrogance is only exceeded by his stupidity!Oh and what happened to that ethics job at Georgia Tech?I knew that would never happen.
A lot of these so called Pastors are preaching politics at their church. This is supposed be against the law yet no one will do anything about it. And the minority community keeps electing them.
I disagree with your headline…being Hardie Davis is what cost Hardie Davis..he thinks he is above all of you peons and the rules don’t apply to him..I cannot fathom what church would want a man like him preaching the gospel of a life he hasn’t lived in awhile..good riddance and I hope he loses everything he has..he certainly deserves to be publicly shamed and ostracized! He’s earned that..now where are those receipts?
You forgot another lawsuit naming him in the illegal attempt to desecrate the Jefferson Davis memorial bridge.
What kind of church allows its pastor to bar a member from entering his/her church? In supporting Davis and not his wife, the congregation proved they are his sheep and he is fleecing them. He probably told the congregation his name must be on the church deed for insurance and liability reasons. Skimming the congregation’s donations may well be how Davis survives the impending financial crisis. They should have their books independently audited. When will he be indicted, arraigned, and tried like Sammie Sias?
Where is Brad Owens when you need him ? We can make a movie out of the last 8 years of our local Government. You can’t make this stuff up. The script is already written. From the Mayor’s Office and the Pulpit straight to the Outhouse !
The position of mayor was not Hardy’s undoing, the position brought to the forefront his poor moral character. Hopefully the investigation’s continue and the taxpayer’s will see some restitution. The commission let Hardy get away with to much during his tenure – poor stewards of the taxpayer’s money.
Mr. Davis isn’t the problem, he is a symptom.
He should be in jail for everything he stole from taxpayers,
Governor? You have got to be kidding.
I confess to being a Davis supporter in his initial bid and second run for Mayor. In him I saw an opportunity for racial harmony, heard his ideas for unification and bought into the rhetoric of “One Augusta”.
I faced scorn for doing so in his re-election bid. Lost friends, made enemies by supporting Hardie. In my raising I was taught to pick a direction and stick to it. The warning signs were there then, just not as obvious as they are today.
Watching a person self destruct is difficult, much more so when you know them. I don’t know if it is ego, delusions of granduer, or what happens in the mind of someone who has power thrust upon them through circumstance and horribly mis-manages or mis-judges the extent of such.
I have developed a theory over my years being the personal qualities that rise one to a pinnacle of success in any arena often become the very qualities which bring them down.
But watching this slow drawn tragedy reminds me of the frailty of man, the quickness in which we can fall from the Penthouse to the $h1thouse.
So, did the Mayorship cost him all of these things? Did becoming Mayor create these character flaws?
Or were they latently there and fueled by power? We have seen similar examples in Law Enforcement Chief Executives in local Counties.
Is Character and Integrity such a fragile trait as to be twisted by events? Or was the twig bent, and so grew the tree?
I am hopeful that the new Mayor and Commissioners hold Hardie Davis accountable to make sure that the Davis fiasco never happens again, as our City infrastructure continues to crumble around us, among other chronic problems that have gone unaddressed as the former mayor and commission turned a blind eye.
Seems there is no end to the gall and arrogance of Davis, and his continued grab into taxpayers pockets.
Let’s not let anyone forget this mayor’s failure as a public servant and an embarrassment to our City. Let’s make sure this man never serves in office again – in Georgia or anywhere!
Wasn’t Charles Walker elected while under federal incitement? He has served his time and is back for more and the people of Augusta and Richmond county are right there willing to let him have another go. I am not in favor of forever banning someone because of (what were hopefully) mistakes they made in the past but maybe not put them right back with the cookie jar they originally stole from?? If people continue to vote based on color or party, regardless of the integrity or worthiness of the person, this endless cycle will continue. I am sure there are people that would still vote for Mr. Davis today despite his very public and obvious failings as our mayor, simply because he is their pastor, friend, colleague, etc and would rather have him than whoever the other person is simply to be loyal to him or the democratic party.