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Peter Biello: Welcome to the Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Thursday, April 11. I'm Peter Biello. On today's episode, a prosecutor has been named to investigate Lt. Gov. Burt Jones's possible role in the Georgia election interference case. Georgia peach farmers are looking to have a better yield this year; and an online petition is encouraging the Atlanta Braves to put a 67-year-old Savannah resident on the roster. These stories and more are coming up on this edition of Georgia Today.

Burt Jones

Burt Jones

Credit: Riley Bunch / GPB News

Story 1:

Peter Biello: A prosecutor has been named to investigate Lt. Gov. Burt Jones's role in interfering with the results of Georgia's 2020 presidential election. GPB's Sarah Kallis has the latest.

Sarah Kallis: Peter Skandalakis, the executive director of the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys Council, has named himself to lead the investigation against Jones. Jones is under investigation for his alleged role in the efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis says he is not surprised that Scandal Office has appointed himself for the job. But the news is not equivalent to an indictment.

Anthony Michael Kreis: You know, this is really, really still in the investigation phase and it will be entirely up to ... his discretion as to whether to pursue these charges or not or to pursue any charges.

Sarah Kallis: Former President Donald Trump and others have already been indicted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, but she was disqualified from investigating Jones after holding a fundraiser for his Democratic opponent. Jones says he is happy to see the process moving forward. For GPB News, I'm Sarah Kallis.


Story 2:

Peter Biello: The Georgia Democratic Party is highlighting a U.S. Senate-led audit that alleges the Georgia Department of Human Resources did not properly advertise the bidding process to vendors for a cash assistance program in 2022. Georgia state law requires that state projects costing over $100,000 must be publicly advertised. The audit found that instead, vendors were hand-picked by state officials, and the solicitation process, which normally takes months, took four days. Sen. Nan Orrock says the allegations could cost taxpayers.

Nan Orrock: These transparency and oversight laws ensure Georgia taxpayers get the best possible deal, the best rate, the most qualified vendors and the best value for spending our tax dollars.

Peter Biello: Some recipients of the Cash Assistance Program had difficulty accessing the funds.


Story 3:

Peter Biello: Sen. Jon Ossoff's subcommittee investigation into Georgia's foster care system released a report of its findings showing systemic failures. The report finds that 2,000 foster children went missing and hundreds were sex trafficked while in the care of Georgia's Division of Family and Children's Services, or DFCS. It also claims the foster care system fails to meet children's physical and mental health needs, and that the Georgia Division of Family and Children's Services did not follow their own protocol for administering psychotropic drugs to children in their care. Ossoff chaired the subcommittee, which began its investigation in October.

Jon Ossoff: This is about human beings. This is about vulnerable children who deserve protection from abuse, who deserve sanctuary from neglect.

Peter Biello: DFCS pushed back against the report, saying the division was, quote, "misrepresented."

Story 4:

Peter Biello: After a devastating year last year, Georgia peach farmers are seeing signs of hope for a better harvest this year. Last year, a late winter freeze damaged peaches across the South, causing a $60 million loss to Georgia's peach industry. That's according to the UGA Cooperative Extension, which says this year's conditions have been much better and no freezing temperatures are expected going forward. Still, experts say peach farmers are advised to diversify their orchards and grow varieties that can handle some freeze damage.


Story 5:

Peter Biello: The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency have filed a civil lawsuit against a Savannah-based oil distributor, alleging the company violated federal law over a seven-year period. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Benjamin Payne: Under the Clean Air Act, oil distributors are required to offset a share of their volumes by helping subsidize relatively cleaner fuels like ethanol. But the lawsuit brought by the EPA on Wednesday alleges Savannah-based Colonial Oil Industries Incorporated undercounted its oil volumes by some 100 million gallons of diesel between 2013 and 2019. Headquartered next to the Port of Savannah, Colonial Oil produces, imports and exports fuel throughout the eastern U.S.. The company did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. But Colonial Oil did sign on to a proposed settlement with the EPA and DOJ. If approved by a federal judge, the company would pay about a $3 million fine and spend another $12 million to help offset the environmental damage it allegedly caused. The settlement could not be finalized until after a 30-day public comment period. For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.


