Al Gray: Liening on a Stacked Deck

Augusta Deckgate: More Subterfuge?

 

Originally posted by CityStink
Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
The substitute motion that passed at last Tuesday’s Augusta Richmond County Commission Meeting to approve the Reynolds Street Parking Deck agreement pending lien-free donation of the land took this incredible saga to a new level of absurdity.
Beyond the criticism that the city didn’t own the land, there was no other impetus for doing such a thing. Opponents of the agreement were not questioning the efficacy of the previous air rights transaction in preserving tax exempt financing. To a lesser extent they were questioning a promised donation never made, which this ‘solution’ would meet. Yesterday’s Augusta Chronicle article spends a great deal of time on what looks to be a misdirection play. Air rights were not the major issue, the liens were.
The motion still applies to property with liens on it that have not been addressed or satisfied. Worse, it passed in the face of entreaties to institute rights of audit up front for this agreement and also to implement the capabilities to audit the existing Augusta Riverfront LLC and Augusta partnership arrangements. City hired attorney Jim Plunkett expressed a willingness to do that on future contracts and perhaps include more provisions in the deck agreement itself, but studiously avoided the issue of auditing the existing partnership arrangements over the last 3 years.
The deck agreement is essentially a cost-plus fixed fee arrangement with the LLC’s controlling “costs.” The operations budget has to be funded on a 90 day reserve basis. If revenues fall short of expenses the City has to make up the difference. The capital budget is kept at the lesser of $250,000 or the annual Plan capital reserve level. Since the PLAN is largely determinant, have the commissioners seen it?
What is really strange is the juxtaposition of what is said and what the evidence is about the release of those liens. From the Chronicle article we get this:Paul Simon, the president of 933 Broad, said he has had a letter from the bank holding the lien agreeing to release it when the deal is final since as far back as July 2010. He said he expected no problems in transferring the real estate to the land bank.
The proposed Consent and Subordination agreement supplied to the Engineering Services Committee Monday, January 30, as an attachment (Page 15) to the CORE agreement says that Wells Fargo Bank “consents to the foregoing agreement and subordinates the Security Deed to the foregoing agreement. Otherwise the Security Deed shall remain in full force and effect. How can there be a “letter from the bank holding the lien agreeing to release it” from 2010 when the Consent and Subordination attachment, prepared by the City’s attorney and submitted just last week clearly states that the Security Deed (lien) “shall remain in full force and effect.” Doesn’t this just mean that the City is put in the same position as the Developer in the latter goes away via default? The liens would stand.
Has there really ever been a deal to release the liens? Will there be? It surely doesn’t look that way from these documents. How the new land bank deeding strategy answers this is unclear.“The lawyers are handling it” doesn’t sound very reassuring, but we are being asked to bank upon it.***
AG

 

Al Gray: Attention Mr. Mayor

Originally posted by CityStink
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
Attention Mr. Mayor:
Look…..I am approaching 60. I was/am semi-retired. I quit doing formal audit work YEARS ago unless it is an existing client. I like doing COST RECOVERY WORK on a percentage basis – no results and you don’t pay. When I do one of those the deal is basically this……
Mr. CLIENT, old Al will do his best to get your money back and only gets paid for results. You ain’t suing him and you are gonna sign up that way. If you INSIST on being able to sue old Al and want all of those fancy formal audit programs done, the rate is $525 an hour and old Al will take his sweet time being real particular. For all the stalkers out there that is the deal. And NO, old Al AIN’T a Certified Forensic Auditor – his late friend Mike Hall was. This being said, Old Al got off the couch and dusted off his skills and is finding – to the politicians pain – that his old skills are pretty darned good and the new ones the Colco so-and-so’s made him learn are just plain DY-NO-MITE. Thank you much for the new line of work. Hugs and kisses – the Arrowflinger.
Mr. Mayor Copenhaver, I will give you a discount but only if it goes to Salvation Army or some such. It don’t take many arrows for old Al to make it and he don’t need to recover them whats stickin outta your hide.
Mr Plunk-it ain’t writin’ the contract neither.
While we’s at it……old Al, after Randy Oliver figured that contractors own Augusta, went and done sumthin real radical…..He spent $1200 on some of them big winder envelopes likin them banks started usin in about 2000 or so…..you know dem that made you LOOK……well old Al used Photoshop to cram the corporate logo of them fancy Fortune 500 companies NOBODY could get in the door of widout spending $10 grand into the maw of that big old great white shark like that’n in Jaws……. yep old Al sent dem letters all over the USA to all them corporate execs……..yep, sho nuff that worked……Old Al’s renegade marketing got the attention of HUGE great big old companies like Corning, Home Depot, Lowes, Carmike, 3M, Intel, Bristol Myers, Eli Lilly, Duke Power, Bass Pro and great big old heap of others…..Mind you old Al AIN’T STUPID so he is listing these folks because he ain’t got no bidness wid dem…….hahahahaha…..when old Al started jumping on politicians they weren’t gonna be NO WAY IN HELL he was gonna leave some client list on LinkedIn or other such bizzybody places so’s y’all could ruin him……Hahahahaha…..when old Al ‘gets you’ you done been GOT WID YOUR OWN RECORDS…….so there ya got it, iffn you can catch Old Al’s drift.
Sincerely,
The ArrowFlinger Al Gray

Al Gray is the President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc, a firm specializing in capital projects and construction auditing.

Video from Yesterday’s Augusta Commission Meeting

Originally posted by CityStink
February 8, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
With Lori Davis
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
We have video from yesterday’s Augusta Commission meeting.
AgrayNation would like to thank Kurt Huttar for providing the video.
Video of Al Gray and Lori Davis Speaking before the commission:

Al Gray’s Remarks to the Augusta Commission

The ArrowFlinger Al Gray

Originally posted by CityStink
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
Below is the text of the remarks by Al Gray at yesterday’s Augusta Commission meeting. WE will have video of both Al Gray and Lori Davis’ remarks soon.

