TEE Center Update: Did Fred Fix the Kitchen But Fail to Execute?

The Convention Center Agreement Today

Fred and Barry’s Unexecuted Fix?

Friday, Feb. 24, 2012

Augusta, GA

by Al Gray

In TEE Center Kitchen Costs Leave Taxpayers Burnt! , yesterday’s City Stink exclusive, this writer covered deficiencies in the City of Augusta’s TEE Center Term Sheet with its partner in the project, Augusta Riverfront, LLC, which was approved by the City Commission on August 21, 2007. This was the approved document recently cited by attorney Jim Plunkett’s resolution recounting the history of Commission votes ratifying TEE and Parking Deck Agreements. A formal agreement was belatedly drafted and conditionally approved for the Reynolds Street Parking Deck on February 7.

Despite references in Board of Commissioner meetings all through 2009, no formal contractual agreement has been found executing the final TEE (now Conference Center) operating agreement. The original operating agreement for the Convention Center was recorded in the office of the Clerk of Superior Court. There doesn’t seem to have been any modification nor has there been any action to define rights with respect to the .23 acre tract that the LLC owns under the TEE Center. Like the parking deck agreements, the formal agreement seems to have lagged negotiations by years.

Based upon a schedule obtained in an earlier open records request by City Stink contributor Lori Davis (See Modifications Sheet Document Here) and informational updates made since the August 21, 2007 approval of the original term sheet that was unfavorable to Augusta, as noted yesterday, it looks like Augusta City Administrator Fred Russell and City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Chief Barry White actually may have done an exceptional job of renegotiating the deal so that it is dramatically more favorable to the City!

The proposed modifications put the City in control of the Center’s finances, gives it catering revenues, provides for a set fee rather than profits from operations, and provides that profits from operations go to Augusta. If this modification represents the final agreement, it is vastly superior to the original deal and is actually a very good deal for the City of Augusta.

From here it looks like the original Term Sheet stands as the only basis of an operating agreement actually approved by the Commission and that the final agreement has been mired in what have to be tremendous legal complexities of merging the TEE agreement with the existing Convention Center Agreement.

The final agreement should take care of the issue of the new kitchen equipment and replacements of that equipment going forward, but the Issue of how the new agreement relieved the LLC’s responsibilities going into this transaction, up to and until the combined TEE Center starts operations, still stands as does the issue of LLC responsibility for the proposed HVAC changes demanded by the Marriott.

Leaving issues like these, which should have been finalized before construction, hanging for 4 ½ years is a huge failure of administration, despite Fred Russell’s accomplishment of what looks to be a much, much better deal.

This story will be updated as new developments are known.***


Related Stories:

Exclusive: TEE Center Kitchen Costs Leave Taxpayers Burnt!

!!CityStink.net Exclusive!!

And Now, The Tee Kitchen Saga

A cost recovery opinion and perspective

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012
Augusta, GA
by Al Gray


In a very heated Augusta Richmond County Commission meeting last evening, February 21, 2012, a proposed change order totaling $836,288 for modifications to the TEE Center Contract with RW Allen was disapproved. The substantial price increase was really the aggregate of 13 different change orders combined for the purpose of gaining Commission approval, usually a rubber stamp. This time the Commission balked because of a stench boiling out of the unfinished TEE/Convention Center Kitchen. $399,823 of the increase was an HVAC upgrade to the kitchen area at the insistence of the city’s partner in this public-private partnership, Augusta Riverfront, LLC, operator of the Marriott hotel.

Neither side of the vote on the Commission was wrong. Augusta’s entire project management team had signed off on the change order four months ago, so disapproving it now was a moot point. Some commissioners accurately saw it that way and voted for approval, yet they all have serious questions. The rest missed the point about construction contract law and jumped to the real issue – are the Augusta Riverfront partners in this project controlling and expanding the scope to their benefit, yet totally at public expense?

The change order is a “done deal.”  A war appears imminent between the partners over financial responsibility for various areas of the project.

There is a powerful ODOR coming from the kitchen.

The parties jumped into this agreement based upon a document entitled Management Agreement Term Sheet – Trade Center, Version 6 dated June 29, 2007, which the Commission approved on August 21, 2007. The purpose of the term sheet was to set forth that the “City of Augusta (“Augusta”) and Augusta Riverfront, LLC (“LLC”) are interested in entering into a joint venture to own, build and operate a Trade, Exhibit and Event Center (“Trade Center”).”

This controlling document failed to establish effective dates or define WHEN operations start and construction ends. It would appear to embrace start of operations before project completion because it requires the Convention and Visitors Bureau to expend City funds 18 months before the project is complete. Aside from this, the project itself was scheduled to accommodate ongoing operations.

