Mark Doug Duncan’s Words – Butler Service is Sweet

Political Skunks

Opinion by The Arrowflinger

The Butler did it – he did it a lot!

Just when we thought Georgia and Columbia County Politics could not get more absurd, along came District One Commissioner Doug Duncan’s star-studded(oops, embarrassing word choice there!)crossed Georgia state-level endorsers. You wouldn’t trust them in an outhouse with a muzzle on, from Johnny Isakson (more later) down the line to Ben Harbin (more on him, later, too). All lined up behind this guy:

Columbia County District 1 Commissioner Doug Duncan

Perhaps the most innovative scoundrel on that list did something never seen before in Georgia, but first some background is in order. Let us travel down the road a bit with the infamous Erick Erickson for an introduction to the preliminaries in 2009..

Georgia Speaker Glenn Richardson two weeks ago announced he had tried to commit suicide. The Speaker went through a very messy divorce. His best friends were all killed in one day in a plane crash together. He had undertaken an affair with a lobbyist that did not work out well. He admitted to suffering severe depression. People were willing to give him a second chance.

But then his ex-wife spoke out. She had the text messages and voicemails of a belligerent Speaker threatening to use his power to destroy her. What’s more, additional revelations into the Speaker’s affair showed that he might have used his power to help his mistress’s company — Atlanta Gas Light — get some sweet legislation passed.
While many had wanted to give the Speaker the benefit of the doubt, his ex-wife’s television interview and the new revelations sealed the deal. He had to go.

Under Georgia law, when the Speaker prematurely leaves office, the Speaker Pro Tempore automatically becomes Speaker until an election can be called within the House of Representatives. That election must happen in around 100 days.
Meeting in back rooms, late into the night, and with the Governor, a deal was hammered out. …..

Over in Carrolton, a young, diminutive Georgia House member, Mark Butler had enough time watching the Speaker’s sexual antics and the firestorm that consumed Glenn Richardson and plotted a “safer sex” option – he had an affair with a state-paid lobbyist!

Tom Crawford, of the Georgia Report, picked up where Erick Erickson left off – the resignation of Speaker Richardson – continuing down the trail of the Butler who did it.

The disclosures kept coming. A Carrollton newspaper and an Atlanta TV station reported that Rep. Mark Butler (R-Carrollton) had an affair that lasted more than two years with a woman who worked as a lobbyist for the University of West Georgia.

When Butler learned that his girlfriend’s job had been eliminated, he got on the phone with a university official and warned him that he “had ticked off a whole political party” by dismissing the lobbyist. (In fairness to Butler, he was unmarried during his relationship with the university lobbyist.)

Now this old Arrowflinger was simply floored by that! Imagine it! Over in Augusta, they have a Congressman fully prepared and versed by his kin folks to BYOB – Bailout Your Own Bank and now in the Labor Commissioner’s office we have Mark Butler, endorser of Doug Duncan, doing another BYOB – Bring Your Own Booty. In both cases Georgia taxpayers got to pay for the pleasure!

Maybe Doug Duncan and his pal, Columbia County District 3 Commissioner Trey Allen, compatriots at the same temporary labor and placement firm, can get a county or state contract to supply their political brethren with risk free babes. We are sure Mark Butler can grease the skids at the Labor Department.

Whew…… and just think! Doug Duncan is running ads branding opponent Pam Tucker as “Drama” when his Butler is a past master of drama.

-AF

Last episode in this Series – Doug Duncan Proxy’s Attack on Women

Next in Series – Paying the TPole Tax the Harbin Way

Doug Duncan Proxy’s Attack on Women

Opinion by The Arrowflinger

‘I felt like I was being raped with my clothes on – Nydia Tisdale

Columbia County Commission Chairman candidate Doug Duncan best try to hide the high profile state officials who are trying to lord over Columbia County Politics with their endorsements from on high. They might smell up his coronation before he gets there.

First up, we have to address the lamentable Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who should be a lighting rod of opposition among women.

Hudgeons was speaking at a GOP rally at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Cumming, when he spied Nydia Tisdale on the front row videoing him. He called her out whereupon a beefy off-duty officer forcibly removed Tisdale from the meeting as Labor Commissioner Mark Butler was speaking (another Duncan proxy with issues – more later), Tisdale had permission to be there.

“Nydia Tisdale, a citizen journalist, was invited to a GOP rally in Atlanta, but State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens demanded that she (and not other, more friendly press) stop recording his speech; when she refused, he summoned a deputy who violently arrested her and then charged her with felony obstruction after she elbowed him while he was bending her over and pressing his groin into her buttocks.”

The City of Cumming wound up paying Tisdale $200,000 in damages.

Jim Galloway put it best – “Within the hour, she would be screaming, bent double over a store counter in her black sun dress, with her arms twisted behind her and a deputy close on her haunches.

All because she had pointed her video camera at Republican candidates. Not a proud moment for a political party in need of female support.”

An old Arrowflinger, who keeps up with wayward politicos, thought Columbia County women would like to know.

Next up in the Duncan Proxy Series – The guy who one-upped resigned-in-disgrace Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson.