***********************************************

Mayor Copenhaver and Gentlemen of the Commission, thank you for allowing me to speak tonight.
Mr. Mayor, I like you have always loved the economic development that comes with mega projects, having served for a quarter century on manufacturing sites from California, Washington, Florida, to Pennsylvania. I say this to offer that my focus is not anti-development, just anti irresponsible spending and fraud.
I rise before you tonight to speak in opposition to two agreements for the conference center and Reynolds Street Parking Deck. This comes from having spent years in crisis management mode for companies whose projects went horribly wrong, but it comes even more from Augusta experiences. I once proposed doing a cost recovery review to administrator Randy Oliver that might have reformed Augusta. He was interested, but then he hit a patch of turbulence and concluded it wasn’t possible in Augusta – the influence of the connected was too great. I went on to gain new corporate clients, just not in Augusta.
The saga of the Tee Center over the last 5 years has been a twisting, turning affair from its start. The last chapter should not be written tonight. The irregularities, the failures, and evidence which are legion scream “STOP!”
We in the 12 counties destined to be coupled with you by the TSPLOST are a watching, nervous, and perhaps unwilling bride. We see $50 million in buildings built on land you don’t own, undisclosed liens of various description, land to be donated turned into air, a bribery trial involving this very project, controversy going back to 1998 with this partnership, and finally that you find yourselves hostages tonight to threats of those liens. These things pose a dire warning for associating ourselves with you.
While these are strong words they are directed in a sense of hope, a profound desire to make this the night that everyone of you can recall with enormous pride, the night 10 men and a mayor who have feuded relentlessly came together and started accomplishing that which predecessors of the last 40 years could not. I would be proud to help.
First we have serious issues to address. Gentlemen you simply cannot ratify this proposal tonight, offered under duress and a myriad of questions, without the most serious of consequences for this community. This outpouring of the people bears witness to that. Yes, the building is built and no, no one wants this mess during the Masters, but you must stop and make sure that these people are protected by the strongest of audit rights, open record access to, and an immediate review of the past, current and future operations under the management of these private partners
I cannot imagine the consequences if you proceed. I would not want to be in your shoes should you vote ‘yes.’
You see, if this body in its wisdom does not embrace a comprehensive program of reform, sound financial controls, and contract enforcement, beginning tonight, the sledgehammer blows from revelations of stunning irresponsibility, indeed Fraud will rip apart this community. I do not refer to the transaction currently at issue, but others that we have identified throughout this government in recent months. Mr. Brigham was concerned about spending $30,000 on an audit. Well we can get that much back with 2 phone calls. There might be millions salvageable, based upon my preliminary review.
Mr. Jackson and others seem to have bought the administrator’s assurances that there is security in the work of $500 an hour bond attorneys. Is there? In Jefferson County Alabama the county administrator and 4 county commissioners are now in the penitentiary because of the spawn of bond attorneys. There is a national scandal unfolding around the municipal bond market. It pays to keep up with these trends, lest you become the next victims.
Several of the people in this room may have made some the biggest misjudgments or miscalculations of their lives. You have a vote to make. I hope it is not one in which you join them.***

AG

Parking Gate Providing a “Teachable Moment” for City Leaders

The controversial new $12 million TEE Center parking deck
Originally Posted on CityStink.net
Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012
Augusta, GA
Contributions were made to this article by Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
Today, Augusta Commissioners will decide whether to push ahead with a 15 year management contract with  Augusta Riverfront LLC over the controversial new $12,000,000 TEE Center parking deck, or to put the brakes on the deal because of recent revelations that we helped uncover showing that not only does the city not own the land under the deck but that it has liens on it to secure more than $7,000,000 in debt. Citizen activists Lori Davis and Al Gray, representing the group Augusta Today, who uncovered the information about the land ownership and liens will speak before the commission today to explain why the management agreement should be voted down.
Some people will argue that we just need to move on and approve the deal;  that, yes this ordeal is a mess and there were lots of mistakes made, but that they cannot be undone now and so the best course is to just minimize our losses. But that argument is based on faulty logic. Is this really the best deal the city can negotiate with Augusta Riverfront LLC? Let’s remember who negotiated it on behalf of the city: Administrator Fred Russell, the same Fred Russell who mislead commissioners on multiple occasions about the land being donated and kept information from them about the liens. Can we really believe that Fred Russell negotiated the best deal possible? It is only slightly better than the one the commissioners voted down a few months ago, and this current proposal has been only slightly improved with what Russell has described as “minor tweaks.” With the information uncovered in the last couple weeks, is that really good enough? We don’t think so. The fact that this current deal has Russell’s fingerprints all over it is all the justification needed to defeat it.
Commissioner Grady Smith has a better idea. In an interview with WJBF’s George Eskola yesterday, Commissioner Smith said: “I think we should get into the room with the other side, let’s get all the facts on the table.” He is right. The Commissioners themselves should go back to the negotiating table with Paul S Simon of Augusta Riverfront LLC and see if a better deal can be made, instead of trusting the one that Fred Russell crafted is in the best interest of the taxpayers. Commissioner Smith went on to say: “When you’re dealing with the taxpayers’ money, let’s make sure everything is on the table. A lot of times…where there’s smoke, there’s fire, innuendo’s. Let’s get them clear.” We could not agree more with Commissioner Grady Smith on that point.
Mayor Pro-tem Joe Bowles told Chris Thomas of WRDW that he would “absolutely not” support the current management agreement on the table saying “It needs to be five years.” It appears to us that our elected officials may be able to do a much better job than Fred Russell in negotiating new terms over the management contract for the TEE Center parking decks.

The Mayor’s Misdirected Outrage

Mayor Deke Copenhaver
It’s not often that Mayor Deke Copenhaver speaks out on an issue of controversy but he finally weighed in on the debate over the TEE Center Parking Deck and the calls for a deeper investigation. But the Mayor appears to have directed his outrage towards the citizen watchdogs who uncovered the misdeeds rather than the people responsible for the mess. In a lengthy guest column that appeared in this past Sunday’s Augusta Chronicle, the Mayor wrote:
I also have shared that those individuals and families who are the foundation of my support generally are not the people who grouse and complain through websites, blogs and silly Facebook pages where adults behaving in the most childish manner possible actually invest hours out of each day in trafficking in rumor, innuendo and misinformation while seeing who can act the most absurd.”


