The Disconnect, Part 3: The Curious Candidacy of Robert Trim

I know people like to joke about how all politicians are liars and adulterers however that isn’t true. Only a few of them are. But few if any ever actually get convicted of lying before seeking public office. But that is exactly what has happened with Robert Trim, the Republican nominee for House District 35.

This is the third in a series about how the Republican Party official organization is disconnected from the Republican Electorate at large. I chose this topic from a plethora of examples because it demonstrates what happens when the party activists get distracted by a bunch of baloney, and then fail to do their job to recruit good people to run. In this case, the only hope for a GOP win in HD35 is a candidate who is an unrepentant, convicted liar because he was the only one to show up to qualify.

The Background. Back in the 2010-2014 timeframe Robert Trim was a political consultant with a heavy focus in Cherokee County. He was the political strategist used by then Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and also State Representative Sean Jerguson. He then got involved in running some challengers to school board in Cherokee and that is when he met Kelly Marlow.

Kelly Marlow was married with children when she decided to seek a post on the Cherokee County School Board running on a platform of school choice for parents. She had been heavily involved with the creation of Cherokee Charter Academy, which came to Cherokee after a huge fight. Within the education community in Cherokee this was similar to a civil war. The emotions people had at the time about the school’s establishment cannot be understated. And Marlow and Trim, who was also married at the time, were at the center of that fight.

Trim narrowly got Marlow elected to the school board and it didn’t take long for her to start making regular headlines about how much controversy she was creating. She wrote a letter to SACs questioning the BOE’s ability to govern. She made huge issues out of an audit which had some findings that were both minor and easily corrected. And she did all of this with Robert Trim sitting in the audience during BOE meetings, texting her which questions to ask and what to say. This part I witnessed myself when Trim sat in front of me during one BOE meeting, hunched over his phone, furiously texting Marlow who repeated what he wrote to her better than any parrot could have dreamed of.

By this point, it was rare to see Marlow without Trim and vice versa. The two had seemingly become inseparable and it wasn’t long before the cat was out of the bag and it became common knowledge that Trim and Marlow, both married to other people at the time, became romantically involved.

An interlude. Dr. Frank Petruzielo became superintendent to Cherokee County at a time when the school system was struggling. If you ask him, he was the school system’s savior, a genuine knight in shinning armor. He is pompous with regularity. I have never met an individual who was more arrogant and self aggrandizing. Once, during a meeting with another school board member where I tried to pitch several ideas around school funding and cost reduction, he told me that speaking to me had given him a warm feeling, like he had just wet the bed. Honestly the most egotistical human I have ever met, and I served in elected office for 8 years. I repeatedly reached out to Dr. Petruzielo for this post and he did not respond.

We resume. And then the night of June 13th, 2013 happened. I cannot accurately portray everything that went down on that night in Canton, because it was nuts. The whole thing. In response to Marlow reading texts from Trim the BOE implemented a no cell phone policy during meetings. Without Trim there to guide her, Marlow was a bit of a mess. She flailed around consistently being combative with her fellow board members but especially with the Superintendent. I can still hear the jarring sound of the microphone being ripped down in front of Petruzielo’s face every time he wanted to speak and then him flipping it back up in disgust as he responded to Marlow. To describe it as heated is an understatement. It was pure fireworks.

And then the lights went out. And then a tornado siren was heard. And then the meeting was suspended and I left to get home to my family in the midst of some terrible storms. It was difficult getting home because of fallen trees and some intersections were blocked off by police trying to take care of a gas station that had potentially experienced some damage from a tornado. It was mayhem. Cherokee County’s first responders were busy doing their duty though, and they were stretched thin as a result.

After the power was restored, the BOE resumed their meeting which meant it ended very late. Canton is the type of town that at 10:30 at night seeing people walking down the street is rare. Cars move slowly at all times on its twin main streets, even during the day. But a speeding car would be noticed by everyone because it would be so rare. And June 13th was no different, inspite of what Trim and Marlow would later claim.

After the contentious meeting concluded and from inside the erstwhile Painted Pig Tavern, Marlow, Trim, and a friend concocted a story that went like this: while they were crossing the street Petruzielo tried to run them down with his SUV. The impact was so close, they claimed, that Trim had to push Marlow to safety to avoid seriously injury. If what they were saying was true, Petruzielo could face attempted murder charges. After a 911 call, the three demanded to file a complaint with police at a time when first responders were trying to deal with the aftermath of a potential tornado in the county.