Story 6:

Peter Biello: Gov. Brian Kemp has suspended a South Georgia mayor who was indicted on charges that he stole nearly $65,000 from his town. Pine View Mayor Brandon Holt was arrested in January and indicted in March and charged with 75 counts of theft by taking. The GBI says he took money from the town's bank account between June and October of last year. He's currently out on bail. His lawyer hasn't immediately commented on the suspension.


Story 7:

Peter Biello: Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has signed on to a lawsuit filed against President Biden's student loan debt relief plan. Several Republican-led states are suing to block the Biden administration's efforts. The lawsuit follows a similar legal challenge that resulted in a Supreme Court ruling against the administration's first attempt at student debt relief. The administration announced several new relief plans on Monday that would help more than 30 million borrowers. In a statement, Carr called the policy election-year politics and claimed the Biden plan brazenly violates the law.


Story 8:

Peter Biello: For the last half-century, tens of thousands of incoming freshmen at the University of Georgia have lived in dormitories on Baxter Street in what was once the Black community of Linnentown. A new musical about how Linnentown residents were forced from their homes to make way for the university opens tomorrow in Athens. GPB's Chase McGee has more.

Chase McGee: Linnentown: The Musical tells its story through one family, the Thomases.

Savonte Wilson: Man, this was such a beautiful community until all the urban renewal stuff happened. It just kind of hits home.

Chase McGee: Savonte Wilson plays the family patriarch, Abe Thomas Sr. Wilson says Abe fought for his family's home through the federally supported effort to displace Black families. The role inspires him as he thinks about his own future.

Savonte Wilson: What happened to this family? Just thinking of what would that look like for me? For somebody who wants to be a future dad, to provide for my wife and my children and my family. So me playing this role was very sentimental and emotional.

Chase McGee: The play follows the story as told by Abe's daughter, Hattie Thomas Whitehead, in her book Giving Voice to Linnentown. Tracey Brown plays Whitehead's mother.

Tracey Brown: I feel like this community is a beautiful display of what life actually should be like and could be like, those beautiful possibilities when everybody is vested in each other within their community.

Chase McGee: Linnentown: The Musical will play in the Classic Center in Athens through the weekend. For GPB News in Athens, I'm Chase McGee.


Story 9:

Peter Biello: Two Georgia Republicans are headed to a May 7 runoff in a special election to replace state Rep. Richard Smith of Columbus, who died in January while ill with the flu. The Georgia Secretary of State says Sean Knox and Carmen Rice will face off for the remainder of Smith's term. House District 139 covers parts of Muskogee and Harris counties.

Story 10:

Peter Biello: Major League Baseball players can make a lot of money, but many players, if they make it, only spend a few days in the big leagues and never get a chance to sign that "set for life" contract. 67-year-old Gary Cooper is one of those players. The Savannah native spent 42 days on the Atlanta Braves roster in 1980: one day short of qualifying for an MLB pension. Now, a petition is asking the Braves to put him on the roster for one more day so he can qualify. Cooper was playing with the Savannah Braves in 1980 when he got the call he'd been dreaming of. His coach took him out of the lineup in a game against Jacksonville. "Pack up," his coach said, "because the Braves need you in Pittsburgh."

Gary Cooper: I was so excited when I got there I ended up in the wrong locker room. From then on, it's been a real wonderful ride.

Peter Biello: That wonderful ride lasted 21 games, two plate appearances and a couple of stolen bases. But he was on the roster for 42 days, just one shy to be eligible for baseball's minimum pension. That 43rd game was canceled because of rain. Cooper started the next season with the minor league Durham Bulls.

Gary Cooper: You know, I went from top to bottom real quick and it — it just blew my mind.