We assume that the Mayor is talking about us and Augusta Today.  That’s OK, we don’t mind being called names. And I guess it does mean that the Mayor is paying attention to what we are doing, so that’s a good thing. But “trafficking rumor, innuendo, and misinformation“? We’re not exactly sure what the Mayor is referring to unless he believes that the city’s own public records contain “misinformation” on the parking deck deal, because that is where we have found most of our evidence thus far. And we would think that the Mayor would also be outraged to learn that there was a pattern of deception to mislead the public and public officials over the TEE Center Parking deck: First learning that the land was never donated as promised and then to learn that it has liens on it jeopardizing the city’s air rights. But the Mayor seems to think there’s nothing to it all.
The Mayor also took the time to blast the call for a forensic audit, calling it a “waste of money“. Actually, we now agree with the Mayor that a forensic audit may be unnecessary, but not because there is not impropriety involved over The TEE Center and Parking Deck, but rather because we have already proven a pattern of deception found in the public documents that we were able to obtain as well as through newspaper articles going back over 5 years. So in a sense we have already done the forensic audit for the city for free. Now, it all depends on what authorities choose to do with the information we uncovered.
And whereas we appreciate The Mayor’s concern for not “wasting” any more of the taxpayers’ money, that argument does seem to be a bit disingenuous coming from him. The Mayor didn’t seem so concerned about taxpayer money being wasted on huge severance packages going to fired incompetent department heads because Administrator Fred Russell could not keep accurate employee evaluations. The Mayor also did not seem too concerned about tax money being wasted on continuing to fight a loosing lawsuit against the video X-Mart. The Mayor also didn’t speak out when the city’s procurement department was costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of tax dollars in lawsuits. And just recently, The Mayor asked and received $100,000 in tax money for what is essentially a fancy conference room in the middle of Broad Street. This, amid one of the tightest city budgets in years that included layoffs and cuts to nearly every department, including public safety.  But now all of a sudden when it comes to investigating the irregularities over the TEE Center and parking deck, the Mayor is concerned about what he calls “government waste.”
But in a broader sense what is most troubling is the Mayor’s attitude that all of this should  just be swept under the rug because he thinks it makes the city look bad to outside companies. We agree with the Mayor, yes, building $50,000,000 worth of taxpayer financed facilities on privately owned land with liens attached to it, does indeed make the city look very foolish. But what would make the city look even worse in the eyes of outsiders is to blatantly try to cover it all up and suggest there’s nothing to it all. You see, that’s the dismissive attitude that lead to the financial collapse of 2008. A culture of corruption thrived in the financial sector because of a lack of oversight. Real estate was over valued with our tax dollars, and the folks with the creative accountants and lawyers made out like bandits with the taxpayers bailing them out in the end. We believe that outside companies would be far more concerned with obvious efforts by city officials to try and cover up deception, corruption and the blatant misuse of tax dollars, after all they would be paying large sums in taxes to this city if they chose to locate here.
Albert Einstein once said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” Well, this is certainly not the first time Augusta has found itself in a bad situation over one of these  realestate deals. We would like to remind the Mayor that the the city forgave a $7,500,000 UDAG loan to Augusta Riverfront LLC back in 1998 over the construction of the Marriott over the objections of then city administrator Randy Oliver. We have to wonder how this current situation would have been handled differently with someone like Oliver at the helm instead of Russell. Back then, Oliver received some heavy criticism from some very powerful local special interests for raising objections over forgiving the loan. But, then Oliver knew who he worked for, the taxpayers, not the special interests.
The question now before Augusta leaders is “Will you learn from this error and make sure that it doesn’t happen again?” It is very clear that a lack of oversight contributed to this. We now need our elected officials to be more engaged in the process and not simply trust Fred Russell or the lawyers to provide all of the answers, because it is apparent that the commissioners had extremely important information held from them by the city administrator and the lawyers; and these are people who are supposedly working on behalf of the city and being paid with our tax dollars.
In his Sunday guest column, the Mayor chided certain elected officials (without naming names) for “bullying” certain city employees. We certainly agree with the Mayor that  it is important to maintain decorum at commission meetings and there is certainly no place for insults and name-calling. But we must say that the timing of his column was quite odd. What about the taxpayers who have been “bullied” over this bad deal over the parking deck? It seems that the Mayor could have found the space to address that issue, but instead he seems to think that any criticism of the public employees who are partly responsible for this debacle should be off limits. We could not disagree with him more. We need our commissioners asking more tough questions and holding employees accountable. That’s what we elected them to do. In fact, perhaps if commissioners and the Mayor had been more engaged in the process from the beginning, all of these could have been averted  years ago.
What the Mayor is suggesting is that  Appearances should trump The Truth. We could not disagree more. And besides, public officials look the most foolish and suspect in the eyes of the public when they are trying to cover up the truth. It’s always best to get the truth out in the open, admit mistakes were made,  and then learn from them so that the same mistakes cannot be made over and over.  In the case of Parking Gate, we have a teachable moment, how our elected officials choose to learn from it is up to them.***

CS

 

TEE Center and Parking Deck: A Grand Deception?

The TEE Center and Parking Deck are tainted with deception

Billy’s Best Bud?

Originally posted by CityStink
February 6, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Indy Injun
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
Mr. Paul S. Simon has been a successful Augusta business leader, civic-minded patron and is a proud founder of one of the best banks in the area, Savannah River Banking Company. He is admired far an wide. His partner in Augusta real estate ventures, newspaper publisher emeritus Billy Morris, has been a man of similar high regard here from his history of generosity and benevolence.
Admiration stops when it comes to the activities of these men with respect to the Tee Center and Deck controversies. In an article in Morris’ Augusta Chronicle in 2007 it was clearly stated that “Augusta Riverfront’s land would be deeded to the city”Subsequent articles told of the land “donation.” The land never got deeded and the donation turned into air. Barry White,of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau wrote July8, 2007, “Not only does Augusta Riverfront LLC bring proven expertise, it has offered to donate to the city downtown real estate valued at an estimated $1 million.” The “land valued at $1 million” looks to be underwater because of $7 million in liens. Despite these things these gentlemen never set the record straight, with the assertion that land would be donated continuing to the commission meeting in December 2009 in which the Tee Center was approved. Setting the notion of the grand donation in print and never retracting it certainly looks like deception from this vantage point. See the timeline in one our earlier stories on the matter here —> Deeds and Misdeeds: A “Chronicle” of Promises to Donate Land for TEE Center/Parking Deck.
If someone can show otherwise, please do so and a retraction can be issued.
The deception of the LLC mavens may have been simply neglecting to correct misdirected glowing praise they had first basked in. Indeed there are no documents known to be in the public domain that have their signatures or even business letterhead on to prove anything. Most of the versions of the Term Sheet used in the negotiations even state that the LLC’s would retain the land. If there are ways to tie the Term Sheets back to the LLC mavens, then can’t one conclude that deception was there because they represented to the public one thing while expressing the opposite in private?
The actions of the County Administrator and attorneys look far worse. They represent the greatest malfeasance in office of any public officials that most of us engaged in this matter have ever seen. Their deception of the county commission, the media, and the public looks to have been continuous. Their actions to cater to the financial needs of the LLC’s look to have overridden the public interest that they have been paid to protect. A forensic audit like the one that the County Commission has approved is an appropriate response. The circumstances demand it.
Both county administrator and county attorneys admit to knowing about the Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo) liens very early on. They failed to tell the County Commission that the valuable “land donations” were really enormous liabilities. They allowed the $12 million Reynolds Street Parking Deck to be built on land the city mostly doesn’t own and the Tee Center to be built over a parcel the city doesn’t own. Now the city is being forced into retroactively approving contracts that the administrator promised commissioners would be in place up front. The commission is being told “approve it first and then you get to use the building you constructed.” These are grounds for dismissal in this writer’s opinion.
Attorney Jim Plunkett‘s assertion Monday that the buildings “had to be built” before the necessary easements could be established flies in the face of the public’s experience with real estate transactions.
The $1.8 million claimed financing savings from using air rights, the Jackson land swap, and the WAGT purchase to reduce the LLC ownership interest appear bogus. Examination of the situation shows that the only reason higher cost taxable bond financing would have ever been necessary was because the LLC’s were retaining too much ownership. In other words, the interest ‘savings’ came from not losing tax exempt financing on that which would have otherwise been eligible. Isn’t this like setting a neighbor’s house afire, then rushing in with fire extinguishers pretending to be a hero?
The new wrinkle in the TEE story – Assignment of Rents

