Was it PERJURY?

By The Arrowflinger

(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.

-AG

The Mary Davis Sand and Gravel Company

By Arrowflinger Al

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.

Mary rocks our world.

 

-AG

$200 Theater Tickets Trumped a $20 Million Cost Recovery Effort?

UPDATE: At the August 5, 2014 meeting of the Augusta Commission, the Augusta media got its panties in a wad over $200 James Brown Movie premier tickets and ruffled feathers between Mayor Copenhaver and Commissioner Bill Fennoy.

In any place other than Augusta, a request for the Augusta National Golf Club to pay up $20 million just might have attracted a camera lens.

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Mayor Copenhaver, Gentlemen and Lady of the Commission, today let’s go down the Road of Good Intentions known as TIA 2010. Here is a road sign Commissioners Bowles and Lockett tried to install on this twisted road before we got to this Fiasco Junction.

This program has gone structurally bust in the 13 County CSRA region to the tune of $80 million to $140 million. Revenues are nearly 10% short versus budget. The investment projects’ costs are worse – now reported at the $538 million of 2011, but stood at $630 million when TIA passed. Worst of all is that higher number bore increases of 2% per year, but the cost of early projects is increasing more than 5%.

What happens to Augusta and its partner counties when funds run out in year 8? Augusta gets 60% of Phase 1 money, so the other counties could see Augusta’s early projects eat up their funding.

Distrust grows from Augusta swapping projects between Phases. Augusta was permitted to move the two Berckmans Road projects from the last phase to the second phase, but has a side deal with the Augusta National for a loan that moves the main project to Phase 1. The amount funded is just the $16.7 million base cost of that project. When the real costs come in, those projects could cost $2 million more. If the funds are capped at $16.7 million Augusta bears that cost. If the escalated costs are allowed to Augusta, we bear the cost.

The National’s project overruns mean promises to the people get dropped, here and throughout the region. Already $7.5 million for Municipal Transit promised didn’t get a dime in 2013.

The arrangements with Augusta and the Augusta National are of dubious legality. Nothing in TIA 2010 provides for a private entity to interject itself to secure earlier funding. The TIA citizens’ advisory panel we citizens were promised had oversight wasn’t even allowed to vote on the changes.

What of the Berckmans right of way – a TIA allowable cost? The proposed land swap with the National could be a net payment to Augusta that appropriately belongs to the regional fund. How can you separate out the complete costs of those options, like tunnels, the National wants from the TIA portion?

Finally there is the matter of trust. We cannot trust Augusta. The National paid $1.9 million an acre for its last purchase yet you are giving up 13 acres bordering the course itself with no attempt to get the National to pay – not loan – the $20 million or more their project will cost. Then look at the Highlands Avenue Project, where you are using 90% in other funds over and above TIA to meet the contracted price. All counties were to report all costs, including other sources, but Augusta didn’t. How many other games is Augusta playing with us?

In February reports flew out about the “TIA success” here. The press used a deceptive TIA funding list largely of non-TIA funds. Today legislators are meeting in Atlanta over transportation thinking this disaster actually works.
Let’s douse that notion by loudly demanding concrete action to secure that state guarantee of funding we heard in the TIA campaign.

For the Augusta National – Doing business with the last Augusta administration was high risk. Pay for your project to get free of this embarrassment now.

Pro-SPLOST Augusta Commissioner Goes Rogue

When someone is filled with venomous rage, they tend to not hear what is said. In this case, please watch and listen to the segment of question and answer immediately before Commissioner Donnie Smith’s reprehensible diatribe. Next you get to observe the reaction of Commissioner Bill Lockett, who demonstrated that he was listening to that discourse with keen interest, because he almost perfectly recited it back to Commissioner Smith.

When this effort began 30 months ago, it began 5 years beyond the capability of any hostile party to seek retribution against an employer, client, or reference. Exhaustive case studies are found on both the agraynation.com and costrecoveryworks.com sites. On this site are numerous videos, articles, and publications documenting the achievements of these past 30 months, which have resulted in tremendous savings to Augusta.