-AF

Austin Rhodes’ Wag the Dog Strategy on Pam Tucker

Opinion by The Arrowflinger

When things got too hot for Bill and Hillary Clinton with the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998, they trotted out a time-tested diversion – attack a defenseless made-up “Enemy” to divert public attention away from them! It was a classic Wag the Dog effort with one bombing made on a Sudanese aspirin factory.

As Election season 2018 neared, Augusta Radio Talk Show Host Austin Rhodes needed to Wag the Dog too. With a father in Law, later mother in law, who foisted a financially ruinous school bond in Lincoln County to fund a oversized new high school built under one of those nefarious Guaranteed Maximum Price Contracts by R.W. Allen approaching property tax revolt proportions, Rhodes must have fretted it would come up. Beyond that, with a daughter employed by Congressman Rick Allen and a Brother-in-Law county Engineering Director, with an amusing history of political gamesmanship himself, in the mix of an upcoming hot Columbia County Chairman’s race, Austin Rhodes picked an old opponent, former Columbia County Georgia House candidate Joe Mullins, to be his Wag the Dog victim of the hour, minute, week and month. Rhodes went out incessantly for weeks tearing into Mullin’s personal life, intruding into a Florida political race Mullins had entered, and basically acting crazy in doing it.

He had to do something to occupy dead air and too many issues could hit on Friends and Family, while he awaited in the grass to ambush Pam Tucker’s race for the Columbia County Chairmanship while heaping glory on the Establishment’s choice, first District Commissioner Doug Duncan.

The Columbia County Banking scandal is a NATIONAL STORY because the bank involved was the flagship bank of the American Banking Association (ABA). Another bank, the winning bank and an ABA member itself, got tricked out of getting the business. There was an obvious coverup and when it was challenged on the air by yours truly in 2014, the Bank ran a whole slew of ads braying “Doing the RIGHT THING!” Austin and his employer Beasley Broadcast Group must have made a fortune! Just Friday afternoon, Austin Rhodes started his attack on your old arrowflinger in an epic call in, that many wish he would replay.

Says here he doesn’t have the guts.

Remember this term out of the Arrowflinger School of Political Theory – DODI. If you are Friends and Family of Austin Rhodes, you get a do over. If you are not, you get DONE IN.

All of Austin’s politically active, public figure relatives mentioned above are public figures with accessible records. Austin draws financial benefit and security in ways that can, and will, be shown. Over here is an old construction auditor who has heard every insult invented with a thick hide and quiver full of ideas. Meanwhile, Rhodes attacks aimed this way can, and will redirect to impact his cronies tenfold.

And for the cronies feeding money and rhetorical “ammunition” for Austin to sling, be very, very careful. What you think is an “Gotcha Al!” might ricochet into a “Aiieee…that HURT!…..Somebody make it STOP!”

This ain’t an illusion. It is the key to many vaults and even more laughs. It is time to laugh and worry about money later.

Carry on.

Columbia County B.Y.O.B. Finances

OPINION by The Arrowflinger

What you are about to hear in this poor quality audio recording is the last three minutes of The Austin Rhodes Show of Friday, May 18, 2018. Your arrowflinging protector shook things up, more than a little, one might think.

When GB&T bank board members Rick Allen and James G. Blanchard were mentioned in the present tense, it was in the context of a meeting with law enforcement several years ago, before the bank merged with South State Bank and that Board of Directors was disbanded. Also, neither was a voting member of the Board with management oversight.

As to former Columbia County Commissioner Scott Dean, who was the acting chairman of the county finance committee, he actually did not object AT THE AWARD MEETING, but just listen to what he said in making the astounding motion to let Ron Cross and Charlie Allen vote!

Dean’s conviction was on charges unrelated to this banking vote. Judge Blanchard being the judge who put him in prison and would not grant a retrial despite recanted testimony is more a demonstration of how weird events get twisted in Columbia County. The Arrowflinger tried to get Judge Blanchard, a former family business partner, to discuss this ugly banking matter back in 2014, but somehow we had trouble connecting. There is more there, perhaps, for a later date.

With respect to Edward J. Tarver, he was a member of the GB&T Audit Committee in 2008 and 2009, before becoming the US Attorney on December 17, 2009. Tarver had audit responsibility for the 2008 Financial Statements, which later became the basis for the Columbia County bank selection in April 2010. About a month before his nomination, The United States Securities and Exchange Commission sent the GB&T Chief Financial Officer Darrell Raines a letter expressing questions, possibly requiring a restatement of those 2008 financials.

Imagine that! A sitting US Attorney’s immediately preceding bank Audit Committee work was questioned by the SEC! None of this seems to have dawned on Columbia County Finance. Or did they know? Or did one of them know?

As for Rick Allen, perhaps he can confer with his cousins who owned 40% of GB&T and his brother, the GB&T shareholder who delivered the bank a timely $100 million cash infusion and draft a banking bill like he wrote about in the Augusta Chronicle last year. We have the perfect title. We can call it the Rick Allen B.Y.O.B bill…..BAIL OUT YOUR OWN BANK bill.

