The Boardroom Trail to the Talisman

OPINION BY The Arrowflinger

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

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

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

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

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

Collateral Metro Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-AF

No Opting Out of The Greatest Transition

You got your demons, you got desires, well I’ve got a few of my own – Don Henley

Four years ago, a loose coalition of citizens came together to bring a powerful blend of research, online publication, media presence, and reform to Augusta, Georgia and east central Georgia. One started a blog named City Stink, that moniker being a statement of admiration for long-time Augusta Chronicle columnist Sylvia Cooper and her column City Ink, yet impishly labeling the town as the source for all manner of unsavory things. Augusta wasn’t the sole target, either. The archives of Agraynation are amply populated with the City Stink posts, which retain power and utility for change.

As with all human endeavors, members grew weary, lost stomach for the political idiocy, and allowed personal differences to intercede in what was a wonderful community effort. During a nearly two year hiatus, individuals in the group ventured out on various initiatives, successfully defeating SPLOST 7a in Augusta and forcing SPLOST 7b proponents to slash waste, while promising reforms. Members of the Facebook groups Augusta Today and Augusta Political Watch, along with old participants in the City Stink effort, have used the interruption in the fray to observe what transpired in the vacuum and how positive developments proceeded from those action-filled 30 months.

The methods were proven. Mistakes were made, but those were instructive.  Glenn Frey, the late Eagle and co-writer of “One of these Nights” said “We all have our dreams, a vision we hope will come true someday. When that ‘someday’ will come is up to each of us.” Yes, our demons and desires got in the way of continued success, but the need for action has never been greater.

America has lost nearly every institution with direct responsibility to control financial matters and the Rule of Law, foundation of social stability, is for practical matters dead. The Accountants have abandoned financial standards that protected us for decades. The Lawmakers have rewritten the Law to legalize fraud. The Ministry has thrown “THOU SHALT NOT STEAL” out of the Ten Commandments. The Bankers have destroyed one of the two functions that make the United States Dollar “money” and are on the brink of killing the other. The Media have been either silenced or captivated.

We have the tools to overcome it all. The Augusta reformers proved several important techniques and strategies. As great as the challenges are, the technology and methods are here to overcome them all. All that is missing is desire to make it happen.

Laughter is the best medicine and there are bounteous sources of outrageous humor that only need a little attention to have everyone laughing on the way to restoring our cities, counties, states and America. We are in the midst of the greatest transformation and transition in 400 years, if not all of human history.

“Agraynation” perhaps sounds a lot like “aggravation” to some. The subscribers list is stale, yet there are many in the community and state included in the automatic notification feature. Posts may be coming faster than you like via your email account. If so please UNSUBSCRIBE if you get one notification too many. Please accept my apology if notification that accompanies this post is that “one too many.”

Thanks to everyone for you encouragement, support, and participation. And……..welcome back to the fray.

– The Arrowflinger

 

Short Sheeted via Term Sheet


Public Thrown for Loss in (nearly)Free Falcons Stadium?
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.
Georgia Dome to be Torn Down for new Falcons Stadium
About two months ago, a “term sheet” was signed by the Georgia World Congress Center and the Atlanta Falcons to build a new retractable-roofed stadium for their pro football team. After the travails that followed the notorious Augusta Tee Center Term Sheet, the mere mention of that phrase was enough to raise eyebrows.
The thought came to mind “What if……?” What if it was a one-sided deal against the public? What if the consultants’ reports were not analyzed? What if the cost to the taxpayer was a whole lot greater than advertised? What if the legalese meant huge opportunities for cost-shifts to the public? What if media was silent because of the team owner’s position on the board of the Atlanta newspaper’s parent company?
The deal was too huge and the possibilities too big to ignore, so this author performed a month long investigation on the reported stadium costs versus what the documents showed. The report that came from this effort is the inaugural article in agraynation.com, the multimedia blog born out of the Augusta Project, that work being a year-long series of investigations and articles that appeared in City Stink and the Augusta reform Facebook pages.
The Falcons say they are paying $700 million of the $1.2 billion cost.
Are they really? Or is this another prank of being short sheeted via term sheet? Will the weary public think it is turning in to a warm comfy bed, only to find all openings denied?
Most of the cost is all ours.
There is a big rush to get this deal approved ASAP.
Stay tuned.