Let’s see what the Term Sheet says about cost responsibility: “LLC has total responsibility to provide all operating cost of the Convention Center, including, but not limited to, labor cost, supply cost, insurance and all repair, maintenance, and replacement of equipment. These replacement costs include replacing kitchen equipment, laundry equipment, HVAC equipment, outside walls and roof.”

Then there is this section:


5.  OPERATIONAL & CAPITAL FUNDING: It is anticipated that the new Trade Center’s rental revenues may not be sufficient to cover its operating expenses, particularly in the early years. The Trade Center will have capital needs for addition and replacement of various fixed assets. Augusta and LLC will participate in these Operational and Capital Funding needs as follows:

d. Augusta’s Capital Funds shall specifically not be used for items related to Kitchen Equipment, Laundry Equipment, and any Convention Center or Hotel capital cost.

Remember there are no dates given to establish when operations start because operations were ongoing and overlap construction activities. Even more confusing is what is “Convention Center” versus “TEE Center.” Indeed, by actions of Augusta Riverfront, LLC publicly acknowledging that BOTH are the “Convention Center” hasn’t that partner effectively agreed that its financial responsibilities for the combined total include those that previously existed for the Convention Center?

Interestingly, the Term Sheet provided that the kitchen for which Augusta Riverfront had equipment repair and replacement responsibilities would be consolidated with the TEE Center kitchen.

7. KITCHEN AND BACK-OF-HOUSE: LLC and Augusta will allow the necessary modifications to the Convention Center to provide for the combined use of the kitchen, laundry and back of the house areas. The modified kitchen and back of the house space will be designed for use for both the Convention Center and the Trade Center.

In so combining the “Convention Center” with the “TEE Center” did Augusta Riverfront’s existing financial responsibility for kitchen equipment disappear? Or did it carry over?

4. TERM OF AGREEMENT: Augusta and LLC agree to modify their agreement for the operation of the Convention Center to include the Trade Center.

The Term Sheet also clearly stated that catering revenues produced by the kitchen equipment do not result in any benefit for Augusta.

APPENDIX A: Definitions

For purposes of calculating the “Trade Center Operational Funding” described in Section 5., the Operating Revenues shall not include the following:…..

m. Trade Center Catering Revenues

2. Trade Center Catering Revenues: shall consist of those food and beverage revenues generated on formal, catered meal functions held in the Trade Center.

City Stink and Augusta Today contributor Lori Davis obtained the December 31, 2012 project billing from Construction Manager at Risk RW Allen to the city (See Document here: Attn to Kitchen Equipment Line Item Item 19 on Page 3). This billing includes a line item of $1,376,987 for Kitchen Equipment, $275,946 of which has already been billed and presumably paid, less the retainage. Examination of the supporting subcontractor invoice shows thousands of dollars to repair and clean existing equipment that would have apparently been the responsibility of the LLC under the previous agreement. The controversial HVAC change order to meet Marriott standards can be added to the total.

It is clear that the infrastructure and building costs for the kitchen are the responsibility of Augusta. These costs are included in the building mechanical, electrical, HVAC and other contracts. No potential issues are apparent there, other than cost issues that might be unearthed in the future by a construction auditor.

Adding the $1,376,987 of kitchen equipment to the Marriott-directed kitchen HVAC upgrade $399,083 means a total of $1,776,070 of kitchen equipment capital costs that are potentially disputable by the City of Augusta as costs to be born by Augusta Riverfront, LLC.

Questions abound. Has the City backcharged the LLC for any of the $275,946 paid to date for kitchen equipment and repair or cleaning of existing equipment the LLC seems responsible for? Isn’t the full $1,776,070 capital expenditures for which the LLC is responsible under the existing agreement and the Term Sheet?  Was an intent to treat the capital expenditures for new kitchen equipment as an Augusta cost adequately stated in the term sheet? Are the provisions for the LLC to be a partner in the project mean it can claim one start date for its project start date, yet another as the start date of ‘operations’ under the same agreement when no dates are stated in that agreement? Hasn’t the LLC by announcing that the whole is now the “Convention Center” legally shot itself in the foot by in doing so embracing responsibility for kitchen capital expenditures? How many other costs of the Tee Center construction supplant existing LLC responsibilities for operating and capital costs from the existing Convention Center agreements? Where are the backcharges to the LLC?


To summarize, the Term Sheet establishing the relationship between the City of Augusta and the LLC for the TEE Center Project seems to be flawed in terms of effective dates; makes repeated statements that capital costs of kitchen equipment, which cost more than $1.7 million, and other capital costs are LLC responsibility; combines the existing “Convention Center” agreement with provisions making the LLC responsible for kitchen equipment with the new TEE Center construction and operations; and excludes Augusta from any apparent benefit from use of this capital equipment.