-AF

 

The Boardroom Trail to the Talisman

OPINION BY The Arrowflinger

Talisman – an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune.

The revelation to the American public that its establishment media is biased, lazy, and protective of their turf surely by now must extend to the Augusta contingent of “recognized” media. After all, activists brandishing Georgia Open Records Requests and publishing their own stories reinforced by documents offering obvious proof got too big to ignore between 2011 and 2013.

By 2014, you might think their “professional” inquisitiveness would have taken hold, but the Metro Spirit took resolute opposition to perceived competition to extremes. When the reformers started investigating the Reynolds Street Parking Deck boondoggle the Metro Spirit cover was one of black helicopters over the deck. Somehow, they later were acknowledging the discovery of liens on the property under the parking deck as common news. There is no way they would admit that the City Stink blog systematically awoke Augusta to such a ridiculous circumstance without THEM! The exception was Metro Spirit Writer and radio talk show host Austin Rhodes occasionally would provide some coverage to the alternative media, most recently with the absurd Tractorgate Scandal that saw Augusta men and Equipment secreted three counties away for work on private property of an ex-Augusta contractor.

The Columbia County Commission meeting of May 6, 2014 was covered by Spirit reporter Eric Johnson, who promptly disregarded the directly presented challenge to then Finance Committee Chairman Ron Thigpen’s bonus with Georgia Bank and Trust. That bank was awarded a highly irregular mass banking deal with the county, with Thigpen recusing himself from the commission vote.

Instead Johnson decided to interject his own bias and implied that the real subject was instead Chairman Ron Cross, then up for reelection. The acknowledgement of all of our enhanced “time and attention on this stuff” was very true, however. He even got handed key documents in the hope that he would pick up on the story. No way Jose.

Collateral Metro Bank

Astounding. Georgia was number one in mortgage fraud in the USA for 5 years from 2000 to 2004, leading to a tsunami of bank failures in 2008 through 2010, losing 1/5 of the state’s banks, yet NOBODY can come to suspect any alligators in their local banking swamp. The “media” ad sales blindfold “reporters.” “Their” advertisers cannot be corrupt because they pay the media’s way.

What the Spirit’s Johnson blew off was a chance to investigate how Columbia County’s cash infusion into his bank may have boosted Thigpen’s bank bonus. Had he pursued it he might have found the Talisman. From there an epic of financial gamesmanship might have been his prize!

In this burgeoning saga, the Talisman is a man, recently the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, Mr. Edward J. Tarver. When the bank executive compensation contracts were changed for 2008 and 2009, before his appointment as US Attorney, Tarver sat on Georgia Bank and Trust’s Audit Committee. (Page 23)

For the bank, Tarver had to do absolutely nothing to ward off scrutiny from investigators. All he had to do was sit in his office. Mr. Tarver is a fine man by all accounts and is respected but the simple fact is that he could be a cross between Nelson Mandela and Billy Graham and be the Talisman. Common sense says that one look at documents signed by Tarver or approved by his bank audit committee would make federal agents turn away. That is just how things are in the real world.

He wasn’t the only well-positioned protector of the bank, either. Someone in Authority upon seeing this picture of the Bank Board in 2007, the year before the financial world came unraveled might have whistled and exclaimed with eyes as large as saucers, “these are the most powerful people in Augusta!”

The story almost sounds straight out of Washington DC and the recent news bombshells over the conflicts between the FBI and Department of Justice up there.

In Columbia County’s banking controversy, the bankers are off enjoying their stock sale proceeds but the county finance department and the finance committee of the County Commission will now have to explain why they have been incompetent, or far worse.

May be no Talisman for District One Commissioner Doug Duncan, who is running for the Chairmanship of the Columbia County Commission with the backing of those same bankers. He had the chance to investigate 3 years ago, shortly after taking his seat, but dropped the ball. Former GB&T Chairman Robert Pollard, Former GB&T Chief Operating Officer Ron Thigpen, and Former GB&T Voting Board Member Larry Prather are listed as Duncan Supporters.Former GB&T shareholder and current Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, who voted for the suspect award of the county primary banking contract to GB&T, is said to be a Duncan contributor.

Law enforcement on three levels of government has the greater responsibility of having turned a blind eye until the Statute of Limitations expired, possibly allowing financial thieves to escape prosecution.

There are no Pulitzer Prizes that will be awarded to Augusta “journalists” from this scandal, either. The artwork was nice, though!

-AF

Augusta’s Black Hole of Transportation Finance

OPINION by the Arrowflinger

Two months ago on the 13th of March, Augusta Engineering Director Dr. Hameed Malik appeared before the Engineering Committee of the Augusta Commission to provide an update on the downtown Transportation Investment Act projects. Please listen to these comments by Dr. Hameed referencing the need for Augusta to cut, downsize, delay, and even cancel the TIA projects in the middle of the program and especially the end of the Augustan TIA program. At the end he mentions discussions to do another REGIONAL TIA with other counties.

