(In the latest coverup in the Augusta Equipmentgate Scandal, which saw City of Augusta, Georgia resources deployed to work on private property in Lincoln County in March 2017 has just been released. In it, the Augusta Richmond County Grand Jury issued a statement which said they found no criminality had occurred.)
The Presentment of the Augusta Richmond County Grand Jury of yesterday, June 27, 2017 on the Use of Augusta manpower, heavy equipment, trailers, supplies, fuel, fringe benefits and trucks on Private Property in Lincoln County back in March contained this statement:
The testimony revealed that the excavator was never actually used as the weather at the time was inclement.
The presentment also says that the Augusta Mini-excavator was on the Lincoln County private property from March 8, 2017 to March 17, 2017.
That statement is most interesting as video taken on March 16, 2017 at the Lincoln County site shows a large freshly-installed culvert and drainage work that certainly seems to have been performed by an excavator and the only excavator in evidence was the one owned by the City of Augusta.
District Attorney Natalie Paine needs to determine which witness provided that testimony and whether perjury occurred.
If there was no perjury in the production of that presentment, she needs to explain why not and, while she is at it, explain why so many material aspects of this incident were omitted from any investigation by her or the Augusta Richmond County Sheriff’s office.
Mayor Davis and commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I never intended to return to this chamber, yet here I am. One should never say ‘never’ and that is borne out by the power of events that have shaken you, me and the people of Augusta.
No Account, But Headed to Judgement, Anyway sounds like a sermon harkening to passing into eternity that we all face, but as Mayor Copenhaver once told me “You ain’t dead yet!.”
Older folks used to have a description that was applied to crooked, lazy people. It was that they were “No Account.”
Your Equipmentgate scandal has assaulted the Rule of Law, not that this body, mayor, administrator, district attorney or Sheriff intended that consequence. That result grew out of the cronyism that has destroyed our protective institutions From Washington down. The accountants safeguarding our money threw math out, the lawyers forgot nobody needs them if there is no law, the press lost objectivity and credibility, and pastors escorted the money changers into our temples, not out. Our protectors decided to be No Account.
At Commissioner Sias’ last meeting DA Paine was posed the question “Is the RULE OF LAW DEAD?” After all, the most powerful, revered man in Georgia politics, had $2 million invested in banks and other financial institutions involved with drug money laundering, among other things. The Legislature two sessions ago decriminalized banking crimes in our state which was number 1 in mortgage fraud five years running. Then there is Equipmentgate. What happens in Atlanta and Washington is not yours, but what happened in Lincoln County is fully on your account, but you want to be no account for that.
Some of it comes from misguided instinct to protect the defenseless, who are anything but that. Elements of this body and friends of the mayor pro-tem rallied to defend her last week, but the fun poked at her soon will rain all over you. The rest of this body is protecting a nice lady administrator with the same instinct. At $187,000 per year and much power, she isn’t defenseless either. She is responsible for about 2/3 of this scandal, in my opinion.
16 years ago a sweet, attractive planning director supported by the full Columbia County commission abruptly left her position. Failures proved her plan flawed, deceptive, and outrageous to the no longer defenseless people.
2 weeks ago, we were walking with our dog Lilly. We came upon a flock of molting geese, whose wings were of No Account. Now geese are mean, big and can peck or wing-whip a beagle. One ran out of the woods, but Lilly caught it. The goose wing whipped her and got to the water. Lilly jumped in and outswam it. The goose did something it isn’t supposed to be able to do and that was to dive! While that one was escaping another goose ran out doing something even stranger. It ran low to the ground, head and all, like a snake! It didn’t want to be seen with its No Account wings.
You are faced with the same thing. This body is confronted by the truth of Equipmentgate. You must do the impossible for the next 6 months and together rise to account before Augusta. Justice must be served and accountability restored. Former Director Johnson must be dealt with, this Administrator must be phased out, her contract not extended, and a forensic audit of the landfill done.
The consequences of the 1/3 of the scandal resting with the Sheriff’s Department are simply chilling. The Sheriff must remove those involved.
Lady Justice has been dead in Augusta so long she stinketh like Lazarus. It is time for her resurrection.
Update: At the conclusion of these remarks, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr. took umbrage with them and made thinly-veiled threats that “there will be consequences!”
Mr. Mayor is voteless and toothless! He doesn’t have the guts to call the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in on this OUTRAGEOUS SCANDAL. He could you know.
Mums the word from Augusta’s No Account County Commission, as there was not even a second for Commissioner Marion Williams’ motion to request that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conduct an Investigation that the Augusta Richmond County Sheriff’s office botched.
At least one Augusta Commissioner isn’t No Account!
Remember the good old days out here in the rural counties when your commissioner could rock, grade and maybe even pave your driveway if you supported him? Well, those days are gone out here because our commissioners don’t want to go to prison. Now, there is hope and help from our good neighbors down in Augusta with their new Public-private partnership we are calling the Mary Davis Sand and Gravel Company. Call Augusta Mayor Pro-tem Davis at (706) 821-1831 and you may be able to arrange what one of my neighbors got here in Lincoln County – men, trucks, trailers, supplies, fringe benefits, and heavy equipment expended fixing a private road. All for FREE!
No need to worry about tipping the Augusta workers either because they get the greater of 3 months severance pay or a full retirement if they get caught.
Even getting 300 tons of stone like THIS isn’t impossible, because the Augusta Landfill down on Deans Bridge Road has stockpiles of everything you need – sand, gravel, screenings, surge stone and even rip rap. Those can be loaded up and sent out to us through the same gate that the equipment loaned to my neighbor was.
If you look at the pictures of my neighbors’ Augusta built Project, there is even drain pipe furnished with the deal you get from Mary Davis.
You don’t even have to pay a registered contractor with expensive insurance, permits, a business or contractor’s license in your county, either. Those gifts give a pretty big bonus to your free work value from Mary Davis.
If the equipment from the landfill is tied up and can’t get to you, then the nice sheriff down there has a guy who will meet your equipment needs with no delay stationed at the shooting range next door.
Augusta taxpayers and residents, you do not qualify for this program, so don’t attempt to call. You give but cannot receive.
We out here in the sticks thank you for your generosity and the kind treatment we get from Mary Davis Sand and Gravel.
On Thursday, May 25, 2017 citizens of Augusta, Georgia and surrounding counties were shocked to learn that City of Augusta personnel, vehicles, materials and construction equipment had been found deployed and operating on private land in Lincoln County, Georgia, 40 miles from their assigned work site at the Augusta Solid Waste Facility on Deans Bridge Road.