– Prevented misapplication of an overlay zoning district to a greater area than was legal.
– Did title search under Reynolds Street Parking Deck using the Georgia Superior Courts Website and the Augusta Clerk of Superior Court Office, found Augusta did not own the land under their facility, found there were $7 million in liens on the land, and then notified the media, commission and the Public. Then supported curtailing costs of the management contract.
– Supported the County Commission with efforts to institute last minute controls over the Convention Center project with the result that unlimited catering, audit rights were expanded and other costs were capped.
– Researched Urban Redevelopment Areas and successfully assisted the Augusta Commission in curtailing the Augusta Downtown Redevelopment Area.
– Researched Tax Allocation Districts and advised commissioners that TAD One was $10’s of millions under water.
– Supported a $184,000 reduction in the sales tax management project
– Found a $164,000 overcharge in a subcontract.

Conflict in Columbia County?

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

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

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

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

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

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

-AF

Enron Accounting Revisits DOT

On February 5 of this year the time of the groundbreaking for the Riverwatch Parkway Extension Project, WAGT TV26, WJBF Channel 6, and the Columbia County News-Times all incorrectly reported that the $34 million project was being funded wholly out of TIA-2010 funds, also known as TSPLOST.

The TIA funds for the project came out of the 75% funding level list approved by voters within the Constrained Projects List. There is a project cost estimate found in the details. That paints a truthful picture. Nearly $11 million for the project is reserved out of DOT highway and fuel taxes and there is a $3.3 million cost overrun already, leaving $20 million in TSPLOST funding.

You know there is something screwy when that many news outlets get it wrong and are all using the same number.

Well it didn’t take long to find the source. It was DOT, who came into the TSPLOST debate tarnished and smarting from Governor Sonny Perdue accusing them of “Enron Accounting,” but seems back to their bad habits by putting out a webpage showing TIA spending that looks to be TIA, alright – Totally In-Accurate. A Lincoln County project is only $1 million of TIA funding, but DOT listed it as $4 million. Wrightsboro Road in Augusta is shown as $19 million TIA funding, but it is only $2 million.

If DOT wants to reestablish its credibility after its flirtation with Enron Accounting they sure have a funny way of showing it.

How they are going to fund the huge cost increases with revenues collected so woefully low would make an Enron Accountant strain.

Victimized or Triumphant in a Gray State

Yes, I am A. Gray but we are all in a gray nation now. It is a nation of 75 million aging Baby Boomers and the massive pressures the simple math of that portends. It is a nation where the polydamnticians and manipulators want to hide the clear and simple truths found in the Bible and the Constitution of the United States in a gray fog. We find the rule of law being covered in a gray burial shroud by the very people sworn to uphold it. Swirls of gray dust billow out from our imploding institutions to cover us in what would be shame if we even pretend to be a civilized people.

 

 

These words were crafted from a perch 20 feet up an east central Georgia pine tree overlooking a sparkling lake. One vigilant squirrel had just alerted the entire squirrel network all of whom chattered ‘HAWK!’ In unison, lest even one fall victim. The squirrel feeding under the white oak below scurried next to a hollow log. It was a good thing, too for the hawk eye had picked him as prey. The sharp talons grazed his back just as that tree dweller popped into safety in a knothole. So it is with us. We have waited perhaps too long to escape danger. THIS is agraynation but a bright future beckons those who join in a network vigilant to the dangers lurking in the gray state we are in. Here in agraynation, we are going to wrest ourselves from being prey, laughing all the way at the polydamnticians, gold dome cowboys, exposed manipulators, crazy schemers, cozy crooks, devilish democrats, and especially the Pharisee Republicans who have gotten control of Georgia.

Hushing the Racket from Dr. Phil (Gingrey) and his D.I.C.K. Quartet

Its springtime in Georgia, but this spring there are a lot of things blooming in the red state of Georgia besides the redbud trees and like this redbud tree the true colors are beginning to show a tinge of blue for good reasons.