What? Augusta gave away $109 million to 12 other counties to make TIA work and its OWN projects face lack of funds? Only in Augusta!

Source – CSRA Region TIA Constrained Tool Master Spreadsheet
supporting the CSRA TIA Program at the time of passage in 2012

What? The projects at the end are short of money after the Augusta National Berckmans Road TIA projects were built to the hilt?

What? The first project completed, Riverwatch Parkway was to cost $30 million ($20 million TIA) but news reports said the TIA money was $30 million and the total cost $65 million. Doesn’t this scream that the 15% revenue shortfalls and enormous overruns mean that the out of control program needs a new regional one to cover it all up, and, as Dr Hameed said, to finish the present TIA projects?

Why are the politicians not telling the good people of Augusta and Columbia County, the other major donor county, that the Georgia Legislature passed Single County TIA/Tsplost in 2016, so Augusta could keep its $109 million after 2022? Even tiny Dade County can have its TIA without all of these complications.The 2016 bill prohibits getting out of a regional TIA mess until it is complete, so they are stuck.

Agraynation.com readers will recall several downtown projects got sent to the back of the TIA bus to allow the Augusta National finagling to build the Berckmans Road project to the max. Furthermore, during the TSPLOST debate and later this site provided enough facts to the public that Columbia County decisively, including the financial trickery in the numbers now apparent in the 16% shortage in funding.

Senators Hardie Davis, Jr. and Bill Jackson of the Augusta Delegation hatched this money transfer out of Augusta back in 2010. Now the damage is coming clear.

Why do establishment politicians continue to embrace a failed regional government while feeding it Hundreds of millions of dollars? Why do none talk about the double taxation that hit Augusta area to the tune of another $550 million with the new fuel taxes in 2015?

Only Representative Barry Fleming showed the bravery to promise corrective action.

Elect folks like Barry. Send the others down the road where they sent your money.
-AF

Banking Hard Right into a Wrong Place

OPINION by the Arrowflinger

Well, Well, Well Scott Johnson, What an interesting set of developments since we last talked. Back then, y’all couldn’t identify the Commission Finance committee member who essentially redirected a huge 5 year Columbia County banking contract to Georgia Bank and Trust after First Citizens Bank won that bid, but lately you have gotten really good at finding and disclosing facts about Pam Tucker. Austin has insinuated that you were “looking for dirt” on Ms. Tucker during her vacation, her conversation got very efficiently recorded and replayed, and there was a further dust-up involving a banker. Heaven knows that wasn’t one of the GB&T bankers. No one dare do that back when the banking contract went down. A majority of the commissioners, including 2 out of three on the Finance Committee, were GB&T shareholders then, including one who was the Chief Operating Officer of the bank!

What are the new Developments?

Well, that bank wound up being the 2016 flagship of the whole American Banking Association, when its CEO Dan Blanton became chairman of ALL of the bankers. The ABA was regaled with a story we all heard, GB&T’s claimed focus of “Doing the Right Thing.” Based upon What I have seen there is absolutely no question the executives of that bank were doing the right thing – for themselves! Your doings are trickier, because your finance committee and finance department were “Doing Tha’ Thang Right!”

In the last 15 months the United States Attorney of the Southern District of Georgia very arguably an unwitting protector of the entire mess, left his post after 8 years and was replaced just 6 months ago.

In the last 15 months GB&T sold out at a premium of around $49 per share, up from the dark $9 per share days of 2009, just before your secret finance committee member swung over $100 million of Columbia County’s money into rescuing them.

Meanwhile, the employees of 83 percent of area banks who didn’t work for that bank, many who lost everything in 2009 and got no rescue from you all, and the 100 GB&T employees who lost their jobs after years of propaganda will read this with keen interest. What is worse, we read that you are quoted promising retaliation against one of them for questioning not only Tucker’s departure but that of another departed division director as well.

This was and is a national scandal and you are sitting in the middle of it.

Columbia County Finance got caught “Doin’ Tha’ Thang Right” but the taxpayers didn’t even get a peck on the cheek.

They ain’t gonna be happy with YOU!

Are Herbert or Tucker any Match for THE ARMADA?

OPINION by The Arrowflinger

Rarely, if ever, has there been such a display of raw, naked, affluent power as this fundraiser handbill for a candidate for the Chair of the Columbia County Commission.

This invitation to a (fundraising) “Event” for Doug Duncan, now the District 1 Commissioner, might have dissuaded Mark Herbert and Pam Tucker from even qualifying. It didn’t.

It is breathtaking. This is a crew perfectly capable of raising $400,000 or even more, if they want to maintain their ironclad control of Columbia County.

They do.

Over here one finds fellow Commissioners Trey Allen, Gary Richardson, and Bill Morris. Not an overt sponsor on this invite, current Chairman Ron Cross has been cited in the Augusta Chronicle as donating heavily to Duncan’s campaign. On it we find stalwart backers of Cross from earlier campaigns like Jean Garniewicz and the Ivey Brothers.

Over there one sees the names of three voting members of a board of directors of a bank, that kinda, sorta got a timely backdoor bailout from Columbia County, Robert Pollard, Ron Thigpen and Larry Prather.