Why did the attorney’s have to maintain the same number of parking spaces for the LLC’s? The truth is probably found in the Assignment of Rents that the LLC’s had also executed with Wachovia Bank.(See The Assignments of Rents Leases Document for 933 Broad Investment LLC Here). Since the property is entailed and also liened by the Assignment of Rents, that had to be accommodated by going to the air rights package.
The attorneys did not notify the commission about the Assignment of Rents nor did they notify about the Security deeds on the property. They failed to do this even though the security deed says that any buildings or structures “hereafter erected” also come under the security deed. (See the Security Deed Here). How does an attorney let his client build on land under such language without clearing that up first?
Billy Morris got another sweetheart deal at our expense
In the background, coincidentally or otherwise, the LLC’s interests were being sublimely served. The banking crisis that exploded in 2008 spilled over into commercial property markets in 2009 and 2010. Across the nation and especially in Georgia, the epicenter of bank failures, borrowers were being faced with crushing demands by banks, when loans came up for refinancing. Banks increased the amount of equity required and also reappraised properties which were falling in value, generally increasing the amount of new equity required to refinance. Morris Communications announced its bankruptcy filing in March 2009, just as the Tee Center cost estimates were being prepared. The security deed against the deck parcels owned by 933 Broad showed a final payment date of June 30,2009, (See the  933 Security Deed 2nd modification here) only a week before the July 2009 commission meeting where the commissioners were first confronted with the terminology about air rights instead of land donation. Did the LLC’s have demands or needs to come up with more collateral like everyone else?
The appraised value of the parcels was $552,000, far less than the loan amount cited in the security deed of $7 million, Now to clear up one misconception, the $7 million loan seems to have been secured by additional properties, not just the deck land. This being said, commercial property values fell by 20 to 40% locally, which likely prompted action or concern with respect to the LLC loans. Please see the land acquisitions document here—> TEE Center Land Acquisitions. Pay close attention to Page 2.
The Jackson land swap and hot dog stand buy-out must have looked like manna from heaven to those LLC’s. It gave any bank real estate appraiser a comp value of $2.2 million an acre! This would not only have applied to the deck parcels, but the parcel under the Tee Center, and the lands of affiliated Morris Simon entities. It would have relieved the pressure from the reappraisal process.
There is no way of knowing the magnitude of the cash outlays the Jackson swap averted for the LLC’s except that the relative values before and after the swap transaction had to have been huge.
Fred Russell has been less than honest over this deal
Then there is the matter of the effects of Augusta’s Administrator and attorneys hiding the loans and liens from the Augusta Richmond County commission. Approval of the Tee Center was a close thing, with the term sheet initially failing a vote on August 21, 2007, only to be revived and approved later in the meeting. The disclosure of security deeds for a $7 million loan would have been disastrous. Approval would have been impossible. As it was, the commissioners were under the impression that $1 million in land would be donated, not $552,000 of land with $7 million in liens.
Get the picture? Morris Communications announced a restructuring in March 2009 that ended up writing down its debt by more than $100 million. About the same time, or sometime well before construction by the city began on land it doesn’t own, administrator Fred Russell and attorneys had to have been aware of the liens and Assignment of Rents on the Morris LLC property, yet they did nothing to inform the commission! The conclusion is that they had a determination to see the Tee Center built no matter what, even to the extent of hiding material facts from their employers. What kind of discipline or censure is the Commission going to respond to that with?
The commission is in a box of these peoples’ making. It has to approve the Conference center and Reynolds Street Parking Deck Agreements first, before there is any relief from the bank liens. There is no option but to approve the deals. In any other environment couldn’t this be seen as extortion by the county’s own employees?
Why did they do these things?
Forensic Audit Would be Impotent
Despite our call for a forensic audit in the past, this new information would makes the exercise a farce. First of all, Administrator Russell and attorney Plunkett admitted last Monday to knowing about the liens and not telling the commission. Second, the forensic auditor would likely run into the same stonewall of claimed attorney-client privilege and unsigned, undated documents that citizen Lori Davis met in her open records request. Mayor Copenhaver and Finance Chairman Brigham are right that a forensic audit in the face of such pronounced and determined refusal to disclose anything of a material nature would be a fruitless exercise.Commissioner Johnny Hatney very correctly pointed to the need for all agreements with these LLC’s to be audited. It is noted that the two new agreements call for financial audits. Those would be even more worthless than a forensic audit. Those things are rubber stamps.
Serious reforms have to be in place before the Commission votes to approve the new agreements with the LLC’s.
Commissioners have allowed themselves to be trapped in a box

 

The public simply won’t stand for anything less.
Meanwhile. Mr. Morris is so happy with Administrator Fred Russell that his Augusta Chronicle feted Russell with a tribute piece.
The people of Augusta-Richmond County might have a different tribute in mind.
Commissioners find themselves in a box canyon not of their making. They cannot be happy.***
AG