The community was buzzing with rumors. Suspense was building. And then the Canton Police asked the three to come back out to the scene on July 2nd to reenact how the whole thing had gone down. It must have been a highly entertaining moment for the detectives working the case as Trim showed police how he had supposedly pushed Marlow to safety. And at that moment their fate was sealed, for Trim had actually pushed Marlow into political obscurity.

Unbeknownst to the three, the Painted Pig Tavern’s security camera was fully operational on June 13th. It captured the friend calmly walking in front of the other two to the door of the tavern with Marlow unconcernedly walking behind her. Trim was last to gently step up on the sidewalk, lingering for just a moment to watch Petruzielo drive by at roughly 11 miles per hour.

The three were convicted of felonies for lying to police. Upon appeal, the charges were reduced to misdemeanors, and forced back to court for resentencing. Judge Ellen McElyea had a lot to say as she gave Marlow and Trim 60 days of jail time and 24 months of probation.

“It’s a human frailty, of course, that everyone has their own version of circumstances. Everybody’s got their own perspective, everybody’s got a different interest. But I heard evidence in this case and more importantly the jury heard the evidence in this case, and they determined that you lied. Lied to police officers, you lied to investigators, you took advantage of law enforcement on an occasion specifically where there was a lot going on in this community that night. As I said, the jury made that decision that you were untruthful to law enforcement. I’m the presiding judge of the drug court and we have a saying with participants when confronted with absolutely unassailable evidence that they have used and they’ve relapsed, they just ignore it…we call it going down with the lie and that’s what’s happening.”

Judge Ellen McElyea to Robert Trim and Kelly Marlow during their resentencing

After giving Marlow and Trim the opportunity to address the court and they declined, Judge McElyea would go on to express her disappointment that no one who had been convicted of lying in this case had ever expressed remorse for their crimes. When I reached out to Trim to let him know I was writing this post, I asked him if he had ever apologized. He did not respond.

So this is the guy who received the nomination for House District 35 unopposed. And this is where the ever apparent disconnect between party officials and the Republican electorate comes into play. Because the story I just recounted is still very fresh in the minds and memories of the community where I live. When you mention Marlow or Trim in local political circles you get sighs and eyerolls. Robert Trim’s mugshot hangs in the AJC’s press office in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building. That he is a convicted liar and has not repented or expressed remorse for trying to use the police to unjustly lock up a political foe is common knowledge.

Is this really the best the Cobb County GOP could do? I have to believe that almost anyone else would have stood a better chance against the Democrats in November than a proven adulterer and convicted liar.

The Real Problem. Salleigh Grubbs, the Cobb County GOP Chair has been a very busy woman. She has been steadfastly relitigating the 2020 election, over and over again. As chair she oversaw the censuring by the Cobb GOP of Brian Kemp. She organized a candle light vigil not for the people who lost their lives on January 6th, but for the people who stormed the Capitol and were awaiting charges. So with all of that energy being spent on all of these things that are not in tune with the average Republican voter, is it any wonder that she ignored candidate recruitment and we ended up with Robert Trim as a nominee for anything at all, not just for a House Rep Seat?

The newly drawn HD35 is Democrat leaning but in a year when a red wave is not only possible but likely imminent it is a winnable seat for Republicans. Trim’s nomination means a win is less likely, but a victory would be pyrrhic in nature at best. Grubbs and her executive committee in Cobb County have done a great disservice to our state by not treating candidate recruitment more seriously. Trim recently sent out a fundraising email that lists Grubbs as a host, so this is squarely at her feet. She did not respond to a voicemail I left her asking for comment on her support of Trim in light of his criminal past.

Time, money, and resources are going to be spent trying to get Trim elected at a time those resources should have been spent on someone who has the basic qualification of human decency that he lacks. Someone that is actually electable. This is a failure of the local party to perform a most basic task because it was distracted.

I am not sure what kind of hatred causes someone to go so far as to lie to police in an effort to get a political foe arrested. And then to never express remorse for that… man. But I also cannot imagine what a person like that would be like if they were elected to office. As a party, we need to do better.

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