A bunch of the rest are developers, realtors, and builders.

Of course, no campaign endorsement list for a Columbia County incumbent politician worth his, or her, salt is complete without Sheriff Clay Whittle. He has been at this for decades now, hasn’t he?

The most amazing aspect of this list are the power brokers from old Augusta throwing their weight into this contest. State Department of Transportation Board member (former Chairman) and former Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham, former Georgia Representative Barbara Sims, and former State Department of Transportation Board member and former Augusta Commissioner Bill Kuhlke are on this list. Throw in names like McKnight and Hull – both of those last names emblazoned on the new Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training in Augusta – and you get a stunning array of power.

This election might have been over before it started.

But then again…

The political seafloor is littered with invincible armadas that suddenly developed holes in their Hulls.

-Arrowflinger

Double-crossed at the Doubletree, Augustans Got a 22% Property Tax Increase

When your humble flinger of arrows climbed into his pickup truck one afternoon in the late summer of 2010 it was not dreamed that the trip was worth $4 million to $5 million to the people of Augusta Richmond County, Georgia, yet it was.

The Georgia General Assembly had empaneled a Tax Reform Council, chaired by former Atlanta Olympic Games chairman A.D. Frazier, and charged it with recommending a tax reform plan. Earlier, in 2008, the legislature had wisely rejected disgraced House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s G.R.E.A.T. (Georgia Repeal Every Ad valorem Tax) plan but still held the notion of “tax reform” dear, spurred on by the Georgia Traditional Manufacturers Association and others. Manufacturers wanted relief from Georgia’s sales-tax-exemption-limiting “Direct Use” requirements. Agricultural interests wanted sales tax relief, too.

The Tax Reform Council met in cities across Georgia. The meeting in Augusta came within 3 weeks of a furious Republican Party runoff for governor, which diverted attention from what was at risk. The Council convened at the Doubletree Hotel on August 30, 2010. A number of presenters had prepared remarks which were posted on the Tax Council website. This writer had not come to speak but rose and gave an impromptu talk in opposition based upon the enormous revenue loss that appeared to be in the making, including a critique of surviving elements of G.R.E.A.T. A sitting member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Don Parsons, was not paying attention enough to catch the name and dismissed the talk as uninformed.

The frightening thing was that the Tax Council withheld its report, despite promises it would be published in November, until the start of the 2011 session and the stated intent was for the plan to rocket through the General Assembly for a straight “up or down” vote.

The Augusta presentations included one that tipped off how draconian the sales and use tax losses would be for Augusta. An email to a key member of the Augusta Commission warned of the losses. Another to an organization promoting the bad tax deal laid out the reasons that killing it in 2011 were good.

Taxreformwarning_Page_1Tax Reform 2011 Killed_Page_1Lobbyists didn’t care.

The Augusta Chronicle reported “Twice panel members asked how to replace the revenue from new tax breaks such as elimination of the inventory tax. John Krueger, senior vice president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, replied that he hadn’t polled his members about that.

“To be honest, I really don’t have an answer to that,” he said.”

The next year tax reform returned and passed. Not one of the location legislative delegation voted against it, not even “conservatives” Representative Barbara Sims or Senator Bill Jackson. Just as night follows day, the tax losses hit Augusta Richmond County so hard that in 2014, the Augusta Commission had to pass a 22% property tax increase to compensate for them.

The Augusta Commission got the blame but the damage was clearly inflicted by the General Assembly, with the local delegation going right along with it.

The sales taxes given up were were being passed on to purchasers of the manufactured goods outside of Augusta, Richmond County and now are being replaced by your property taxes, if you live in Augusta-Richmond County. The manufacturers were not likely to leave Augusta over taxes they had been paying for years and “tax reform” means that new businesses won’t be paying new taxes, either. Theories and subsidized jobs excited the politicians but this was a DEAD LOSS to the people, if one looks at the only thing that counts with revenue – CASH FLOW!

The entire progression of events might not have turned to the public’s favor, but it was a wonderful chance to demonstrate how The AURELIUS PRINCIPLE works to identify millions of dollars of savings to clients who might just be interested in saving those millions rather than paying them out. Cost Recovery Works, Inc. has used these techniques to stunning effect for clients many times and the tax reform participation showed how they work to potentially effect tens of millions in savings.

Millions of dollars in savings come from projects like this one – Just not for the poor, tax-besieged citizens of Augusta.

Thank your politicians.

Equal Protection, Equal Accountability

Comments of Al M. Gray to the Augusta Commission
Equal Protection, Equal Accountability
March 1, 2016

Mayor Davis, lady and gentlemen of the commission, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
The baseball great Yogi Berra once said “If you come to a fork in the road, take it” but after its last two meetings perhaps this body should stop, back up and try another fork before the wheels come off of Augusta’s government like one of those KME firetrucks. Citizens, officials, and observers far and wide have been taken aback by votes to remedy a pay-increase scandal which represents a horrendous breach of Constitutional equal protection for the one employee and the simultaneous dismissal of equal accountability for 3 others who arguably had more responsibility.