Citizens Urged to Pack Tomorrow’s Commission Meeting

Originally posted by CityStink
Monday, Feb. 6, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
UPDATE: Exclusive video from the Feb 7 Augusta Commission Meeting—> Click Here
All concerned citizens of Augusta and surrounding counties are urged to pack tomorrow’s Augusta commission meeting at 5pm. On the agenda is a motion to approve a 15 year management contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC for the controversial TEE Center parking deck. We urge citizens to call or write their commissioners and ask them to vote NO! And we urge citizens to be present at tomorrow’s commission meeting to show commissioners that you demand accountability. Over the past 4 months we have revealed evidence showing that commissioners were mislead by City Administrator Fred Russell. When the TEE Center and parking deck were approved back on Dec. 9, 2009, Russell explicitly told them not once, but several times that the land for the parking deck would be donated by 933 Broad Investment LLC, a subsidiary of Augusta Riverfront LLC, which has connections to William S Morris III, publisher of The Augusta Chronicle. It never was, and commissioners were never told until after they built a $12 million parking deck on land they did not even own.
But making matters worse, we discovered that the property has liens on it as collateral for over $7,000,000 in debt! That includes the city’s air rights! The city administrator knew this all along as well as the real estate attorney hired by the city to facilitate the deals involved in the deck, but they never bothered to tell the commissioners! Now commissioners are being told that they must approve a very lop-sided deal to have the air rights released by the bank. They have been put in a box. It is clearly evident that there was gross malfeasance and downright deceit involved in this parking deck deal. Will commissioners just try and sweep it under the rug tomorrow by approving this very bad deal? That’s up to you. Don’t let them get away with it. This is your money and they have proven that they cannot be trusted with it.  That’s why your presence at tomorrow’s meeting is so important. The other side will try and spin this with more propaganda and more deceit (We have seen that today). Do not be fooled! Tell commissioners that they work for you, not the crony robber barons who have swindled and deceived them and the taxpayers. It is time once and for all to put an end to this madness!
Lori Davis and Al Gray are on the agenda to speak at tomorrow’s commission meeting, representing the citizens activist group Augusta Today. They will make the case on behalf of the citizens as to why this bad deal should be defeated. But they need your support and your presence at the meeting will speak loud and clear. And even if you are not a resident of the city of Augusta, this still affects you. The TEE Center and parking deck were partially paid for through sales taxes, so you helped pay for this mess! So even if you live in Evans, North Augusta, Lincolnton, or Wrens, but spend money in Augusta… you are also urged to attend.
The meeting gets promptly under way at 5:00pm tomorrow (Tuesday) February 7th at the Municipal Building (Marble Palace) at 530 Greene St, Augusta GA 30901 in the Commission chambers on the 8th floor. You are encouraged to arrive early if you want a seat inside the chambers.
CityStink.net will be releasing more information regarding the TEE Center and Parking Deck Today at 2:30pm, so stay tuned.
Please see new information we uncovered here—-> Parking Gate: A Grand Deception?
In addition to your attendance, please call or write the following Augusta Commissioners to vote NO to this bad deal and stand on the side of the people.


Commissioner Jerry Brigham
District 7
Contact:
Ph:             (706) 863-1698       (home)
Ph:             (706) 650-1700       (work)
Fx: (706) 650-1141
EmailCbrigham@augustaga.gov

Commissioner Joe Jackson
District 6
Contact
Ph:             (706) 533-7839       (home)
Fx: (706) 821-1838
EmailJtJackson@augustaga.gov

Commissioner Matt Aitken
District 1
Contact
Ph:             (706) 724-4377       (home)
Ph:             (706) 564-6281       (cell)
Fx: (706) 821-1838
EmailMAitken@augustaga.gov

Commissioner Joe Bowles
District 3
Contact
Ph:    (706) 733-9074       (home)
Ph:    (706) 825-6894  (work)
Fx: (706) 210-1871
EmailMayorpro-temBowles@augustaga.gov

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle
District 8
Contact
Ph:             (706) 592-2385       (home)
Ph:             (706) 796-3444       (work)
Fx: (706) 821-1838
EmailCWayneGuilfoyle@augustaga.gov

Commissioner Grady Smith
Super District 10
Contact
Ph: (706) 825-9473 (cell)
Ph:             (706) 733-9473       (work)
Fx: (706) 821-1838
No email available

Commissioner Alvin Mason
Dist 4
Contact
Ph: (706) 955-6130
Fx: (706) 821-1838
Email: amason@augustaga.gov

Commissioner J.R. Hatney
Super District. 9
Contact<
Ph: (706) 722-5035 (home)
Ph: (706) 726-8186 (cell)
Fx: (706) 821-1838
Email: Jhatney@augustaga.gov

Commissioner Corey Johnson
Dist. 2
Contact
Ph: (706) 736-4435 (home)
Ph: (706) 993-0224 (cell)
Fx: (706) 821-1838
Email: CJohnson5@augustaga.gov

Commissioner Bill Lockett
Dist. 5
Contact
Ph: (706) 798-7175 (home)
Ph: (706) 825-1847 (cell)
Fx: (706) 821-1838
Email: Wlockett@augustaga.gov

