The Forensic Audit Subcommittee chaired by Commissioner Bill Lockett met today for the second time, to discuss the scope of work necessary for launching a Forensic Audit concerning the TEE Center Parking Deck. As previously discussed in this committee, the first RFP (Request for Proposals), was released for bid with a scope of work that was far too broad. Firms who showed an interest in bidding on the audit were asking for more clarification and direction.
It seems that forensic audits can become quite pricey when looking for criminal wrong doing. As I left this meeting today, I knew I had to tell what took place. The only media present were two regular writers for the Augusta Chronicle: Susan McCord and Sylvia Cooper. As I rode down the elevator with Mrs. Cooper, we exchanged pleasantries and talked about what had taken place in the meeting. I said to her,” I have got to get an article out for City Stink on this… You do know that we named our blog in your honor.” She acknowledged that she knew that, and said to me,”Your job will be easy.” I said, “I know it will, because I will be able to write exactly what happened in that room.” We left it at that. Here is what happened:
Commissioner Lockett called the meeting to order and began to lay out his reasoning, a second time, for the need of a forensic audit. As he began his remarks, he talked about the fact that a good portion of the scope of the work in question had already been done by a group called Augusta Today, and through a blog called, CityStink.net. He went on to say that this citizen’s group had given of their own time, and spent their own money to ask for documents in open records requests, to uncover the truth associated with the TEE Center parking deck. He revealed that the articles published by City Stink were all well researched and had supporting documents to accompany them. He presented to the group four such articles in the form of, “links,” for review. The CityStink.net articles he referenced were the following:
- TEE Center and Parking Deck: A Grand Deception?
- Liening on a Stacked Deck
- Exclusive: Fred Wrestles, Augusta Gets Decked
- Exclusive: Augusta’s $714,357 “Incidental” Cost
Committee members agreed to look at the articles researched and written by the, “citizen’s group,” without discussion… The first shocking moment of the meeting!! I expected there to be some objection from General Counsel… “Can’t believe those citizens“… Maybe just the name, “City Stink,” was beginning to get some respect. I began to listen closer.
Commissioner Lockett brought back up the fact that they had been told that all of the land under the parking deck would be donated. He questioned the way in which property was acquired under the parking deck, with some being purchased by the city and other parcels remaining with Augusta Riverfront, LLC. Seems that a parcel owned by State Senator Bill Jackson (The old gas station at 9th and Reynolds) had been traded for property at 13th and Reynolds adjoining Mr. Jackson’s tile business. Why was it important to make this deal, but not with any of the rest of the parcels? Another good question that brought Commissioner Guilfoyle, a new committee member, out of hibernation. He couldn’t understand why we all just didn’t believe Senator Jackson’s son, as he explained on the Austin Rhode’s Show, exactly what the truth was concerning this property trade, when it was uncovered by members of Augusta Today.
Commissioner Lockett was quick to respond that all associated property could have been condemned and taken for city use. Commissioner Guilfoyle responded, “I believe this would have been a tough process.” Touche… In any event, the land under the tax payer funded parking deck still has a 6 million dollar lien on it. There is no disputing that fact. Also, the plan on the table is to turn the land under the deck, over to the land bank, let Augusta Riverfront, LLC (Billy Morris and Paul Simon) own the bottom floor parking spaces and the tax payers get the air rights. General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie responded with a blank stare. Not one comment from committee members, either. I believe Jim Plunkett, outside Counsel for the city called this, “Complicated.“
Finally, After much discussion, Commissioner Lockett revealed the following items that he believed would be a narrow enough scope to put in an RFP to get to the bottom of all of this . They are as follows:
TEE Center Exclusive: No Way to Treat a Partner