The vote and particularly the commentary during the last commission meeting filled me and most observers with dismay, not just because of the ugly tone, but because the transparency so loudly promised during the SPLOST campaign is obviously dead. A citizenry who saw its garbage collection service cut in half now sees, yet again, tomfoolery to shift money between accounts to cover benefits to the downtown.They see the time-consuming machinations this administration has undertaken to do it during a time in which new SPLOST controls were supposedly a priority.

The biggest scandal in Augusta history – the financially ruinous Tee Center/Laney Walker Development deal – wasted more $tens of millions than a convention of con artists could dream up. The principle TEE contract required extensive records to be kept until the year 2020, yet neither side of the ugliness of the last 2 weeks wants to empower Augusta by learning from its mistakes there. One faction wouldn’t want it out during the state Republican Party Convention at the Convention Center out of fear of embarrassing party officials and the city. The other seems to want to maintain the sloppiness to get tens of millions more in loot with assertions of “it’s our turn, now” or “we are getting our share.”

Politicians like to create a façade of controls to hide the looting, but not controls to stop the looting. With the TEE center Augusta wound up with the daisy chain of “expert” controllers costing a combined $1250 per hour who controlled almost nothing and rubberstamped nearly everything. The powerfully-written construction management contract that Augusta won was turned into mush at their hands. Why?

Your Gift From the Copenhaver

Another Yogism by Berra– “It is Déjà vu all over again” – fits my 40 year odyssey out of Augusta, back, and now into this chamber. The mid 1970’s found me at the Labor Department in Augusta working to administer the old 13 county CETA employment programs. Fury erupted among the mostly black program management in Augusta that Columbia County had preselected an overwhelmingly white contingent of ineligible folks, but then came the embarrassing find that Augusta’s enrollees were mostly black ineligible folks.

A poor blind black woman with a young lad in tow came into the Program Directors’ office to see the Reverend F. Francis Cook. “This is my grandson, Jonathan, who sees about me, the best he can, but he needs one of those CETA jobs you all are handing out,” she said. Deputy Director Cook was in tears. There were no jobs left for the eligible and deserving grandson. He got crowded out by black politics. F. Francis Cook made sure we quit running a program for cronies, to make room for his people and for ALL people.

Yes, you can use the system perfected by the last administration to loot the people and discriminatingly spread $millions but “They did it and we are too!” makes a twisted concept of equal protection, while hurting the wrong people -people in your community.

What happened over the last two weeks destroyed confidence that this commission desires the promised transparency and reform. Choose another fork, one of real reform; this one is a dead end for Augusta.

Thank you.

Here is the video

Mother (of) Goofs – The Convention Center that Rick Built

This is the Convention Center that Rick built.
Conference Harrison Bldg

This is the parcel
http://gismap.augustaga.gov/PropertyCard/Default.aspx?pin=037-3-
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Center Manager/Owner
paulssimon
That had the parcel
That lay under the Center that Rick built.

This is equipment the partnership deal said would be paid for by
Tilting Kettles
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Administrator who worked with Rick to bill the city for


That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the lawyer who looked in vain for the city commission-executed PARTNERSHIP CHANGE
permitting
Augusta Attorney Andrew McKenzie
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Architect paid to prevent contracting snafus
who got excluded from reviewing the purchase for which
That lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the land right Augusta found it had under its Convention Center after
Air Rights?
That Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have stopped
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Manager/owners parcel value for which Augusta was forced to trade the equipment to use its own building
on
That empty land right Augusta found it had after
That Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have stopped
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

These are the $8250 in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 campaign contributions from the Center Manager/Owner
paulssimon
Rick got after buying

That equipment value it became necessary to trade for
That empty land rights Augusta found it had after
That the Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have noted
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the rival donkey in Congress grinning like a mule eating briars

That Rick got those campaign contributions from the Center Manager/Owner seeing
That equipment value it became necessary to trade for
That land right Augusta found it had after
That Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have noted
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

Blame it on the Evans UFO

The first report in this series, Conflict in Columbia County, peered into the April 2010 vote to grant the mass banking contract of Columbia County, Georgia to GB&T, Georgia Bank and Trust, a bank in which 2 commissioners, Ron Cross and Charlie Allen held stock and a third, Ron Thigpen, serves as Chief Operating Officer.

The award came after an extensive Request for Proposal was issued to about a dozen local banks in January. Responses were due by February 18th. Four county employees were designated as evaluators of the proposals: Water Director Billy Clayton, Accounting Manager Debra North, Finance Director Lee Ann DeLoach (then Reece), and Phyllis Swain. After the evaluations were compiled and the scoring totaled, First Citizens Bank scored the highest of the responding banks, with GB&T in second place. First Citizens quoted a minimum interest rate on deposits of 1%, with DeLoach noting the lack of a floor with GB&T relative to First Citizens and Swain noting that First Citizens had the best rate. The initial recommendation was to award the agreement to First Citizens.