The state might be in the heart of the bible belt, but its movers, shakers, and polydamnticians have most of us, the citizens, remembering that the place started out as a penal colony of thieves, con artists, petty pirates, embezzlers, and more than an few whores. Our holy rollers in banking managed to make Georgia #1 or #2 in Mortgage Fraud for 5 years running from 2001 to 2005 on the way to the national championship of bank failures 7 years later. 11000 real estate appraisers warned them. (Video cites a conservative 2200.)You’d think somebody would be embarrassed.

Undaunted by their humungous failures and emboldened by chilling thoughts of losing their second homes in Highlands, the financiers turned to the mother’s milk of government bailouts and protection rackets. While they were at it, they dressed all the rest of us in milk-bone pajamas in this dog-eat-dog world they created. You reckon they thought we wouldn’t notice?

Over under that gold dome in Atlanta, their puppet chairmen of the House and Senate Banking Committees – both of whom headed failed banks – kept those pesky credit unions owned by the people at bay. We can be sure they were in church on Sunday – that is a Georgia law for politicians after all. Now, one of their pawns, Donna Sheldon, is running for the United States Congress in the 10th District after sitting on her duff on the Georgia House Banking Committee or actively countering the reformer, Senator Jesse Stone of Waynesboro. We’ll talk over more about her later.

Over yonder is US Representative Paul Broun, who vacated the seat Sheldon is drooling over, whose family owned a failed bank. He is looking to replace Saxby Chambliss a guy who so brilliantly defined $trillion bank derivatives as mere phone calls after his committee was charged with reforming banking. Saxby had a motto: “Wall Street Money for Free, be on the First Tee by Three!”

Yes we can bank on our Republican leaders in this state for rollicking fun and entertainment at our expense. Let me introduce you to Dr. Phil (Gingrey) and the Deal, Isakson, Chambliss and Kingston quartet. Phil and the DICK gang voted for such fiscally responsible triumphs as Medicare D, No Child Left Behind (before Phil), highway and farm bills. Before Phil came, DICK voted to allow banks to gamble with depositor’s money with no reserves and to book those bad gambling debts to be paid back first before depositors. Old Milhous Nixon himself wasn’t this tricky.

Now you think it is ugly to call these bozos DICK, but they got the ball rolling when Deal and Isakson became a tag team 4 years ago. Chambliss is escaping the boot he was about to get, but that old pork barrel spender Kingston is out playing the churches in an old woodie like a 2014 model Pharisee.

For us a frugal folk there isn’t much deciding to do. Let’s pack Dr. Phil and the DICK quartet off to a doublewide in Ludowici to play the pornography derivatives market and send the capable David Perdue and Karen Handel into the US Senate runoff. Do it for yourselves and the kids.

Please, don’t forget a lifelong conservative Republican Protestant who doesn’t really want you to force him into a Chilly November date with a Nunn.