This week the resulting uproar concluded with the resignation of Augusta Solid Waste Director Mark Johnson. Will the Johnson resignation calm the turmoil surrounding a botched investigation by a conflicted Augusta Richmond County Sheriff Department, who turned out to be the custodian of an excavator used in the misbegotten affair, the apparently imprudent white commissioners defending Johnson against evidence, black commissioners defending an Administrator who bungled accountability, and a District Attorney who remains to be kept clueless of the events?
Stay tuned. What happens in Augusta, should stay in Augusta. This time it didn’t and the repercussions look to be immense.
Here is the first hand account of the events from March 15, 2017 through May 28, 2017. Names have been replaced by Pseudonyms.
Wednesday March 15, 2017
2017-03-15 17:23:00 THE ARROWFLINGER reaches top of a hill on an easement road between lands of Cox, Kitchens, bank and partners Troy Meeks and Landowner O of Statesboro, sees construction equipment and stone pile. Stops to video beagle. Joined by neighbor and Informant.
2017-03-15 18:17:15 THE ARROWFLINGER meets Informant going back to get serial numbers and photos of an equipment trailer he claims is City of Augusta owned. Informant wants to know who bought the property where the stone pile is. THE ARROWFLINGER states he has met Landowner O but not his partner.
Texts Between THE ARROWFLINGER and Informant
2017-03-15 19:01:29 Informant Phone Number Redacted I got confirmation its county equipment
2017-03-15 19:09:41 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Do you have a guess about when it was bought?
2017-03-15 19:14:26 Informant Phone Number Redacted I can find out
2017-03-15 19:44:20 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted You know, if they are not alerted and they are getting rock for free, they will be at it for days because that road has to be rocked all the way to Booths Branch road. They excavated and installed a 30 or 36 inch pipe in the creek bed last week.
2017-03-15 19:50:06 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Your bud who is talking to you might/probably spill the beans, but if we just observe for a few days and take pictures we will have a better picture. The land was bought by Landowner O (guy I met) and Landowner M of Statesboro. We need the serial number off the equipment and the ARCSWD inventory or purchase record. If it looks strong, then state investigators should be called.
2017-03-15 19:55:49 Informant Phone Number Redacted Landowner M used to work with Director as a contractor
2017-03-15 19:57:10 Informant Phone Number Redacted The trailer was purchased by the county and I took pic of the vin number the escalator was seized by the county and falls under the sheriff
2017-03-15 19:58:16 Informant Phone Number Redacted I will go back early tomorrow and photo the vin of the track hoe
2017-03-15 20:04:11 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I am gonna go out early on my walk. Probably find a good spot on Booth branch near gate to observe.
2017-03-15 20:12:31 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Sounds like the Boyz came to play in our backyards! I am amazed.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Texts of March 16, 2017 Between THE ARROWFLINGER and Informant
2017-03-16 09:40:44 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Good morning! A dump truck left about 10 minutes ago. Let’s observe today. They plan on ditching the low spot inside the gate. So they don’t plan on stopping today. I think another rock truck might be coming
2017-03-16 09:43:09 Informant Phone Number Redacted Ok
2017-03-16 09:44:30 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I think if you want to do this up right, we need to notify Sheriff Beggs followed shortly by Roundtree. The pols will just f**k it up. So will we if we go for a big ‘got you’ as delicious and tempting as that might be.
2017-03-16 09:45:40 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Get the pros in. If they f**k it up then I or we can raise hell.
2017-03-16 09:48:38 Informant Phone Number Redacted Right
2017-03-16 09:51:26 Informant Phone Number Redacted I got a conference call T 10 I will get with you after that
2017-03-16 09:53:06 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted They dropped a load at the second wet spot between gate and creek.
2017-03-16 10:46:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Two dump trucks videoed entering gate and then leaving after dumping loads at stone stockpile on hill.
2017-03-16 11:08:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted 2 trucks came and dumped. Got some video
2017-03-16 11:08:08 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted No tags
2017-03-16 11:08:33 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Got names of haulers I think
2017-03-16 11:51:58 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Got pix and video of all equipment with serial numbers
2017-03-16 13:12:45 Informant Phone Number Redacted I can call Augusta Commissioner MW and just talk to him he can’t stand Director
2017-03-16 13:30:11 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Yes, but anything Augusta Commissioner MW can do can be done if law enforcement drops the ball. Law enforcement can remove these people. Augusta Commissioner MW can only fire them
2017-03-16 13:31:30 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Law enforcement can surveillance them when they bring in dozers and graders
2017-03-16 13:36:09 Informant Phone Number Redacted Ok I will stand by you know more than me
2017-03-16 13:37:07 Informant Phone Number Redacted Also I don’t see permits posted
2017-03-16 13:38:47 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I am going to call Sheriff Beggs In a bit
2017-03-16 13:39:04 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Knitter is doing research
2017-03-16 13:40:15 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted On Augusta database. Knitter is a systems person
2017-03-16 14:06:00 Knitter emails THE ARROWFLINGER a .pdf showing that Landowner M attended a prebid conference for landfill work at the ARC Solid Waste Facility on 1/20/2017
2017-03-16 Around 14:00:00 THE ARROWFLINGER calls ARC Chief Deputy, with whom he had conversed about contract mismanagement and fraud during the Augusta SPLOST 7b campaign in 2015. Tells that 2 pieces of equipment are reported to be operating in Lincoln County and one of them is assigned to the ARC Sheriff Department Shooting range at the Deans Bridge Road landfill. Chief Deputy denies that Sheriff Department has any equipment.
2017-03-16 15:21:00 THE ARROWFLINGER is texted the email address of Augusta Richmond County Chief Deputy by same for purpose of uploading pictures and serial numbers from Canon camera that is not net-connected.
2017-03-16 16:56 THE ARROWFLINGER sends ARC Chief Deputy summary of situation, events, observations and equipment serial numbers
2017-03-16 18:16 Chief Deputy requests pictures be emailed, saying he will “get to the bottom of this.”
2017-03-16 18:38 THE ARROWFLINGER suggests that ARC Chief Deputy hold off until following Monday, based upon information from inside Solid Waste Department that additional ARC assets would be deployed to Lincoln County site. It was noted that even heavier equipment would be needed to place the stone.