GB&T had quoted a variable rate with a floor of 0.75%, 0.25% less than First Citizens. This put the minimum interest rate income from First Citizens 33% higher than GB&T.

That is when the UFO landed and all sorts of communications were disrupted. In this case UFO means Unidentified Financial Official. Some member or members of the County Finance Committee put the award on hold and sought direction from Jeffries, the County’s sole-sourced Bond Underwriter. When asked the identity of the Finance Committee member(s) who initiated the request from Jeffries, the county administration could not provide it, not could it provide any correspondence from Jeffries other than an Analysis showing that the county would earn more with GB&T. That analysis became the basis for what came to the commission as “Option Two” and a revised recommendation to award the mass banking arrangement to GB&T.

Out of a Finance Committee comprised of then Chairman Scott Dean, who is now in prison on an unrelated conviction, commission chairman and GB&T shareholder Ron Cross and District one commissioner and GBT executive Ron Thigpen, who was the UFO? If the UFO landed in the commission chambers, why is there no video, no tracks and no sign of his coming and leaving, only a mystery document which turned out to be wrong, predicting higher interest rates that never materialized and costing the county dearly?

Citizens-activists working with agraynation.com also sought whether First Citizens or the other banks responding to the RFP were invited to rebid or comment on the Jeffries analysis.The county answered that there was no written contact found with First Citizens after notification that their bank was on the list of finalists.

Finally, a response to a Georgia Open Records request to Columbia County, shows that the county was paid the 0.75% minimum throughout 2011 and 2012 on nearly all of the accounts covered by the mass banking RFP, rather than the much higher rates expected when the deal was awarded to the three commissioners’ bank.

Doesn’t an old construction guy like Chairman Cross know that nothing produces more controversy and lawsuits in procurement than awarding bids based on new criteria that have been denied to the other bidders? Isn’t doing something like that and having it lose 33% more revenue than the recommended vendor even worse? How much of his net worth is in that bank stock and its related business ventures, anyhow?

A lot of answers are due Columbia County voters before May 20.

Here is a video presentation recorded in the waning days of April 2014.

Next up in the series – County Revenue Vaporized by the Evans UFO?

Conflict in Columbia County?

Would y’all just look what we have here! In April 2010 the award of Columbia County’s Major banking agreement was on the Columbia County Commission agenda. Uncomfortably, three Commissioners had stock in Georgia Bank in Trust at the time of this vote. The county attorney seemed concerned about the whole area of ethics but it looks from up here in the pine woods that the entire commission was prepped to put on ballerina slippers and tiptoe through the minefield of awarding the county’s mass banking agreement to, well, Georgia Bank and Trust.

District One Commissioner Ron Thigpen was Chief Operating Officer of GB&T (very recently promoted to President). The county attorney found he could avoid the technical definition of a “Conflict of Interest” by recusing himself from this, an official vote of the commission. The county attorney found that the other GB&T shareholders Ron Cross and Charles Allen, Jr., held less than 5% of the bank’s shares and the bank being publicly held fit another exception in the Ethics Ordinance. The final step in the fanciful footwork that carried them to apparent safety was getting the not-ensnared commissioners Scott Dean and Trey Allen to bless the choreography and allow Cross and Charlie Allen to vote, which they did, awarding the banking deal to their bank.

Did the commission gracefully tiptoe across the ethics minefield on gilded slippers, as they would have us believe? Or were they really tap-dancing across it wearing snowshoes?

One of the Rons sure looks like he stepped on one of those Vietnam -era “bouncing betty” mines with a slow trigger. After all, it has taken 4 years for the damage to pop up and show itself to the taxpayers of Columbia County.

The mine had “Appearance of a Conflict” written all over it. The shrapnel might just now be striking. Wasn’t the key issue for Cross and Allen really how much their stock made up of their total assets and how much they stood to gain? How could Thigpen make myriad impartial decisions, beyond just that commission vote, like whether to increase or pay down debt when his bank stood to gain or lose revenue from the county’s deposits there?

Coming up next in the series is “Blame it on the UFO!”

-AF

An Ice Storm Came to Columbia County Government

OPINION by The Arrowflinger

July 22, 2014 found Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson in the studio of Augusta radio station WGAC for an hour on the Austin Rhodes Show. The general topic of discussion that day was the upcoming Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax or SPLOST. An Arrowflinger called in to discuss the SPLOST projects and to opine that discussion was needed as to how secure the bank accounts into which SPLOST funds would be deposited were. (More on that to come.)

Toward the end of the show talk shifted to praising long-time Columbia County Emergency Management Director, Pam Tucker for her astute planning and the county’s superb response to the Winter 2014 ice Storm. Listen and admire the warmth, for these days the only warmth is emitting from anger, as Administrator Johnson and now Former Director Tucker are in the midst of a political war being fought by Columbia County District 1 Commissioner Doug Duncan against Tucker. Both are running for the Chair of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, along with Developer Mark Herbert.

The way Columbia County has gravitated toward rank cronyism, perhaps we should call it the Columbia County Board of Collusioners.

May 22 is Election Day. May Columbia County elect the best candidate, or,more providently, the least damaging one. An emergency management professional has the training to do that.

