A Tale of Two Sheriffs, Part 2: Ex-Bleckley sheriff candidate says opponent, current sheriff had 'people in power' protecting him
In 2016, Bleckley County voters thought they had the choice between a former trooper with a clean record and a fired deputy facing criminal charges for sheriff.
'Defaming my name to put doubt in voters’ minds, and it did just that':
Bleckley County voters thought they had two options for sheriff in 2016--a veteran law enforcement officer with a clean record, Kris Coody, and one accused of violating his oath, Johnny Blash.
Records show that Kris Coody had a past that state authorities agreed not to release, according to a settlement agreement.
The records show both candidates for Bleckley County Sheriff in 2016 were fired from their previous jobs.
But only one of those firings was public during the campaign.
Kris Coody was allowed to keep his record sealed according to the settlement. The state accidentally released six pages of Kris Coody's files in an open records request..
Blash says he ran for Bleckley County Sheriff twice because he wanted to give back to his hometown.
“I focus on person-by-person -- each person that I've met, I wanted to help the person see me for who I was,” Blash said.
He says he knew it would be an uphill battle to win in 2016. He was a Democrat running in a conservative county.
“I wanted them to know that regardless of party affiliation, I’m here for integrity," Blash said. "I’m here to bring the change that you people are telling me that you need.'
A Tale of Two Sheriffs, Parts 1 and 2
But he had two felony charges on his back and the reputation of being fired from his last job.
“I was given the choice to resign, but I knew that if I resigned, I had no recourse. I couldn't fight back,” Blash said.
But Blash wasn't the only candidate who'd been fired.
Kris Coody's personnel file looks nearly squeaky clean: It lists promotions, lists of completed training, and good performance reviews.
It says he voluntarily resigned from the Georgia State Patrol after 19 years.
But we learned some records of his file were not subject to public release.
The state says they accidentally sent us those sealed documents. They wanted them back. We said no.
So, what's so important in these documents?
Essentially, the state agreed to censor Coody's personnel file, based on a settlement agreement. Nowhere on his file would it say "terminated” or show adverse action from the Georgia State Patrol.
That’s why if you look at his POST file, it says Coody voluntarily resigned on June 15, 2007.
Other documents we obtained show Coody was terminated with cause after a state-patrol internal-affairs investigation.
It was launched in January 2007.
According to the files, Coody left the scene of an investigation. He and his girlfriend got into a domestic dispute at her home in Cochran.
The report described a "pushing and shoving match." Coody's 12-year-old son witnessed it and called 911.
According to the report, Coody left the home and took his son with him.
Then, the records say Coody refused to cooperate with investigators. Cochran's Police Chief said Coody refused to answer "100 calls." Cochran Police told the state that Coody also tried to question their jurisdiction by saying the house was in Bleckley County's jurisdiction. Cochran Police said they believe Coody was trying to influence the investigation by trying to bring Bleckley County in, based on records from the internal affairs investigation.
Coody also never reported the Cochran investigation to his Georgia State Patrol supervisor.
The final state report said Coody "obstructed the investigation."
But that wasn't all.
During that investigation, Georgia State Patrol got another complaint about Coody.
A driver witnessed a “12-year-old girl" driving his patrol car on the highway with Coody's brother in the passenger seat. Coody admitted that he allowed others to drive his patrol car, including the girl.
Documents say Coody was terminated for misconduct.
But on his POST file, it doesn’t state "terminated," "resigned under investigation," or "resigned in lieu of termination."
It simply states "voluntarily resigned."
Then in 2016, Coody won the Bleckley County Sheriff seat with 77 percent of the vote.
Blash got 22 percent with two felony counts on his back.
“A lot more people perhaps would have voted for me had not these charges been put on me and placed on me with a purpose. You know, defaming me, defaming my name to put doubt in voters’ minds, and it did just that,” Blash said.
Blash says he has no "ill will" toward Coody.
He says Coody won the sheriff's race by being in the right place at the right time. Blash says Coody had people in power protecting his career.
Coody is facing a sexual-battery charge in Cobb County after allegedly groping a popular TV judge last year. It allegedly happened in a hotel bar after a state sheriffs' association meeting.
The Cobb County Solicitor's Office says Coody is set to be back in court June 22.
Then, he'll have the option to resolve the case or set a trial date.
Coody last year apologized for his behavior, and he remains on the job.
We reached out to Coody for comment on this story. He did not respond.