AG

Augusta’s Contract With Heery International Contains More Surprises

Hear Ye, Heery is Here

More Overpriced Payees for the City?
Originally posted on CityStink
February 24, 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.
In 2003 the City of Augusta did a wise thing in a very foolish way. The administration saw an enormous upswing in capital spending that it lacked the staff and expertise to plan, engineer, procure, manage and control. A large, growing, and respected Atlanta-based firm, Heery International was selected to perform these functions. The strategy was sound.
The execution was horrible.
This blanket order was executed with 4% annual rate increases mandated. Despite the downturn in construction and the overall economy, in which labor, overhead and profit have tended to fall, the compounding of Heery’s rates continued unabated. The rates established for next year are up an incredible 48% over the initial rates. A Principle in Charge then was $162.16 an hour, this year one is $230.81 and next year it would be $240.04. A project manager then was $87.32. Now one is $124.28, rising to $129.25 next year. An administrative assistant went from $42.41 to $62.78 an hour.
The cumulative effects are stunning. In July 2010 the contract was extended to 2013. At the time, the contract price was raised from $7,082,355 to $10,317,906.
Amazingly, the total overhead and fee in RW Allen’s contract to build and equip the entire Tee Center is $1.8 million, while Heery’s program management fees will top $1.2 million. There is another $1.3 million slated for the Webster Detention Center Phase II. The Reynolds Street Parking Deck is a surprising $549,390.
A defense can be made that division of duties between the construction management firms and Heery reduced the costs of the former. That is a valid point. The difference in rates probably negates a lot of this advantage, however.
A fairly common approach is for the hourly rate for such services to be based upon some verifiable figure, usually the salary rate of the employee divided by 2080 (52 weeks, 40 hours per week) times a multiplier that is negotiated. 2.0 to 2.3 is a normal range. The Heery contract does not accomplish this. The rates were firmly set on an unknown basis back in 2003 and 2004. Augusta did not negotiate controls over composition of rates.
Beyond this, generally there is a firm division in setting rates that only people directly engaged in the project or on site are billed. Principals, Project Directors, and home office administrative assistants, all of whom appear on Augusta’s contract, are included within the markup applied to the directly-engaged employees. Augusta’s Heery contract allows these employees to be billed in addition to the marked-up billing rates of the direct employees.
Augusta is only permitted to audit the hours billed and the employee classification. Augusta is not allowed access to payroll records to ascertain accuracy of the rate billed or upon what basis the rate is determined. The language is blunt: “OWNER may only audit accounting records applicable to a cost-reimbursable type compensation.”
What this says is that the public can never know how community liason Butch Gallop‘s Heery billing rate got to be a whopping $177.91 an hour billed, with the potential of being billed at the $240.04 an hour on the rate sheet for next year!
The contract is nearly always advertised as a joint venture between Dukes Edwards Dukes and Heery International. Indeed, Dukes Edwards Dukes principal Winfred Dukes appears on the billing rate sheet at $240.04 an hour in 2013, up from the initial $162.16 an hour. For the sake of clarity and honesty, Dukes bills only about 4 hours a month. He is one of several Heery executives who Augusta should never have allowed to be billed in this writer’s humble opinion, since they are at supervision levels above the Senior Project Managers and directly-engaged staff on Augusta’s projects.
To summarize, the Heery contract has been on auto-pilot with compounding rates, unverifiable rate bases, and apparent inadequate division of direct labor versus overhead. The fault lies with Augusta, not its contractor, in this case as in all of the others recently reviewed. Augusta is profligate with taxpayer money, in this case by not revisiting a blanket order for services, electing to extend it untouched for years.
Who is Winfred Dukes? Well we found him under the Gold Dome in Atlanta.
Who knew Augusta had another state representative in the Georgia House?
Mysterious bodies abound in Augusta’s contracts. So far there are two in the Heery contract.
Stay tuned, there is more to come, as the deciphering of Augusta’s contracting continues.
Much more.***

A.G.
Related Stories:
“Galloping” Away With Taxpayers’ Money

**View Heery Document Below

Heery