Sunday Sermon: Nehemiah Gazes on Augusta

Listening to Old Nehemiah

Scripture for the Mayor’s Next Prayer Breakfast
Originally posted on CityStink
Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
Local and state leaders are stuck on “moving forward” to the point of absurdity. There is a whole book in the bible that supports that positive , literally constructive, approach. The book of Nehemiah is a tribute to building and teamwork. The fifth chapter abruptly tells a different tale. There, readers see Israel in the throes of a depression, even as the great temple was being built. Nehemiah, perhaps as wise as was Solomon, saw dislocations happening and sprang into action before things spun out of control.
History repeats, it is said. Nehemiah would recognize our time well. There was a great famine. People could not repay their loans. Between taxes and debts they lost their lands and were forced to sell their children into slavery. By some accounts there was a dearth, more people than the land or economy could support.
There are many versions of the Bible to study that take on these problems in different contexts. I like the words of Nehemiah found in  the Bible Gateway’s Easy to Read Version. 
When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. 7 I calmed myself down, and then I went to the rich families and the officials…… Then I called for all the people to meet together 8 and said to them, “Our fellow Jews were sold as slaves to people in other countries. We did our best to buy them back and make them free. And now, you are selling them like slaves again!”
   The rich people and officials kept quiet. They could not find anything to say. 9 So I continued speaking. I said, “What you people are doing is not right! You know that you should fear and respect our God. You should not do the shameful things other people do! 10 My men, my brothers, and I are also lending money and grain to the people. But let’s stop forcing them to pay interest on these loans. 11 You must give their fields, vineyards, olive fields, and houses back to them, right now! ……”
 12 Then the rich people and the officials said, “We will give it back and not demand anything more from them. Nehemiah, we will do as you say.”
   Then I called the priests. I made the rich people and the officials promise to God that they would do what they said. 13 Then I shook out the folds of my clothes. I said, “God will do the same thing to everyone who does not keep their promise. God will shake them out of their houses and they will lose everything they worked for. They will lose everything!”
   I finished saying these things and all the people agreed. They all said, “Amen” and praised the LORD. So the people did as they had promised.
In verse 14, a too-big government was oppressing the people. What Nehemiah did was stunning
The people were also greatly oppressed by the servants and officers of the governor; but, during the twelve years that Nehemiah had been with them, he took not this salary, and ate none of their bread. Nor were his servants permitted to take or exact any thing from them. Having such an example, it was scandalous for their chiefs, priests, and nobles, thus to oppress an afflicted and distressed people.
The Lesson For AUGUSTA Today
We have a problem like that of Nehemiah and his people. The demographics of the baby boom population were always bound to produce a dearth. This writer acknowledged it and planned for it. The dearth was scheduled to strike after 2020, but it is of the here and now. The greatest wave of financial corruption the world has ever seen – ever-morphing, expanding with the speed of instantaneous communication and power of globalism – has sped up this dreadful time by a full decade.
In desperation, the formerly wealthy who were largely wiped out in 2008 have seized upon their political domination to restore their fortunes. If they go unchecked, there will be no American middle class in a scant 5 years. Are these things happening in Augusta, as elsewhere? Yes, they are.
When the share price of  the demised Wachovia Bank fell from $57 to $2 and Regions Bank suffered a similar tumble in 2007 and 2008, some in the know say it took a $Billion out of the wealth of Augusta. This writer estimates the losses at more than $600 million. Commercial and residential real estate, particularly resort homes, crashed in value.
These were sledgehammer blows to the wealth class and would have permanently shifted wealth to those who planned, saved, trained, and invested for these times. Those who lost want none of that. Their excesses of power and influence have been stunning, taking us to the brink of extinguishing the rule of law and flaunting the laws of mathematics.
The first levers of power to be engaged were over government contracts, stimulus funds, capital projects, and tax incentives. $50 million in improvements on lands Augusta doesn’t own, $millions in federal stimulus money dumped on Laney Walker to the benefit of the whitest of Columbia County developers who had lost in the crash, an unannounced ‘opportunity zone’ foisted upon Harrisburg, and a public housing project in Martinez greased by massive lobbyist funds to the highest of Georgia officials are overwhelming evidence. These are just the incidences that have been disclosed. More are coming.
Into the maw of this chasm of government money and power, a group of local citizens has sprung forth to meet it head on. This writer is proud to be amongst them. The danger to our fortunes, occupations, freedom, and even our lives is palpable. There have been threats. We acknowledge them and move forward with firm resolve. In the scant 4 months since the Augusta Today Facebook group, City Stink and ArrowFlinger Reports have been created, the results have been stunning and the support from the community has been overwhelming, yet humbling. We thank you all for that. I believe that through similar efforts we can claw Augusta and America back from the brink of an apocalypse.
The approach is simple. We formed a nucleus of dedicated researchers, professionals, and public policy freaks to identify, plan, document, execute, and publicize projects, supported by a guarded social network that now exceeds 200.  We pull from professional resources from across America. We try to excel in presenting documents for the public to examine on line that buttress our case. If there is opposition, they find themselves not in argument with our findings but in direct confrontation with their own deeds, words and documents! This was our plan from the outset. Its effectiveness is an epic success.
If one thinks upon it, the approach of turning government and power back upon itself can be seen as a form of martial-arts in which size and force of the opponent is his own worst enemy. We give the broadcast media a knowledge base and stories that cannot be fully explored in the two minutes or less that they have on the air. In these times of swift, yet unrecognized, shifts in local fortunes and power, we may prove instrumental in restoring the free market to the process, as traditional media remains welded to the past, unwilling to risk offending those who have failed. The past belongs to those who failed. We embrace the future with relish.
What can you do to help? First, you can form your own nuclei of project teams within the overall framework of Augusta Today, coordinating with our group or independently if you wish, much as the Magnolia Trace group has done. You will have to thoroughly vet the members and restrict the number to ten or less. You will have to have discipline and a high degree of coordination. (We learned this lesson the hard way, as we had no formal plan – we just ‘happened.’) Inclusion of media people is not advised, as the objective is to be a source for all dedicated to none.
There is no dearth of opportunities. The current group has at least six months of projects and stories already. There is room for expansion. Second, as we get the capability to accept donations, please contribute. Radio talk show host Austin Rhodes initiated this aspect of our efforts in order to engage tough legal counsel as a force multiplier against the City of Augusta, should common sense fail with regard to the City’s Reynolds Street Deck Agreements. Our current intention is to employ that resource there and elsewhere on projects from Augusta to the gold dome in Atlanta.
We acknowledge the tremendous role of the broadcast media in spreading our stories, particularly Renee DeMedicis of WNRR, Austin Rhodes of WGAC, Tony Powers of WNRR , George Eskola of WJBF, and Chris Thomas of WRDW. They have added a forceful dimension that we could never achieve. We will similarly embrace whatever journalistic print media survives this maelstrom too.
We have no Nehemiah, we have ourselves and our resolve to avoid the abyss of lawlessness, incontrovertible stupidity, arrogance, and abuse of power that lies ahead. Augusta’s mayor is stuck on “moving forward.”  We have seen the path he is on and we have bolted from it. How about you?
Nehemiah’s Message to Augusta Power Brokers and Manipulators
There have been times like these before in Augusta, periods of economic downturn and those finding themselves with decimated fortunes while still holding enormous political power with which they tried to regain their riches at public expense. The names Bert Hester and Gene Holley come to mind. Senator Holley was once one the most powerful men in Georgia and had amassed one of the state’s largest fortunes, before enormous losses in oil led to overly aggressive financial actions that ended with a conviction for bank fraud. When this writer recalled Holley’s conviction and imprisonment, it was wondered how Mr. Holley lived his final years. His obituary reported that they were spent in simplicity of lifestyle, regained faith, and in the love of his family and friends. That is not bad, not bad at all.
If you are one of the Augusta elite and high society, for your own sakes – follow the advice of Nehemiah. A storm comes and it is one in which we all need each other. Reject the rest of us and you will find yourselves in the gravest of dangers. Gene Holley’s epitaph wasn’t bad, not bad at all.
May your next prayer breakfast be blessed.
Nehemiah’s gaze is upon you.***

