Government Watchdogs Meet with D.A. Over ParkingGate

Friday, July 27, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

Government watchdogs and contributors Lori Davis and Al Gray will meet with District attorney Ashley Wright at 3:00pm today to discuss the evidence they have uncovered in the TEE Center Parking Deck debacle. Davis spoke at the July 17 Augusta Commission meeting and urged city leaders to halt a management contract with Augusta Riverfront, LLC for the $12 million publicly financed parking deck at 9th and Reynolds Streets. The contract was tabled because there were not a sufficient number of votes for it to proceed.

After Ms Davis’ presentation before commissioners, Mayor Deke Copenhaver sarcastically suggested that she needed to take this matter to the District Attorney and it was time for her to “put up or shut up.” Cost Recovery Specialist Al Gray, who has done much of the analysis on the transactions and deals concerning the parking deck for Augusta Today and, said the mayor’s statements were strange considering  all of the reports they have released concerning the parking deck have been backed up by the city’s own documents. At this same July 27th commission meeting a forensic audit looking into the parking deck deals was voted down and a substitute motion by Joe Jackson to forward the matter the the District Attorney and GBI passed.

Gray says that government watchdogs have had to go through an unwieldy, expensive and time consuming process to obtain public records to uncover the truth, and they have encountered stonewalling from some government officials in this process. Gray says, “I would hope that between the Mayor and DA, we gain access to all information to answer our issues or that the DA takes action to investigate with a promise to address them with supporting documents.”

Lori Davis says that she is confident that the evidence and truth is on their side and they already have hundreds of pages of documents to prove it. Al Gray says that a comparison matrix  he was asked to put together shows that the management contract under consideration with Augusta Riverfront, LLC amounted to a “blank check” and did not meet the city’s own RFP guidelines. In fact, he says that Augusta Riverfront, LLC never even submitted a bid, whereas other companies did, like Ampco Parking Systems, that met the city’s RFP guidelines. But city administrator Fred Russell ignored the RFP guidelines and ignored the bids from the companies who  had agreed to the city’s terms in favor of the “blank check” contract with Augusta Riverfront, LLC. This shows a wanton disregard for the interests of the taxpayers.

But some political observers believe that the DA is a dead end and point to the handling of the David Fry case as an example, citing that the District Attorney was too eager to accept an Alford Plea by Fry’s defense attorney to keep the matter from going to trial. They also question whether she can remain unbiased on the matter since she is running for re-election this year, and her boyfriend, Donnie Smith is running for the District 7 commission seat being vacated by Jerry Brigham. Donnie Smith was the first to suggest the matter be forwarded to the DA. He has also stated on the record that he doesn’t believe there is any “smoking gun” in the case to warrant further investigation.

Lori Davis says she is not quite sure what will come out of the meeting today, but says, “I hope that the DA will provide citizen support that we have not been getting from our Mayor and some of the commissioners. I also hope she can remain unbiased because I am sure that she will be getting a lot of pressure from outside sources.”

**We will have an update after their meeting with the District Attorney.***


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