Texts of March 16, 2017 Between THE ARROWFLINGER and Informant Resume
2017-03-16 18:48:07 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted ARC Chief Deputy Redacted is now interested. Told him waiting til Monday to pursue is advised. Told him I now believe this is a real deal. Suggested CID come up under coordination and advice of Sheriff Bruce Beggs.
2017-03-16 19:07:53 Informant Phone Number Redacted Sweet
2017-03-16 19:29:50 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I suggested that. Told him I will be here.
2017-03-16 19:32:42 Informant Phone Number Redacted Nice
2017-03-16 19:40 THE ARROWFLINGER called back by Lincoln Sheriff Beggs, who indicates he has discussed with ARC Chief Deputy
2017-03-16 22:30:00 THE ARROWFLINGER takes his dog, Lilly, for a tour of fields and then down Booth Branch Road. There was a navy blue 3/4 ton, long wheelbase pickup pulled into a 4-wheeler path onto Corps Land about 80 yards from the red gate into the combined properties and grading project. Did not get License plate.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Texts of March 17, 2017 Between THE ARROWFLINGER and Informant
2017-03-17 02:10:00 THE ARROWFLINGER awakens during interlude when heating system was off. Hears heavy truck in the distance. Goes outside and finds the sound coming from Booths Branch Road. Quickly dons insulated Coverall, grabs automatic pistol and digital camcorder. Calls Informant. Gets no answer. Jumps in truck. Drives to red gate at properties/ grading site. Waits and listens. Concludes that the truck was leaving, not entering.
2017-03-17 09:43:08 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted All equipment was removed in the middle of the night.
2017-03-17 09:45:06 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted No stone deliveries this morning?
2017-03-17 09:46:57 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Long trailer and excavator are GONE
2017-03-17 09:47:46 Informant Phone Number Redacted Well it might be back on Monday
2017-03-17 09:48:29 Informant Phone Number Redacted Unless someone said something to them
2017-03-17 09:49:05 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I think the latter. Sold out. Again
2017-03-17 09:50:03 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted They should be delivering more rock at the standing water spots
2017-03-17 09:50:12 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted They ain’t
2017-03-17 09:52:27 Informant Phone Number Redacted Yea well we have proof they county equipment out here
2017-03-17 09:55:53 Informant Phone Number Redacted I am with you I think someone tipped them off
2017-03-17 10:01:28 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Can’t talk anymore. We might have given the right people what they need.
2017-03-17 10:10:22 Informant Phone Number Redacted I just got a call (From Inside Source at ARC Landfill) we should talk
2017-03-16 About 10:20 THE ARROWFLINGER calls Landowner K, with whom Landowners O and M has an easement agreement with cost-sharing provisions to discuss the condierable part of the construction on her land. She states she is not paying anything and that Landowner M told het that they can repair the easement road at least cost because they have connections in Richmond and Columbia Counties. Also discussed was the new culvert installation and the work done on US Army Corps of Engineers lands.
2017-03-17 12:42:21 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I have a visitor (ARCSD Investigator) at 3 who may want to come talk to you, if you are open.
2017-03-17 12:48:39 Informant Phone Number Redacted Sure
2017-03-17 15:04:34 Informant Phone Number Redacted You coming to my place or yours
2017-03-17 16:09:08 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted They (investigators)are headed back to you.
2017-03-17 16:09:40 Informant Phone Number Redacted Ok I am tell them everything I know
2017-03-17 16:10:16 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Tell them the truth. They will want your source.
2017-03-17 16:10:37 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted We went out to the site.
2017-03-17 20:07:00 Informant calls THE ARROWFLINGER and reports an automobile parked at entrance gate to the combined properties where the work was going on.
2017-03-17 20:09:24 Informant Phone Number Redacted Should I call the investigator?
2017-03-17 20:10:28 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Call 911
2017-03-17 20:11:17 Informant Phone Number Redacted And tell them what?
2017-03-17 20:17:42 Informant Phone Number Redacted I called the shield (sheriff?) number they sending someone out
2017-03-17 20:30:00 to 20:50:00 THE ARROWFLINGER spots Director emerging from around posted gate: Augusta Director explains that he came to check on one of his contractor’s pieces of equipment, as Bobcat Rentals had called his contractor concerned when an ARCSD investigator called earlier in the day. Shows text and photo sent.
2017-03-17 22:09:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Transmits video of Director to ARCSD Investigator
2017-03-17 22:35:39 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted (pictures of Director)
2017-03-17 22:53:48 Informant Phone Number Redacted Yup Director
2017-03-17 22:55:22 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Sent to investigator and our Sheriff
2017-03-17 22:55:47 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Send short video too
2017-03-17 22:55:54 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Sent
2017-03-17 22:56:03 Informant Phone Number Redacted Sweet
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Texts of March 18, 2017 Between THE ARROWFLINGER and Informant
2017-03-18 01:12:04 Informant Phone Number Redacted Directors name is not on the property his equipment’s showed up there and he drives out here to check why?
2017-03-18 01:13:58 Informant Phone Number Redacted Monday I will tell cid he was out here
2017-03-18 01:17:23 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted He knew where it was!
2017-03-18 01:18:16 Informant Phone Number Redacted Yea
2017-03-18 01:18:31 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Probably 500 yards inside gate?
2017-03-18 01:28:24 Informant Phone Number Redacted The bob cat belongs to Bobcat Renter which is anther contractor who works for the landfill
2017-03-18 01:32:31 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Yes, that was the name Bobcat (of Augusta) gave Redacted LEI.
2017-03-18 01:33:24 Informant Phone Number Redacted See it’s all dirty
2017-03-18 07:18:27 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted And it is why I have been looking to just leave. I have been fighting it like nobody else in this state for 5 years, except for hunting seasons, and have only lost “friends” who are on the gravy train. Knitter and I have been looking in McCormick and Abbeville counties but now I am thinking northern Mississippi or North Carolina. Yeah, it is like this all over, but any place else I don’t know about them and I damned sure won’t look again. I seesaw between going apes**t exposing how utterly crooked the Augusta area is, making fun of the ridiculous fakery, and just leaving. I think this deal is the last straw.
2017-03-18 12:49:37 Informant Phone Number Redacted I white Silverado just pulled out with a bobcat I think it was Bobcat Renter
2017-03-18 12:49:59 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Ok
2017-03-18 21:02:18 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted When we ride Lilly to tour fields for deer we will ride down Booths Branch Road to the gates and back. Probably in the next 30 minutes
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Texts of March 19, 2017 Between THE ARROWFLINGER and Informant
2017-03-19 09:51:08 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Yesterday they hand dug a drainage ditch to drain the mud puddles 10 yards inside the gate. They also unloaded 3 rolls of geotextile fabric at the rock stockpile.