Al Gray

 

Nehemiah Gazes on Augusta

Listening to Old Nehemiah
Scripture for the Mayor’s Next Prayer Breakfast
by Al Gray
Local and state leaders are stuck on “moving forward” to the point of absurdity. There is a whole book in the bible that supports that positive , literally constructive, approach. The book of Nehemiah is a tribute to building and teamwork. The fifth chapter abruptly tells a different tale. There readers see Israel in the throes of a depression, even as the great temple was being built. Nehemiah, perhaps as wise as was Solomon, saw dislocations happening and sprang into action before things spun out of control.
History repeats, it is said. Nehemiah would recognize our time well. There was a great famine. People could not repay their loans. Between taxes and debts they lost their lands and were forced to sell their children into slavery. By some accounts there was a dearth, more people than the land or economy could support.
There are many versions of the Bible to study that take on these problems in different contexts. I like the words of Nehemiah found in  the Bible Gateway’s Easy to Read Version.
When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. 7 I calmed myself down, and then I went to the rich families and the officials…… Then I called for all the people to meet together 8 and said to them, “Our fellow Jews were sold as slaves to people in other countries. We did our best to buy them back and make them free. And now, you are selling them like slaves again!”
   The rich people and officials kept quiet. They could not find anything to say. 9 So I continued speaking. I said, “What you people are doing is not right! You know that you should fear and respect our God. You should not do the shameful things other people do! 10 My men, my brothers, and I are also lending money and grain to the people. But let’s stop forcing them to pay interest on these loans. 11 You must give their fields, vineyards, olive fields, and houses back to them, right now! ……”
 12 Then the rich people and the officials said, “We will give it back and not demand anything more from them. Nehemiah, we will do as you say.”
   Then I called the priests. I made the rich people and the officials promise to God that they would do what they said. 13 Then I shook out the folds of my clothes. I said, “God will do the same thing to everyone who does not keep their promise. God will shake them out of their houses and they will lose everything they worked for. They will lose everything!”
   I finished saying these things and all the people agreed. They all said, “Amen” and praised the LORD. So the people did as they had promised.
The people were also greatly oppressed by the servants and officers of the governor; but, during the twelve years that Nehemiah had been with them, he took not this salary, and ate none of their bread. Nor were his servants permitted to take or exact any thing from them. Having such an example, it was scandalous for their chiefs, priests, and nobles, thus to oppress an afflicted and distressed people.
The Lesson For AUGUSTA Today
We have a problem like that of Nehemiah and his people. The demographics of the baby boom population were always bound to produce a dearth. This writer acknowledged it and planned for it. The dearth was scheduled to strike after 2020, but it is of the here and now. The greatest wave of financial corruption the world has ever seen – ever-morphing, expanding with the speed of instantaneous communication and power of globalism – has sped up this dreadful time by a full decade.
In desperation, the formerly wealthy who were largely wiped out in 2008 have seized upon their political domination to restore their fortunes. If they go unchecked, there will be no American middle class in a scant 5 years. Are these things happening in Augusta, as elsewhere? Yes, they are.
When the share price of  the demised Wachovia Bank fell from $57 to $2 and Regions Bank suffered a similar tumble in 2007 and 2008, some in the know say it took a $Billion out of the wealth of Augusta. This writer estimates the losses at more than $600 million. Commercial and residential real estate, particularly resort homes, crashed in value. These were sledgehammer blows to the wealth class and would have permanently shifted wealth to those who planned, saved, trained, and invested for these times. Those who lost want none of that. Their excesses of power and influence have been stunning, taking us to the brink of extinguishing the rule of law and flaunting the laws of mathematics.
The first levers of power to be engaged were over government contracts, stimulus funds, capital projects, and tax incentives. $50 million in improvements on lands Augusta doesn’t own, $millions in federal stimulus money dumped on Laney Walker to the benefit of the whitest of Columbia County developers who had lost in the crash, an unannounced ‘opportunity zone’ foisted upon Harrisburg, and a public housing project in Martinez greased by massive lobbyist funds to the highest of Georgia officials are overwhelming evidence. These are just the incidences that have been disclosed. More are coming.
Into the maw of this chasm of government money and power, a group of local citizens has sprung forth to meet it head on. This writer is proud to be amongst them. The danger to our fortunes, occupations, freedom, and even our lives is palpable. There have been threats. We acknowledge them and move forward with firm resolve. In the scant months since the Augusta Today facebook group, City Stink  and ArrowFlinger Reports have been created the results have been stunning and the support from the community has been overwhelming, yet humbling. We thank you all for that. I believe that through similar efforts we can claw Augusta and America back from the brink of an apocalypse.
The approach is simple. We formed a nucleus of dedicated researchers, professionals, and public policy freaks to identify, plan, document, execute, and publicize projects, supported by a guarded social network that now exceeds 200.  We pull from professional resources from across America. We try to excel in presenting documents for the public to examine on line that buttress our case. If there is opposition, they find themselves not in argument with our findings but in direct confrontation with their own deeds, words and documents! This was our plan from the outset. Its effectiveness is an epic success. If one thinks upon it, the approach of turning government and power back upon itself can be seen as a form of martial-arts in which size and force of the opponent is his own worst enemy. We give the broadcast media a knowledge base and stories that cannot be fully explored in the two minutes or less that they have on the air. In these times of swift, yet unrecognized, shifts in local fortunes and power, we may prove instrumental in restoring the free market to the process, as traditional media remains welded to the past, unwilling to risk offending those who have failed. The past belongs to those who failed. We embrace the future with relish.
What can you do to help? First, you can form your own nuclei of project teams within the overall framework of Augusta Today, coordinating with our group or independently if you wish, much as the Magnolia Trace group has done. You will have to thoroughly vet the members and restrict the number to ten or less. You will have to have discipline and a high degree of coordination. (We learned this lesson the hard way, as we had no formal plan – we just ‘happened.’) Inclusion of media people is not advised, as the objective is to be a source for all dedicated to none. There is no dearth of opportunities. The current group has at least six months of projects and stories already. There is room for expansion. Second, as we get the capability to accept donations, please contribute. Radio talk show host Austin Rhodes initiated this aspect of our efforts in order to engage tough legal counsel as a force multiplier against the City of Augusta, should common sense fail with regard to the City’s Reynolds Street Deck Agreements. Our current intention is to employ that resource there and elsewhere on projects from Augusta to the gold dome in Atlanta.
We acknowledge the tremendous role of the broadcast media in spreading our stories, particularly Renee DeMedicis of WNRR, Austin Rhodes of WGAC of WNRR, Tony Powers, George Eskola of WJBF, and Chris Thomas of WRDW. They have added a forceful dimension that we could never achieve. We will similarly embrace whatever journalistic print media survives this maelstrom too.
We have no Nehemiah, we have ourselves and our resolve to avoid the abyss of lawlessness, incontrovertible stupidity, arrogance, and abuse of power that lies ahead. Augusta’s mayor is stuck on “moving forward.”  We have seen the path he is on and we have bolted from it. How about you?
Nehemiah’s Message to Augusta Power Brokers and Manipulators
There have been times like these before in Augusta, periods of economic downturn and those finding themselves with decimated fortunes while still holding enormous political power with which they tried to regain their riches at public expense. The names Bert Hester and Gene Holley come to mind. Senator Holley was once one the most powerful men in Georgia and had amassed one of the state’s largest fortunes, before enormous losses in oil led to overly aggressive financial actions that ended with a conviction for bank fraud. When this writer recalled Holley’s conviction and imprisonment, it was wondered how Mr. Holley lived his final years. His obituary reported that they were spent in simplicity of lifestyle, regained faith, and in the love of his family and friends. That is not bad, not bad at all.
                                     