Maybe Columbia County should hear how highly her current antagonists once regarded Pam Tucker.

The Road to Plunderdome

Two Plans Enter, No Taxpayer Leaves

OPINION from The Arrowflinger

Legendary singer James Brown would be aghast over the Arena controversy that bears his name.

Over the last eight months, even jaded political observers of the already lunatic-run government of Augusta, Georgia have been riveted to the orgy of anger, intrigue, arm-twisting and name calling that left left the consolidated county hopelessly, and possibly permanently, divided. South Augustans of all races, yes including whites, found that the constantly-enriched downtown, central business district, media and hill fiefdoms want them to add the biggest capital building project in the city’s history to a gaggle of incredibly mismanaged and costly efforts with the TEE Center, Parking Deck, Judicial Center, Library and Municipal Center renovation efforts. Worst of all they found themselves denigrated for living in South Augusta.

The establishment faction rolled out a tour de force against Mayor Hardie Davis for pursuing a location at the defunct Regency Mall property on Gordon Highway. The scrutiny, detailed analysis and coverage, finally summoned into play after being virtually nonexistent during the earlier fiascos, was gratifying to behold. Mayor Davis and supporters of the Regency site were caught off guard. They very justifiably complained of a double standard. In that, they are absolutely correct.

The political spectacle could be seen coming in the piney woods of Lincoln County three years ago. On a long enough timeline and given enough rope, the Hapless nine man and one woman Augusta Commission stumbled blindly into a trap of their own making, yet one laid by a merry band of intrepid busybodies, gadflies, curmudgeons, Augusta Todayers, Political Watchers and City Stinkers, with one Arrowflinger in the mix. (Perhaps we would best term the bunch The Augusta Emancipation Reclamation Project but that awaits some sort of official proclamation that frankly might not come until the Augusta Lynx return to ice skate on Broad Street some Midsummer day.)

The activists set the stage for this uncivil war by amassing such outrage over the blatant mismanagement and looting on those earlier big projects that they were able to defeat SPLOST 7A 2014 in May 2014. By the time that plans and project lists were being made for SPLOST 7B 2015, a new Arena on the project list would have meant near certain defeat.

While some of the activists sought to defeat SPLOST 7B 2015 outright, in a repeat of the long-shot 2014 vote, a couple of them worked behind the scenes targeting the new arena as being the best avenue to either defeat the SPLOST if it was on the list, pressure commissioners to eliminate it from the list , or failing both, to reduce it to such a miniscule funding total as to force the city into a later conflagration. The commissioners, notably Marion Williams, were reluctant to even attempt listing the Arena at the full $110 million. Sequentially the designated SPLOST funding was whittled down to about $20 million, then $15 million, and at one point looked to be zeroed out and off of the list. Commissioner Hasan insisted on putting some money on the list and the project appeared as line 10 of 12, way down on the list of the Quality of Life projects. Even worse, the verbiage was misleading to the voters, reading

Modernized James Brown Arena $6,000,000
Address needed upgrades for aged and outdated James Brown Arena, including possible new multipurpose area with a seating capacity of approximately 9,000 for concerts, sporting events, community events, meetings, futurity, and other event.

How does “Address needed upgrades” for a mere $6 million become “Build a New Arena for $120 million to $200 million? The real outrage should be the fact that the Mayor, Administrator, and Commission are YET AGAIN taking voter approval on a fractional portion of a facilities cost, just as others had done with the municipal building and TEE Center, as carte blanche authority to build a much greater project. Even worse it is the biggest expansion of this bait and switch trickery ever at TWENTY FOLD expansion.

Citizens might remember that officials like Mayor Davis, commissioners like Sean Frantom, former Mayor Deke Copenhaver, the Chamber of Commerce and the business supporters of SPLOST 7B 2015 all promised that cost controls would be in place for the SPLOST-funded projects. Davis was quoted as saying “….”That we take every step forward to put in place unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability so we are demonstrating to all of our citizens that we can be good stewards of taxpayers resources”

The statements of Mayor Davis, Mayor Pro Tem Davis and Commissioner Frantom in this WJBF Channel 6 report prior to the vote are telling!

The tune they sang then is octaves lower than the “Lets BUILD IT NOW!” they seem to sing today. Land acquisition agreements are not planning, they are obligations to proceed.

2015 SPLOST 7b 2015 was passed by the voters on Tuesday, November 03, 2015. Now it looks like they might get bypassed on actually getting to vote for or against building the biggest project in their history. Instead, on May 22, 2018 they are being virtually TOLD “We are building this thing on one of two places, whether you like it or not.”

Tractorgate blew away their last figment of credibility that their sworn “Cost Controls” will ever exist.

Augusta government is the laughingstock of Georgia. Pigkiller in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome exclaimed [laughing]”PLAN? There ain’t no plan!” In Augusta looting is always the plan,even when it is on a ballot in two places.

Two plans entered, no Taxpayer Leaves.

Plunderdome.

They will build it just for its looting potential.

-Arrowflinger