Ethics Complaint Filed Against Guyton City Councilman for Soliciting Money for Endorsement

An ethics complaint was filed against a Guyton city councilman and is now before the city’s ethics committee for consideration.

At issue is the political endorsement and receipt of funds for support of a candidate for Tax Commissioner by Guyton City Councilman Theodore Hamby. 

TheGeorgiaVirtue.com filed an Open Records Request with the City of Guyton last week after learning that the complaint had been filed. Included with the six-page notarized complaint was an audio recording of a phone call, a host of text messages and Facebook messages, and photographs taken over the last several weeks.

Basis of the Ethics Complaint

The complaint was filed by Nick Hitt, campaign manager for Kelly Hoffner, and names two individuals – Councilman Theodore Hamby and Huber “Tommy” Morgan, who he said he routinely saw together at various events. Hitt alleges that the two have been working together to impact the outcome of the election.

The complaint itself is with the City of Guyton regarding Hamby in his official capacity, contending that Hamby blurs the line between his political venture with Hamby Political Group LLC, incorporated in September 2022 according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, and his official capacity as a Guyton city official.

The formal complaint alleges that Hamby:

  • solicited both Kelly Hoffner and Daniel Rodewolt for money for his business in exchange for his endorsement as a Guyton city councilman. 
  • endorsed Kelly Hoffner in her campaign for Tax Commissioner, sought publication of the endorsement, and wanted to ensure that the endorsement was made in his official capacity as ‘Guyton City Councilman Theodore Hamby’ which he rescinded upon receiving additional funds from her opponent.

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Timeline

The following are allegations as outlined in the complaint and supporting documentation filed with the City of Guyton’s Ethics Committee. 

March 12 – Hamby reaches out to Hoffner campaign about making an endorsement.

March 26 – Hamby publicly endorses Hoffner. The endorsement is made from his official city council page.

March 28 – Hamby says in a message that he cannot endorse because of his ‘position with the Effingham County GOP,’ but he would remain available to ‘provide any guidance or assistance you may require for the campaign.’

May 21 – Hamby again sought funds from Hoffner’s campaign as she was one of two candidates to make the runoff slated for June 18. 

May 22 – Hamby contacted Hitt about an agreement and a contract of $200 for his work and a $600 signing bonus should Hoffner win. Also negotiated was reimbursement for fuel. No formal agreement was signed, but it was a ‘handshake deal.’

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May 24 – Hamby contacts Hitt asking for additional funds, citing a $6,000 value added to the campaign for his work. 

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May 26 – Hamby contacts Hitt to explain that he would be back backing Rodewolt, who signed a contract and offered him additional money, going forward. On a recorded call, Hamby told Hitt he was paid $625 up front and would be paid $625 in a win bonus if Rodewolt prevails.

On the GOP matter

According to the rules outlined by the Georgia Republican Party, endorsements are permitted, just not in an official capacity as a party officer, like Treasurer. So Theodore Hamby can endorse and Councilman Theodore Hamby can endorse, but Treasurer Theodore Hamby of the Effingham County Republican Party cannot.

Hamby has contended that the GOP “can’t really stop [him] from doing what [he’s]I’m doing as far as [his] livelihood.”

Denial of Allegations

Hamby denied the allegations to the Effingham Herald, who quoted Hamby’s email to them Monday.

“I categorically deny all the false claims brought against me in this ethics complaint. I have always conducted myself on being the most transparent councilman. I eagerly await the conclusion of this matter so that I can continue focusing on the work the citizens of Guyton elected me to do.”

Recorded Phone Calls

In the first phone call, Hitt tells Hamby what he has done is unethical and that’s disappointed in him.
“I have a whole town disappointed with me,” Hamby replied.

Hitt: If you don’t see as a politician that you’re a Guyton city councilman and you’re doing this behind closed doors, and you don’t see a problem with ethics, that’s a problem.”
Hamby: “There’s no ethical violation in that.” He went on to explain that it wasn’t unethical because the agreement with Hitt and Hamby was a handshake and not a signed contract.
Hitt: “You’re extorting two different candidates. If you call one candidate and say I’ll do this for you for this amount of money and you turn around and run to the other candidate and get m ore money out of that person, and you’re an elected official, that’s extortion.”

In the second phone call, a number of statements were made by Hamby:

  • “I want you to know that I’m really sorry for doing what I did, I really am.”
  • “That’s not the way I want to operate my business at all. I truly am sorry. I shouldn’t have done you the way that I did.”

Hamby then tells Hitt that even while working for Rodewolt, he “won’t do anything to affect Kelly.”

  • “In hindsight, would I have done it again? I’ll be honest with you, the pressure that I’m getting from city council, it’s just…I have not been myself this past week…There’s no law saying I can’t do this and I thought I made that clear to you, but yeah, there’s no law saying I can’t. Otherwise, every person that owns a construction business, they wouldn’t be able to run for county commissioner because of all the development is benefiting them. But I do want you to know, I’m not doing this to hurt you guys… I know it’s kind of hard to take my word now, but…”
  • “In hindsight, would I have done it again? No. I’m still learning. I don’t like the way, personally, that I’m handling things. When I have a problem with it… I’m a bit disgusted with myself, but I can’t change anything right now because Daniel signed a contract.”
  • “But I am disgusted with myself. It wasn’t unethical, but it wasn’t right.”
  • “What I did was not right.”

At the end of the phone call, Hamby tells Hitt he will be paid a combined $1,250 by the Rodewolt campaign, with $625 of that coming if Rodewolt wins.

“So you compromised your integrity for a couple hundred bucks?” Hitt asked?
“Yeah,” Hamby replied.

Alliance With Another Political Consulting Group

Tommy Morgan, who is referenced in Hitt’s complaint, is also co-owner of the political consulting group Morgan and Norris LLC, which was incorporated on May 8, 2024. Morgan also served as a poll watcher during the May 21st Effingham County primary election, which has historically been a prohibited practice for those in the political consulting realm. A complaint was filed with the Effingham County Board of Elections last Thursday, May 30, and remains under investigation. 

Next Steps 

The Ethics Committee has seven days to investigate the incident on its face and decide if it is unjustified, frivolous, unfounded, or fails to state facts that rise to level of discipline. If the complaint is not dismissed, an additional sixty days are allotted to collect evidence and hold a hearing.

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Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and co-creator of of the Peabody Award-nominated podcast 'Prison Town.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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