2017-03-19 09:51:24 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Took pix
Monday, March 20, 2017
2017-03-20 06:16:34 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Heavy truck just went down Booth Branch Road I am going to see what’s going on
2017-03-20 06:19:36 Informant Phone Number Redacted Ok
2017-03-20 06:36:55 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Drove Ranger out last 4 wheeler trail to left on Corps Land just before gate. Gonna walk Booth Branch past Landowner K.
2017-03-20 11:02:14 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Well, my early morning hike was a quiet one. No turkeys seen or heard.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
2017-03-21 10:10:55 Informant Phone Number Redacted A big truck just went down
2017-03-21 10:11:51 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Ok
2017-03-21 10:12:34 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Landowner O probably will keep on plan to finish
2017-03-21 10:13:22 Informant Phone Number Redacted It was the trash truck
2017-03-21 10:15:37 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Lol
2017-03-21 10:16:18 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Filled my roller can up an hour ago
2017-03-21? 11:10:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Researches Grantor and Grantee Indices of the Clerk Of Superior Court of Lincoln County to ascertain if Landowner O and Landowner M had transferred any property interests to Director. Finds no evidence of that. Finds Easement agreement from Landowner K to Landowners O and M after a $5000 payment which settled the access rights of the parties. Noted that all landowners bear maintenance and improvement costs.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
2017-03-22 08:11:29 Informant Phone Number Redacted I’ve been in the woods sense sun up haven’t heard any turkeys
2017-03-22 08:30:11 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted They have been in hiding. I did see a gobbler on the side of a road in McCormick County Sunday.
2017-03-22 12:37:34 Informant Phone Number Redacted Hey I am sorry about this morning I wasn’t trying to be rude
2017-03-22 20:41:07 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I know. No problem. I want to talk over how you work from the house.
2017-03-22 20:41:56 Informant Phone Number Redacted Ok
2017-03-22 20:45:55 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I thought I heard turkeys this morning on my walk back down below the houses on Bamboo Trail.
2017-03-22 20:46:22 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Bambi
2017-03-22 20:46:24 Informant Phone Number Redacted Sweet
2017-03-22 20:46:43 Informant Phone Number Redacted We can chat in the morning
2017-03-22 20:46:57 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Ok
Thursday, April 27, 2017
2017-04-27 11:33:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Calls ARCSD Investigator looking for update and leaves message requesting a return call
Friday, April 28, 2017
2017-04-28 15:38:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Calls Lincoln County Sheriff and leaves message asking him to prod ARCSD into giving an update citing uncertainty over personal status with respect to activity in the public eye
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
2017-05-02 15:15:00 ARCSD Investigator calls THE ARROWFLINGER, apologizes for delay in responding, then says that the investigation was completed and turned over to the Augusta District Attorney and to the Augusta Administrator for an audit. Knitter hears the conversation because the Bluetooth truck phone grabbed the call and it was broadcast in the yard.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
2017-05-16 19:52 THE ARROWFLINGER Texts Commissioner G to suggest that he look out for special audit funds for Administrator’s Office. No Response.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
2017-05-18 19:52 THE ARROWFLINGER Turns over pictures and summary of events as they existed March 15 through March 20, 2017 to Osprey. Osprey is an Augusta resident with contacts who might discuss.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
2017-05-20 09:32:09 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Those Statesboro guys are up here for the first time in ages. They are boring perk test holes with an auger.
2017-05-20 12:01:36 Informant Phone Number Redacted Oh
2017-05-20 12:03:12 Informant Phone Number Redacted I thought those guys would squirm their way out of any trouble
2017-05-20 12:06:31 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Does Landowner O even know? Landowner M is SCI and was With Dabbs….but is Landowner O an ARC contractor, too?
2017-05-20 12:08:48 Informant Phone Number Redacted I Think Landowner O is a. Contractor
2017-05-20 12:24:35 Informant Phone Number Redacted It’s awful funny they ran out of money and had to move all the equipment out at at 3 am
2017-05-20 13:12:00 THE ARROWFLINGER calls Commissioner MW, leaves message to please call
Monday, May 22, 2017
2017-05-22 16:40:00 THE ARROWFLINGER texts Commissioner G to relay that Osprey has pictures and video of Lincoln County events. Concludes with “Its Y’all’s Hellhole”
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
2017-05-24 11:32:00 THE ARROWFLINGER calls Commissioner H, leaves message to please call
2017-05-24 11:38:00 THE ARROWFLINGER calls Commissioner MW, leaves message to please call
2017-05-24 19:29:20 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Well, you were right. They are blaming the guy who retired 2 days into the investigation, saying it was a mistake that the equipment got sent.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
2017-05-25 09:12:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Called Osprey. Both agreed that more commissioner angles needed than Commissioner G and Commissioner F, with whom Osprey had communicated.
2017-05-25 09:32:00 THE ARROWFLINGER gets call from Commissioner MW, explains background and the developments to that point. Agrees to forward the unchanged, original questions and information of 3/15 to 3/20/2017 to ARC Clerk of Commission
2017-05-25 11:57:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Emails information sent to Osprey on 05/18/2017 to ARC Clerk of Commission
2017-05-25 13:08:00 THE ARROWFLINGER confers with Osprey, who had talked with Director earlier, and who recommended that THE ARROWFLINGER call Director directly with issues and questions.
2017-05-25 13:27:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Called Director. Asked if Landowner M, Landowner O, or Bobcat Lessee are Augusta Contractors and if he knows any of them. He said no. Asked if DW of Stateboro was a contractor. He said they were but had not done any work since 2013. Said that Landowner M’s firm was not awarded Landfill contract after he was on bid documents at January 2017 bid meeting. (Confirmed by THE ARROWFLINGER) Award contested and work might be rebid.(THE ARROWFLINGER agreed, as it had been in the newspaper) Director asked about stone purchases and stated that Augusta purchases aggregates under annual bulk purchase agreement and stockpiles various stone products at landfill. (Known in Advance by THE ARROWFLINGER)When asked how Director knew where Bobcat Lessee’s equipment was when Director and THE ARROWFLINGER met at the gate to the combined properties at 8:16 PM on March 16, 2017, Director stated that he was directed to follow the power line and that the equipment was parked under the power line.