If you are one of the Augusta elite and high society, for your own sakes – follow the advice of Nehemiah. A storm comes and it is one in which we all need each other. Reject the rest of us and you will find yourselves in the gravest of dangers. Gene Holley’s epitaph wasn’t bad, not bad at all.
May your next prayer breakfast be blessed.
Nehemiah’s gaze is upon you.

Movement on Forensic Audit; Brigham Defiant.


Augusta Commissioner Jerry Brigham

Originally posted at CityStink
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider
Contributions were made to this article by Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
There appears to be some traction on the forensic audit for the questionable land deals involved in the controversial new $12 million TEE Center Parking Deck. It was reported yesterday that the city’s procurement department has issued a request for bid proposals for the audit. That’s the first step towards choosing a forensic auditing firm and putting a price tag on the effort. The motion that the commission approved on Dec. 20, 2011 was to begin the process of looking for an auditing firm.  Once bids are submitted, commissioners would still need to approve allocating the money. And that’s where Commissioner and Finance Committee Chairman Jerry Brigham vows to fight it.
A defiant Brigham told Chris Thomas of WRDW that “people are just muddying the water with a forensic audit“. See Chris Thomas’ report with Commissioner Jerry Brigham below:
Chris Thomas’ Story
Assuming that all the controversy surrounding the parking deck is much ado about nothing, Brigham says: “Why waste $30,000 on something where there is nothing to it?
It’s interesting that Brigham is so concerned with saving money on the audit, which is peanuts when compared  to the millions of dollars that the city may have been duped out of on the parking deck and TEE Center.
Brigham’s defiance against the audit also gives the impression that he may have something to hide. If you remember, back in the fall of 2009 when the entire TEE Center project was at a stalemate over increasing funding, Brigham’s name got caught up in a scandal where local attorney David Fry attempted to bribe Commissioners Alvin Mason and Corey Johnson to switch their votes on the project to get it passed. Brigham admitted back then that he had contact with Fry and was made aware of his intentions; however, he neglected to go to the police with that information. Brigham says that at the time “I did not think that this was nothing more than talk.
Commissioners Mason and Johnson ended up contacting police over the incident and Fry was arrested on charges of attempted bribery of public officials. Allegedly, Fry was offering special management concessions to the commissioners in the TEE Center parking deck, the same one at the center of the current controversy. Some people laughed that off as ludicrous at the time; that Fry had no authority to make such an offer, but many people believe that Fry was a go-between for more powerful figures who could deliver on the promise.
And just in time as the management agreement for the parking deck goes back before the commission on Tuesday, Fry’s bribery trial will begin the day before on Monday, February 6th:  Talk about timing!
There is a March 16th deadline for bids on the forensic audit, and despite how it may appear politically for Brigham, he contends he will fight against its approval anyway. Brigham told Chris Thomas that if there is an audit on the parking deck then it should also include the Laney-Walker redevelopment. Actually, that is a good idea. The bond financing for the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem redevelopment project is inextricably tied to to the TEE Center and parking deck. However, Brigham’s suggestion seems to be more about “muddying the waters” to direct attention away from the parking deck where there is more funny smoke than inside Willy Nelson’s tour bus. And Brigham should be reminded that he opposed Commissioner Bill Lockett’s request for an omnibus forensic audit that would have covered the Laney-Walker/Bethlehem Redevelopment.
Scrutiny of the Laney-Walker project will happen in due time. In fact, we here at City Stink have already raised many questions in the past several months over the Laney-Walker Overlay District, which Brigham supported.
But as this forensic audit proceeds, commissioners must make certain that a few things  happen:
  1.  City Administrator Fred Russell should have absolutely NO involvement in the process of choosing the auditing firm to conduct the investigation. Russell is up to his eyeballs in this scandal, and there is ample evidence to suggest that he purposefully misled commissioners on multiple occasions.
  2.  The audit should include both the TEE Center Parking Deck AND The TEE Center. The stench over this   deal wafts over both sides of Reynolds Street. We already told you about parcels under the TEE Center that were supposed to be deeded to the city that never were. A forensic audit of the entire TEE Center project would likely need to occur anyway based on what is uncovered in the investigation over the deck, so why not kill two birds with one stone, instead of having to go back and pay for a separate audit on the TEE Center?
  3. The primary  criterion for selecting the forensic auditing firm should be thoroughness and not just who is the cheapest. It is imperative to choose a firm with a stellar professional reputation in investigating these sorts of cases with no connection to Augusta’s “Good-ole-Boy Network“. That means it’s likely best to go outside of Augusta.
We are hoping that Brigham is alone on the commission now in continuing to oppose the forensic audit. Commissioners Aitken, Bowles, and Jackson also voted along with Brigham in opposing the audit at the December 20th, 2011 commission meeting. But we hope that most of them have now changed their tune with all of the new information that has come out in the last two weeks and is expected to come out next week.
This is one issue where commissioners probably are going to want to be on the right side. If this thing continues to get much worse than it already has, then any commissioner who continues to oppose the progress of the investigation is going to look mighty foolish and suspect in the eyes of the public.***

Stay tuned, more to come.

Related Story