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Congressman’s daughter omitted income from court program


May 11 — Congressman Sanford Bishop’s stepdaughter did not report income that is the subject of a GBI investigation in Columbus, DeKalb County court records show.

Aayesha Owens Reese and her husband were paid a total of $14,850 since 2007 by the Junior Marshal program of Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman, according to published reports. The GBI was called in after city auditors noted that Aayesha was living in the Atlanta area — more than 100 miles away – and held another job there.

Vivian Creighton Bishop (right, with Rep. Bishop), Aayesha’s mom, is the elected clerk of the Muscogee court, as well as the congressman’s wife. In 2008, Rep. Bishop helped secure $118,000 in federal funding for the Junior Marshal program.

Aayesha filed for divorce in January from her husband, Stephen M. Reese, in DeKalb County Superior Court. Papers in the case file show:

— Aayesha did not declare her Muscogee County income. In a Dec. 31 affidavit requesting child support, she listed her monthly gross income as $3,218 (which works out to $38,616 a year). The Fulton County district attorney’s office said last week her annual salary there is $38,621.

— Stephen Reese, in a counterclaim, said the couple separated in July 2008. That’s when his paychecks from the Junior Marshal program stopped, and two months before Aayesha’s payments began. (Aayesha’s court filings say the couple separated Nov. 1.)

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer has reported Aayesha was paid $7,575 between Oct. 3, 2008 and Feb. 20. That would cover the period immediately before and after the affidavit in the divorce case was prepared.

Aayesha’s attorney, Mereda Davis Johnson, said she could not comment on the case.

The divorce papers make no mention of the Columbus controversy or either party’s involvement with the Junior Marshal program. The divorce case has been referred to a dispute-resolution program.

The Muscogee County Marshal’s office has defended the hiring of both Aayesha and Stephen Reese as mentors for junior high students. Countryman has said both were able to work from DeKalb by telecommuting, and that he had not known they were related to Bishop.

Stephen may never have seen his paychecks. The Ledger-Enquirer reported they were deposited in a bank account belonging to his mother-in-law.

Bishop has represented southwest Georgia’s 2nd district in Congress since 1993. The congressman has said he asked Countryman to remove his daughter from the payroll when he learned of her job there.

NOTE: The Ledger-Enquirer’ original news stories on the investigation seem to be unavailable on the newspaper’s Web site. We have linked to copies picked up on the Web site of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.





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