Director asserted that the reason he could find his way in the dark when spotted coming out of the gate to the combined properties at 8:22 PM on March 16, 2017, was that he arrived in the daylight. (Official Sunset was 7:37 PM, but conditions at his exit were clearly past darkness)
Director repeated his purpose for coming out of the gate to the combined properties at 8:22 PM on March 16, 2017 was that a contractor at his facility called him, after being unable to contact Director’s subordinate employee, and was concerned about verifying the location of the Bobcat and cutter, so he drove out to the site in Lincoln County to locate the equipment and report back to the contractor, which he had done.
Director queried THE ARROWFLINGER about why he was not called earlier into the process of determining the status of the investigation. THE ARROWFLINGER said that the investigation was in the hands of ARCSD and that he was told that it was turned over to the DA. THE ARROWFLINGER turned to Osprey, an Augusta citizen, to investigate because Augusta is his city. THE ARROWFLINGER had performed considerable free work for Augusta and insisted on better contract controls since 2011 and did not feel compelled to conduct an investigation based upon GORA requests because that cost money and the Augusta Commission had failed to act to provide a solution to that obstacle when it had been proposed.
Director suggested that he had answered all questions truthfully and that THE ARROWFLINGER should accept that, to which THE ARROWFLINGER responded that there were too many inconsistencies in how the work was sequenced and suddenly halted when the investigators arrived at the Augusta Solid Waste Facility on 3/16/17. Director asked if THE ARROWFLINGER had approached the landowners to which THE ARROWFLINGER responded that the investigation should have done that and no report had been issued.
Director asserted that Administrator’s office and ARCSD had determined that there were no criminal violations, but that one of his supervisors had retired as planned but moved up during the investigation. Director admitted that said supervisor had done work at the Lincoln Site. THE ARROWFLINGER asked for a copy of that investigators’ report but Director said he could not provide it.
THE ARROWFLINGER reminded Director of THE ARROWFLINGER’s powerful defense of Director in a commission meeting presentation on another matter.
THE ARROWFLINGER agreed to forward an accounting of the conversation to all who had gotten questions and information from THE ARROWFLINGER regarded the Lincoln County matter and he did.
2017-05-25 14:57:00 THE ARROWFLINGER emails ARC Clerk of Commission that he talked to Director and provided a summary of points upon which there was agreement, but not points of disagreement, which had been previously sent.
2017-05-25 15:16:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Agrees to discuss the March Events in Lincoln County in an on-air conversation with Most Dangerous Man in Augusta Politics, Austin Rhodes of radio Station WGAC.
2017-05-25 15:38:00 THE ARROWFLINGER goes on the Austin Rhodes to discuss the March Events in Lincoln County
2017-05-25 23:47:35 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted 3 weeks ago The investigator said it was referred to the DA and to City Administrator for an audit, but the DA has nothing. When the guy called that day that my new truck grabbed the audio and output it on the speaker so Knitter heard him say it. They are trying to duck and cover but I am satisfied I have it covered with enough proof. It would be helpful to show how Landowner M has recently been working there. They didn’t apparently get the contract and Dabbs Williams did work in 2011 I found. The equipment they have conceded and also that the supervisor who was moonlighting retired 2 days into the investigation. Your info was spot on. The heat is on and some of them are spinning deeper. Hope your trip is productive. We got rain!
2017-05-25 23:50:28 Informant Phone Number Redacted Nice I heard some of it through the internet on the radio show good job
2017-05-25 23:51:17 Informant Phone Number Redacted If he was moonlighting why was he driving a county truck out there that’s the word I got from Inside Source
Friday, May 26, 2017
2017-05-26 00:13:44 out Phone Number Redacted I wish I had walked up tge hill when the Bobcat brush cutter was being used and seen the truck. Pretty sure he was there on a weekday morning
2017-05-26 00:31:49 Informant Phone Number Redacted Yup
2017-05-26 18:12:36 out Phone Number Redacted Can you tell me who got retired?
2017-05-26 18:13:13 Informant Phone Number Redacted McKinley Williams
2017-05-28 00:35:00 Informant Phone Number Redacted Also McKinley has worked there so long and knows all the equipment I can’t imagine he would make a mistake I think he is just covering for Director
Sunday, May 28, 2017
2017-05-28 00:35:45 Informant Phone Number Redacted Did Director contact you? If he did he his trying to cover himself
2017-05-28 00:39:21 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I was told to call him. I did.
2017-05-28 00:40:39 Informant Phone Number Redacted Oh well he is a snake with a lot of political connections
2017-05-28 00:41:11 Informant Phone Number Redacted That’s based on my experience
2017-05-28 00:44:39 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted He said he did not know Landowner M or Landowner O…..the landowners. Said he did not know Bobcat Renter….the Bobcat lessee. Said DW has not worked there since 2014. Ssid stone is bought under annual contract and stockpiled. Got on my case for not calling him until after sending out claims.(emails to ARC Commissioners)
2017-05-28 00:47:22 Informant Phone Number Redacted That’s a lie Bobcat Renter was out there last year helping extend the sides of the land feel(fill) to meet the air space. Landowner M was out there all the time him and Director went to lunch several times
2017-05-28 00:48:03 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Said he got up here before dark is why he had no flash flight and found the equipment because it was under the power line easement. .. Trouble with that is my video is time stamped 8:48 pm (exit time)
2017-05-28 00:48:40 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Augusta Commissioner G is barbequed
2017-05-28 00:48:55 Informant Phone Number Redacted Sweet
2017-05-28 00:50:38 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I have Commissioners Augusta Commissioner W and Augusta Commissioner G FURIOUS AND LOADED FOR BEAR for Tuesday’s commission meeting.
2017-05-28 00:51:01 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Administrator in deep S**t
2017-05-28 00:51:20 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Administrator.
2017-05-28 00:51:42 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Administrator
2017-05-28 00:52:29 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I am going to have all their a$$es.
2017-05-28 00:54:14 Informant Phone Number Redacted Good, if Director told you he didn’t know those guys he is lying. Why did he tell his staff he had property on the lake?
2017-05-28 00:55:47 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted That excavator has a small’ backward reflex clam-shell or scoop. Small blade. Not suited for moving stone piles. The loaders at landfill. ARE
2017-05-28 00:57:14 Informant Phone Number Redacted Every one out there knows they mini excavator every one used it including McKinley
2017-05-28 00:58:31 Informant Phone Number Redacted What about the trailer the county just purchased did he make a mistake with that to
2017-05-28 00:58:33 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted (I am hearing) Commissioner G says landfill doesn’t use that sort of stone. However, it is too fine to use for road without geotextile underlayment. There are 4 (actually 3) rolls of that there
2017-05-28 01:00:16 Informant Phone Number Redacted Bull s**t we use crush and run all the time look at the camp sites at the sheriff range they have three sites up there for campers I know because I was told I could park mine there
2017-05-28 01:00:29 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Sounds like McKinley was the Bobcat operator up here. Isn’t that what you found out?
