An investigation into his group home for boys won’t deter his run for Muscogee sheriff

Marshal Greg Countryman talks about working with Columbus Council

Marshal Greg Countryman appeared at a city budget hearing on Tuesday to request more funds in the FY2018 budget. He says he's willing to work with Council to benefit citizens.
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Marshal Greg Countryman appeared at a city budget hearing on Tuesday to request more funds in the FY2018 budget. He says he's willing to work with Council to benefit citizens.

A law enforcement official who has sued the Columbus City Council and owns a group home under scrutiny is running for sheriff of Muscogee County.

Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman announced in a press release Tuesday that he will be running for sheriff in next year’s election.

“After much contemplative prayer, careful reflection, conferring with family, friends, and various community leaders, I have decided to enter into the race for Muscogee County Sheriff in 2020,” the release reads. “As Sheriff, I will continue to represent and serve all citizens of Muscogee County to the utmost of my ability.”

Countryman, 53, took office in January 2005 and was most recently re-elected to another four-year term as marshal in 2016.

The release states Countryman has had 28 years of professional law enforcement experience. He is a former Muscogee County sheriff’s deputy and worked with the Columbus Housing Authority Police Department.

Countryman has often voiced the opinion that the marshal’s office is an integral third branch to the city’s law enforcement agencies, along with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office and the Columbus Police Department.

He isn’t backing up on that stance even as he intends to forgo the office he has so often justified.

“Every branch of government has its purpose and has a distinct function,” Countryman said Tuesday.

Countryman also said that his decision to run for the position — currently held by Sheriff Donna Tompkins, who will finish up her first term in December 2020 — is not personal.

“I feel I have something to bring to the office, it’s something I can improve on. I’ve had an excellent record as marshal and do great things with limited funding,” he said.

Funding has often been a source of contention for Countryman, as he has gone before the council many times requesting additional resources, and even sued the Columbus City Council, then-Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and several city executives over the city’s 2015 budgeting process. A judge ruled in the city’s favor in all aspects and Countryman was ordered to pay $8,500 to the Columbus Consolidated Government for legal fees.

Most recently, Countryman came into the spotlight again after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation into a group home for boys in Columbus that Countryman owns.

The Ledger-Enquirer reported in November that a worker at the Invictus Transformation Wellness Center was arrested and charged for sending sexually incriminating Facebook messages to a 16-year-old boy at the home, but it is not known whether the charges are related to the investigation.

Joshua Ayer, a spokesman for the GBI Region 2 office, said in an email Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing.

Countryman said he isn’t going to let the investigation interfere with his campaign.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 28 years and I know who’s behind what’s going on... when you try to take something that is not legitimate and try to make it legitimate by involving a state agency, that doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me,” Countryman said. “I feel good about the investigation and I’m going to let it take its course. I know what the truth is and I have respect and trust for those who work at the center.”