Government Watchdogs Help Save Richmond County Taxpayers $6 million


Originally posted by CityStink
November 13, 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.
It began calmly enough for this correspondent in August 2011. Another chapter in life had been closed with the disposition of all commercial property in Evans, which was our family’s investment of a lifetime.  That adventure of maximizing returns from that investment had required leveraging up multidisciplinary contract and regulatory review skills to a new level in combating hostile forces inside of Columbia County government. The comfort of total retirement beckoned until zero-interest-rate-policies of the Federal Reserve attacked all safe income streams. Thoughts crept in about leveraging up the entire old repertoire of skills on a grander scale, but how?
Along came Deke Copenhaver’s ill-fated attempt to get a downtown stadium for a group headed by former Baltimore baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr.  The whole deal looked suspect all the way from the woods of Lincoln County and a tiny band of opponents rose up to combat the project. This just happened to coincide with a preliminary secretive review of Augusta’s major contracts for the water treatment plant, sales tax project oversight, and the TEE Center construction. The activists had a meeting that I drove down to attend. We quickly found and developed common bonds.
Our first success came a year ago this month, with our opposition to the Laney Walker Bethlehem Overlay District (LWBOLD). We successfully got the Augusta Commission’s motion to approve scaled back to the correct, much more compact Foundry Node, rather than the huge overall LWBOLD. This early project coincided with the creation of the CityStink.net blog (the name being a parody of Sylvia Cooper’s City Ink column in The Augusta Chronicle)  and a social media group called Augusta Today, a parody of the name Augusta Tomorrow — the latter being a group of elite self-appointed downtown power-brokers who are responsible for many of the ill-conceived taxpayer funded boondoggles over the past 30 years in Augusta.
A large element of success was a core group comprised of Augusta political ‘gadflies’ at whom the Augusta Chronicle was prone to scoff, researchers, and amateur media types. This group collaborated in a number of issues including overlay zoning, Magnolia Trace, the parking deck controversy in which we broke the story about the undisclosed liens, Laney Walker housing, TSPLOST, the 12thDistrict Congressional election, various Augusta contracts, the DDA, the clock and finally the TEE Center.
Former Mayoral candidate Lori Davis emerged quickly to take the lead in arranging for Georgia Open Records Act Requests and turning the results into hard-hitting reports that were promptly delivered. Kurt Huttar and Tom West are fantastic data hounds and analysts whose work would make all manner of Augusta players wet their pants if the research were released. Dee Mathis was an early core group member who took Laney Walker to heart with a rousing defense of property rights. Andy Cheek is an experienced Augusta political hand from his days on the Augusta Commission. Brad Owens is a now successful security contractor, in addition to his familiarity with the minefield of Augusta politics. All have made their presence known in Augusta.
Potential and real savings for Augusta were identified along the way including a possible $300,000 or so on Laney Walker housing, an apparent $167,000 overcharge on a major contract, perhaps $750,000 over the life of parking deck contracts, and now more than $6 million on the TEE Center Contracts, according to Commissioner Corey Johnson and various news reports in the aftermath of last Thursday’s vote to approve  considerably-amended Tee Center agreements after Augusta Today founder Brad Owens and this writer met with city and manager attorneys,  and three Augusta Commissioners. Johnson put the savings as high as $500,000 a year and our analysis confirms that the savings could easily exceed $400,000 a year between the contract changes and the safeguards to come in the Annual Plan process.
Media reports can be found at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s site which had this to say: “The revised deal cuts the operating losses in half from about $900,000 originally, and it gives Augusta officials the option of renegotiating with the management company after five years.” George Eskola, of WJBF NewsChannel 6 offered the headline “Proposed TEE Center Contract Change Could Save Augusta $500,000His report appears below.
Augusta has never seen anything quite like this grass-roots citizens movement made possible by the use of digital media.. The response has been overwhelming. Our media vehicles of social media groups and CityStink.net have gained a following among the legal, accounting, public policy, and business communities.
The achievements are not bad, not bad at all, for an operation held together by not much more than duct tape, baling wire, and twine.
Augusta Administrator Fred Russell has characterized Augusta Today as a group that is permanently discontented with the TEE Center contracts, saying “We have listened to everything they have said to do and done it, and now they’re not happy.”  Seven of ten commissioners listened better, delaying approval, and securing $400,000 to $500,000 in annual savings.
Augusta Today is happy today, Fred.
In closing, the phrase from District One Commissioner Matt Aitken “It is time to move Augusta forward” suits best. Let’s do that, keeping in mind that approaching problems from all angles makes for the best path forward, one less filled with mistakes. Deke’s and Fred’s way are no longer the only options on the table, when Augusta can save money doing otherwise.
On a more personal note in closing this first annual report card, leveraging up what worked so well before in the corporate and real estate into the glaring lights of Public Policy has been very satisfying. Thanks to each and all who have offered kind words of praise and support.  Thanks even more to the Augusta Today group for their commitment for positive change in government and saving the people’s money.
Who knows where this might end. Maybe what starts in Augusta won’t end in Augusta.***
AG