2017-05-28 01:01:29 Informant Phone Number Redacted Yes I know he ran that for sure
2017-05-28 01:02:18 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Well that means an arc employee destroyed us government property
2017-05-28 01:02:45 Informant Phone Number Redacted The landfill Owens (owns) John Deere skid steeres (steers) not bob cats
2017-05-28 01:03:29 Informant Phone Number Redacted McKinley loves Director and will cover until it’s his a$$
2017-05-28 01:04:29 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I am gonna fry some a$$ Yes Bobcat was rented to Bobcat Renter by Bobcat Augusta. Director was concerned about it because Bobcat called him.
2017-05-28 01:05:49 Informant Phone Number Redacted Yea brother he knew what was going on he just want to take his Own or parents Winnebago out there
2017-05-28 01:06:20 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted So Director was concerned about the Bobcat that destroyed corps woodland. And his supervisor ran it. Perfect.
Footage from March 16, 2016 as events were unfolding.
2017-05-28 01:07:07 Informant Phone Number Redacted You keep asking questions and I’ll keep giving information they can’t hide from us
2017-05-28 01:07:32 Informant Phone Number Redacted What about the trailer?
2017-05-28 01:08:18 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted The press and politicians want my hide. After 5 years you handed me something to tear Augusta apart with.
2017-05-28 01:08:19 Informant Phone Number Redacted That was county property no one made a mistake with that
2017-05-28 01:08:44 Informant Phone Number Redacted They brought it to me
2017-05-28 01:09:14 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted It does not have property tag or number on it
2017-05-28 01:10:09 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Oh, they are conceding that the trailer and excavator are Augusta assets
2017-05-28 01:10:51 Informant Phone Number Redacted Yea
2017-05-28 01:11:26 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted The landfill does have loaders and graders right?
2017-05-28 01:11:47 Informant Phone Number Redacted I would to see Director gone. I want to live out there in peace
2017-05-28 01:12:31 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted I am pretty sure that will happen.
2017-05-28 01:12:59 Informant Phone Number Redacted Oh yea komatso 320 front loaders and they use roads department grader they also have a cat roller
2017-05-28 01:13:43 in Phone Number Redacted I know because I have worked on all of it
2017-05-28 01:15:43 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Ok. Good. So you are sure others saw Director with Landowner M and know that Bobcat Renter did work there
2017-05-28 01:16:49 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted The investigator did not turn over anything to the DA like he said. It was his bad luck that his call to me telling me that came on over my car speakerphone so everyone in my yard could hear it
2017-05-28 01:17:37 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Buddy is ready to testify that he saw him up here in fact I was in the back (actually the passenger seat) seat of the investigators car and Buddy did not see me when he stopped them in the road and demanded to know who they were
2017-05-28 01:18:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted The sheriff’s department is screwed about as bad as Commissioner G and Director
2017-05-28 01:22:21 Informant Phone Number Redacted You can ask any one who works at the landfill when I quite Bobcat Renter was working out there and that was april last year
2017-05-28 01:23:29 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Commissioner G called you a disgruntled employee. I am gonna make him rue those words. (Because it was a smokescreen. Informant had nothing to do with the perpetrator’s actions.)
2017-05-28 01:23:38 Informant Phone Number Redacted Talk to **** he was a supervisor and he just got hired back
2017-05-28 01:24:57 Informant Phone Number Redacted Sorry I meant James ******
2017-05-28 01:25:17 Informant Phone Number Redacted Why would he say that when I resigned
2017-05-28 01:26:19 Informant Phone Number Redacted I went to lunch with him and Director and I said grace before the meal. Dirty people
2017-05-28 01:26:30 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Don’t worry about that. You are gonna love it.
2017-05-28 01:27:07 Informant Phone Number Redacted
2017-05-28 01:28:24 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Gonna go back to bed. Good night!
2017-05-28 01:29:23 Informant Phone Number Redacted Good night from California
2017-05-28 14:23:00 THE ARROWFLINGER calls Landowner K and learns that no investigators contacted her after the mid-March incidents. Conversation lasts 39 minutes. Topics beside social updating of family and friends include the easement road work. Three times Landowner K reiterates that Landowners M and O kept saying that they had connections to get the work done. No mention was made of Columbia or Richmond Counties in that context, as was the case in the mid-March conversation.
2017-05-28 15:36:00 THE ARROWFLINGER Phone Number Redacted Investigators did not contact you or Landowner K
2017-05-28 15:37:00 Informant Phone Number Redacted Nope I talked to them once The day you were with them
Thursday, June 1, 2017
2017-06-01 19:00? Augusta Administrator calls THE ARROWFLINGER on his land line phone (no logs)and a Q&A session resulted that lasted about 30 to 40 minutes. THE ARROWFLINGER called the Informant while the Administrator was on the other line to ascertain that the Informant would allow her to have his number. Later Informant called to state that he and the Administrator had talked and would continue the next day.
2017-06-02 13:08 Commissioner H calls to verify that the Administrator had talked to Informant
Tragedy…… when you lose control and you got no soul, It’s tragedy
– The BeeGees
In the heady days of 2005, as the real estate bubble was inflating in full force, James Robert “Bob” Ward was lifting helicopter rides to show off many of the 8 subdivisions in 5 states his company, Land Resources, Inc., was marketing worldwide. A short six years later Ward was in prison with a thirty year sentence for the murder of his wife. The bullet that ended her life wasn’t fired in the northern reaches of Lincoln County, Georgia but the lingering tears of tragedy still water the financial landscape of the less than 8000 permanent citizens of the county and hapless investing victims far away.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Land Resources was founded in 1997 and had successfully completed a number of subdivisions in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. Most providently HGTV picked Land Resource developments Cumberland Harbor and Grey Rock for two of its million-dollar home giveaways. Trouble arose from 2005, when Stillwater Coves in Lincoln County was announced, through 2008. A pattern emerged of unsophisticated, mostly rural county governments allowing Land Resources to market and sell lots before the basic infrastructure was completed to permit home-building. In 2008 Land Resources filed for bankruptcy protection. Suddenly lots that had sold for $300,000 were virtually worthless.