Peter Biello: He hung up his cleats at the end of that season without ever rejoining the Braves. And then when he applied for a pension, he got disappointing news.

Gary Cooper: And they all reached back to me and said, I didn't have enough days.

Peter Biello: When he left baseball — his only specialized skill — he floated from job to job. Sometimes he had a place to live, but occasionally he was unsheltered. He's currently living with his niece and working for a landscaping company owned by Robert Jonas.

Robert Jonas: I think Gary's situation is kind of falling through the cracks and kind of just lost and forgotten type situation.

Peter Biello: Jonas employed Cooper for years before learning he'd played pro ball. One day, they discussed his pension woes while headed to a job on Tybee Island.

Robert Jonas: And you could see that it was weighing on him pretty heavy. And I told Gary, I said, "Gary, I'll help you out any way possible."

Peter Biello: Jonas connected Cooper with an attorney who petitioned MLB to make an exception to the 43-day rule. Give him the pension, the lawyer argued, because he's not short by much. Plus, there was a rainout, which should have counted. Denied. The lawyer appealed. Denied again.

Robert Jonas: You know, the clock's ticking. Even though Gary's in phenomenal shape, what's five years from now going to bring to Gary?

Peter Biello: The last option, as they see it, is for Gary Cooper's former team, the Atlanta Braves, to add him to the roster for one day.

Robert Jonas: It's been done before. It's in the history books. It can be done again.

Peter Biello: In 1968, the Braves signed pitcher Satchel Paige to help him get his pension. He was in his early 60s at the time and served as a coach. Jonas says why not do the same for Gary Cooper, who says he could be an outfield coach?

Gary Cooper: I ain't got the speed like I used to, but — but everything else is in order.

Peter Biello: The Braves did not respond to a request for comment on Cooper's bid for another day in uniform, and it's not clear how much his pension would be, though, estimates put it somewhere around 550 bucks a month. Cooper says anything would be outstanding.

Gary Cooper: Whatever you give me, I accept it because it's been so long, you know? So anything will help.

Peter Biello: Cooper says he could even see a baseball career beyond that elusive 43rd day in the majors, perhaps coaching in the minor leagues. His mind is still right, he says, and it's never too late.


Story 11:

Peter Biello: Atlanta has about two years to prepare to host eight matches in the 2026 World Cup. City leaders hope the event will speed up developments to improve downtown. GPB's Orlando Montoya has more.

Orlando Montoya: The city has yet to announce any public improvements tied to the games, and transit officials concede improvements to Atlanta's busiest rail station, downtown's Five Points, still will be under construction when they begin. But the games already are motivating private developers. That's according to Tim Zaleski, president of AMBSC Entertainment, the owners of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the games will be held.

Tim Zaleski: The private development, they're using it to organize around, hey, we have to be ready for the World Cup. So when you have that galvanizing agent, you get really amazing outcomes.

Orlando Montoya: Two large projects aiming to show off progress by 2026 include Centennial Yards and South Downtown, both promising hundreds of millions of dollars in transformational redevelopments. For GPB News, I'm Orlando Montoya.


Story 12:

Peter Biello: In sports, the Atlanta Vibe swept the San Diego Mojo in three sets last night, shutting them out with a season-best attack efficiency to grab the team's fifth straight win and 10th in their last 11 matches. The win gives the league-leading Vibe a larger lead over the second place Omaha Supernovas, who they will host in Atlanta this Saturday. And in the NBA, All-Star point guard Trae Young recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists in his return in last night's 115 to 114 loss to Charlotte. He'd missed 23 games because of a torn ligament in his left pinkie. The Hawks currently hold the No. 10 spot and the final position in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

And that's all we've got for this edition of Georgia Today. If you want to learn more about any of these stories, visit And if you haven't yet subscribed to this podcast, do it now. We'll be back in your podcast feed tomorrow afternoon. And if you've got feedback or a story we should know about, let us know by email. The address is I'm Peter Biello. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.


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