Bob Ward began this saga in Atlanta. Near the height of selling hundreds of millions of dollars of hot resort real estate in 2007, Ward and his wife moved to the Islesworth community in Orlando, Florida, this being also home to golfer Tiger Woods and his beating from wife Elin. When Bob Ward became subject of a criminal investigation, his wife Diane was called to testify, apparently causing the developer to shoot her in their bedroom in September 2009. The murder trial, incarceration, conviction, appeal, retrial, and drug overdose in prison made a twisting, turning and very compelling tabloid story. An excellent timeline from the perspective of the Grey Rock development can be found here.
The Big Four (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News), CNN, The Orlando Sentinel (a series on the saga), Atlanta Constitution, various Florida TV stations and even the UK Mirror jumped all over the murder tragedy and the accompanying trial, yet missed the total tragedy. The connection to the Greater Financial Crisis that became manifest in 2008 and which has morphed into a world-consuming monster went unnoticed. The Augusta area media seemingly slept through it all, especially the Lincoln County connection. The closest article to do it and the only one found to actually mention the murder trial was an article by the Augusta Chronicle’s LaTina Emerson of October 15, 2009 reporting that the successor to Ward’s bankrupt Land Resources had promised that the development remained on track for 2010. Amazingly it took one of the lowly commenters to note “…..the original developer being tried for murder? Seems it would be a story.”
Indeed it was. Ward’s Land Resources had sold out its Stillwater Cove lots in one week , garnering a reported $43 million(the author’s spreadsheet says $27 million) in the process. At the time of bankruptcy, the paving and grading of the roads had been completed, with water, sewer and fire protection systems only partially complete. Fortunately, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, under the direction of then Chairman Walker “Boss Hog” Norman, had insulated the county from all liability, obtaining performance and payment bonds on the crucial infrastructure before lots were allowed to be sold.
Most of the development was financed by Wachovia Bank, a rogue financial institution whose sullied name can be found in Augusta’s Parking Deck and Convention Center fiascos, the 2008 financial decimation of Augusta’s blueblood society, money laundering nearly a half-billion dollars for the Mexican drug cartel, identity fraud against elderly customers, selling $9 billion of bad securities as money-good, and $millions on mortgage fraud. There is much more to be reported in these pages on this bank. Those are stories for another day.
Elsewhere in county government, the tempting lure of the hundreds of millions of dollars in additions to the property tax base represented by the full build out of Stillwater Coves and the other lakefront subdivisions created in the boom was too great. Lincoln County needed a modern high school and that need had found a promising revenue stream. It was a case of chickens counted that were never to hatch. The Lincoln County Board of Education voted to build a $32 million new school complex to house junior high school and high school students. Financing for the project was to be $23 million. R.W. Allen LLC was engaged to construct the complex.
More bad news erupted in 2009 when it was discovered that the bonds protecting the Stillwater Coves lot buyers had been issued in an even bigger fraud. An insurance man named Ray Miller had sold fictitious bonds covering more than $500 million in projects. The bonds covering one of the water systems at Stillwater Coves proved to be worthless. The county doesn’t seem to be at fault, however, for most of the bonds had been forged in the name of legitimate bond insurors. Perhaps the only mistake that the county made was to allow reduction, perhaps too early, in some of the coverage on the bonds that were good. Perhaps the discipline to achieve completion of infrastructure before any subdivision lots are sold is better. Tragedy would have been averted!
The school board found itself in a fiasco when it decided to house only high school students in the new school, keeping the junior students at an old school. The State Board of Education withheld funds based upon the fact that the school it agreed to fund was for grades 6-12. Citizens cried FRAUD and for good reason.
Many of the lot buyers lost their life savings in the meltdown of the Land Resources empire. Diane Ward lost her life. Lincoln County found itself financially crippled with extraordinarly high property taxes created by the school bond debt, a collapsed lake front property tax base, and the reality that three successive property tax exemptions involving timberland removed two thirds of the county from the tax digest. Existing residential property owners bore the brunt of the damage, with elderly property owners denied exemptions from school taxes afforded citizens of Columbia and Richmond Counties because their money was needed to service the bonds. The corrupt shell of Wachovia Bank continues to threaten the viability of Wells Fargo Bank, who had the misfortune of wanting the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to fold Wachovia into their operations. The lots themselves might not ever be viable, as they were drawn up to be served by a sewage system that languishes without paying customers.
The waters remain still up on Graball Road but the tragedy continues.
At least now it isn’t an untold tragedy in Augusta and the Central Savannah River Area of Georgia and South Carolina. Lessons are never learned from things covered up.
Agraynation.com gets the big stories of our times and tries to make our readers think about what they mean.
On Tuesday April 19th, 2016 the Lincoln County Republican Party held a candidate forum at the public Library. Your Arrowflinger was there and asked the candidates very tough questions. Former House District 117 Representative Lee Anderson, now running for the Senate District 24 seat, and his wife Donna were seated the next row in front. When Lee got up to speak my questions were pointed at his previous record of voting for double digit fee, rate, and tax increases on us. Donna turned and called me a “jerk” numerous times, although the only clearly audible one was at the end, when I loudly challenged Lee to take further questioning.
Now, the point being made is that we go broke very fast paying double digit cost increases when our incomes are increasing less than 2%. Lee and Donna have a solution to this dilemma though. You see, Lee’s first cousin Superior Court Judge David Roper heads the guardian ad litem program in Augusta which became a national scandal because of the guardians’ ad looting. Now Donna is in that stable of ad lootems, supplementing their family income. We don’t have that option, do we?
None of the other candidates or their parties reacted with anger at my tough questions, only the one person divorcing parents would expect to stay calm.
Usually the phrase “grab the wife and kids” is hyperbole in a political season, but can you families of the 24th risk having a rogue judge, rubber-stamp lawmaker, and angry guardian ad lootem wife all aligned against you in the event of divorce?
Think about it.
Watch and listen, as Arrowflinger Al gets tagged with yet another insulting label to join many other such Badges of Honor.
Back in 2011, during Lee Anderson’s last year in the Georgia House before his doomed attempt at the US House, your arrowflinging writer called and wrote him about the activities of the Tax Reform Council. Lee acted ignorant of the issues and directed me to his guy on the Council, plant nurseryman Skeeter McCorkle. He got back “Lee I know what McCorkle will do – he will get a whole new slew of agriculture exemptions!”
Anderson wasn’t in the Georgia House in 2012 when House Bill 386 passed containing all those costly new exemptions that real people are now having to make up.
Included in the bill was a provision giving nearly every farmer in Georgia, even home gardeners, what is now known at the GATE (Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption) card. It looks like this.
Now when we used to visit Lee Anderson’s farm, each and every gate we passed through had to be closed and secured with a chain. So it used to be with Georgia Tax Exemptions.
What transpired was a comical statewide tax looting publicized heavily in the Atlanta Media, municipal publications, and even county papers like the Lincoln Journal. Some farming fellows tried to use their GATE card on the casket and vault for their fathers funeral. Others bought $100,000’s of lumber for home building. The carnage continues today at nearly every rural store in Georgia.
The tax losses exceeded 15% in many counties, causing property tax increases just like the 22% property tax Augustans got out of the same tax reform fiasco.
A Georgia Municipal Association map and chart depicted the damage statewide.
Another term, this time with Lee in the Senate, will be a real riot if the escaped money cows don’t come home.
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.
Lobbyists didn’t care.
The Augusta Chroniclereported “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.
The November 2014 race to fill Georgia House District 122 seat, vacated by retiring Representative Ben Harbin of Evans was the ugliest, most hotly contested election in the modern history of Columbia County. It saw 2 months of nonstop attacks by radio station talk show host Austin Rhodes on hapless candidate Joe Mullins conjoined with the collapse of the campaign of departing Columbia County District 3 commissioner Mack Taylor. Taylor’s efforts became mired in a nasty war with Mullins, complete with subterfuge, private investigators, and backdoor conniving with the radio talker. Columbia County, sick of the carnage, chose political newcomer Jodi Lott in the December runoff.
Representative-elect Lott was probably giddy with excitement still when she was sworn in this January. Her refreshing enthusiasm, undiminished by the grinding reality check of public life, was apparent to everyone in the area. Her primary campaign issue, a “fairtax” (a sales tax) to replace the state income tax, seemed unstoppable in the Georgia House of Representatives, as leadership and the membership voiced support.
Like the rest of us, Jodi Lott found the meaning of “lip service,” that when grizzled politicians like House leaders move their lips, you can count on it being in service to a lie. In this case her treasured tax relief met uncompromising doom at the hands of Governor Nathan Deal, who cited the danger that moving from an income tax to a sales tax would pose to Georgia’s burgeoning film industry, which heavily benefits from income tax credits. The House leadership beat a retreat, citing the futility of going against the governor’s wishes.
That is the “official story.” Here is a much more accurate explanation. The reason that the citizenry of Georgia will never see their income taxes cut, or replaced by a sales tax, is that other income tax credits have been a back-door, almost totally-unaccounted for, stream of public funds to connected political donors from the Republican hierarchy in the legislative and executive branches. They give away income taxes that have to be made up by increased income taxes on us. No income tax means that the payola scheme dies.
Our City Stink/Agraynation.com collaborative effort uncovered the scandal in 2012, during investigation into the details of the Magnolia Trace subsidized housing development uproar. After the public fury, this writer had traveled to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) offices and spent an afternoon pouring over records of the Magnolia Trace income tax credit applications in the company of DCA attorney Phyllis Carr. The review did not uncover any smoking guns assignable to Columbia County Officials, but found a huge one wafting smoke toward the Georgia Republican Party and its senior officeholders in government.
You see, the availability of income tax credits, especially the low income housing tax credit, had been around for years. Most of these credits expired unused. That was until Missouri based Affordable Equity Partners got measures through the Georgia legislature allowing the credits to be exchanged, marketed and sold to taxpayers who could use the tax credits. Affordable Equity and its sister Capital Health Management, Inc. funded a bevy of GOP-beneficent PACs and made direct contributions to nearly all of the important party office holders. To date, Governor Deal has received $10,000, House Speaker David Ralston has received $9,500, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has received more than $17,000 from this stable of companies and related PACs. The GOP, its incumbents in the legislature and other supporting PACs have received another $240,000.
Magnolia Trace affair was also a scandal in its approval process and the political donation largesse was a deciding factor for approval in this writer’s opinion. How widespread are these failures and malpractices by DCA and how much is it costing the people of Georgia?
Representative Lott and tax reformers take note! To get tax reform for the people the path is directly through your leaders’ hefty campaign finances.
Let’s see if the candidates now running for Senate 24 and House 123 seats on passing a “fairtax” have that much tenacity.
Owners like to use a contract delivery method called “Design Build” when they don’t know what the heck they are building, don’t want to take the time to design it before bidding it out, or have a site with too many unknown conditions. Since they don’t know these things they put a fig leaf of protection against unlimited costs called a “Guaranteed Maximum Price” or GMP. Even in commercial or industrial construction, supposedly knowledgeable in cost controls and with fewer unknowns, GMP contracts are a challenge to administer, because the assumptions the contractor gives in quoting a GMP generally last only days or weeks. Owners would be better off with a pure cost-plus contract with great controls, but the owner’s internal politics command at least a fiction of a fixed price.
Imagine trying to catch a butterfly in a windstorm – that is how elusive the “guarantee” becomes.
In government there is no better money-hemorrhaging device than these contracts, hence perhaps GMP should automatically be understood by citizens as being “Guaranteed Money Pit.”
The City of Augusta, Georgia loves to squander money using GMP contracts, having thoroughly embarrassed itself with the things. Augusta built a $30 million Convention Center across land the city didn’t own and then had to pay for it with Kitchen Equipment added by change order to a “guaranteed” price, spent about $50 million on a Municipal Building Remodeling that was supposed to cost $20 million mostly covered by another GMP contract, and built houses in the Laney Walker district with maximum-price, not to exceed contracts that never were adjusted to actual cost.
There were only three finalists selected by Augusta for the Old Green Street Library remodeling, and two of the three had “Allen” in their name. The low bidder who didn’t have “Allen” in its name and who bid on the whole project in its bid, with a Guaranteed Price for all of the work, somehow didn’t get the award. RW Allen, LLC was awarded the work on a piecemeal basis, destroying any figment of a guarantee in this writer’s estimation.
John Allen, nephew and contributor to Congressman Richard W. Allen, is a principal in the Allen-Batchelor firm, which was also on the finalist listing.
District 8 Wayne Guilfoyle said it best “if all three firms are proposing this project the following including the proper scope, met the required schedule and fully capable of completing the RFP why are we selecting the highest bidder?” Then later Commissioner Guilfoyle said “So we’re approving something we don’t have a clue, only a partial.”