Somebody has a grand mess in their kitchen. This writer would be hard-pressed to decipher financial responsibilities under this informal, rushed, and incomplete Term Sheet “agreement.”

The lawyers are salivating because dividing this baby is going to take more than the wisdom and judgment of Solomon. The opinion from this quarter would be that it could be split 50-50. Given the size of these costs, that won’t be an easy pill to swallow.

The Commission is, yet again, in an impossible position with respect to this project. Can they get any more Tee’d off?

Stay tuned for more cost recovery analysis  as the TEE Center documents are dissected while the project nears completion.***

 Al Gray

Editor’s note: City Stink contributor Al Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a Lincoln County, Georgia-based firm focused on construction, public administration, policy and cost recovery reviews on a guaranteed results basis. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Related Stories:
TEE Update: Did Fred Fix the Kitchen But Fail to Execute?

** Below are pdf files of the documents referenced in the above article:

RWA December 2011 Pay App
TEE Term Sheet (1)

Al Gray: TEE Center GMP Construction Contract Provides No “Guarantees”

When A Guarantee Isn’t One

Originally posted on CityStink
Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray

The author, Al M. Gray, was 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. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Augusta Commissioners on February 21, 2012, today, face a thorny vote on whether to approve a very expensive Change Order to R.W. Allen, LLC’s Construction Manager at Risk Contract for construction of the TEE Center. The contract is structured as a cost-plus arrangement with a Guaranteed Maximum Price. Such deals are commonly called GMAX or GMP contracts.

Under a cost-plus GMP contract, the construction manager starts construction before the design and specifications are complete in an effort to accelerate project completion. Otherwise all of the design, specifications and plans must be complete in order to bid the job on a lump sum or fixed price basis. Under a GMP contract, the construction manager mobilizes, awards the early sitework, underground piping, and preliminary concrete work while the architects and engineers complete packages for the various construction disciplines (steel, electrical, HVAC) that occur in later stages. When the overall design reaches majority completion, in this case 65%, the construction manager has enough data to provide the owner with a Guaranteed Maximum Price.

RW Allen and Augusta agreed to a GMP of $27,900,000 in January 2011.

The public highly distrusts cost-plus contracts, even those capped by a maximum price “Guarantee.” In this instance, properly done, cost-plus should have saved money and been the best choice method of project delivery. RW Allen had to deal with a brownfield site (unknown underground obstacles and conditions), coordination with ongoing operations of the hotel and convention center, in a congested area, and in conjunction with new design. Trying to force fixed price contracting intended for a set design would have resulted in risk-loaded contract prices where the real risk remained with the owner, the City of Augusta. The unknowns and variables were too great. Because the Guaranteed Maximum Price assumes set design parameters at the time the price is set, every GMP contract allows for change orders in the event that the design changes in the later stages at the recommendation of the architect and engineers. A change order increases the guaranteed maximum price.

Change Order 2, totaling $836,228, is actually the aggregation of 13 component change orders, including a controversial $399,083 change to the HVAC system to increase air turns to 8 over the base design standard of 2.5. Augusta’s architect approved this change months ago.

Some Augusta commissioners are grumbling because they confused “Guaranteed Maximum Price” with “Lump Sum.” In either contracting method there still would be change orders and they would be legitimate. The commissioners reticence to accept price increases because there is a price “guarantee” is a misunderstanding of the deal.

When a change order like this one gets to the Board of Commissioners it generally is a fait accompli. This looks to be the case in this instance. Under the RW Allen contract, the city is already bound. Look at the dates and signatures on the change order. The master change order 2 is dated October 17, 2011 and is more than four months old! The component change orders have to be of even earlier vintage. RW Allen’s contract for the TEE Center spells out that change orders increase the contract price in Article 15.

There is little doubt that RW Allen was given the authority to proceed. The City of Augusta’s architect/engineer, program manager, and city administrator have all signed the authorization. Under the TEE Center contract, the commissioners have no real options.

Augusta commissioners really should not want a lump sum at this point, because a lump sum contract has fewer options for cost reductions and cost recoveries as the contractors have born the risks and have earned the rewards of bearing those risks. (This doesn’t mean that lump sum contracts do not bear auditing, though!).

Commissioners can look forward to reductions in the Guaranteed Maximum Price as the TEE Center is completed. Allowances will be adjusted to actual cost both in the construction manager contract and in the component subcontracted packages. Contingency in this contract was $566,000 and that will be adjusted, too. Adjustments of ‘costs’ may or may not happen, depending on diligence.

Augusta Commissioners should be happy with the contract that they have and not yearn for a counterproductive fixed price that never would have been a lump sum. Just because a contract and change orders to it set a contract price, that does not mean that an evaluation of the scope documents cannot later reduce that price.

The administration and Board of Commissioners need to take prudent steps to verify the costs at completion. In fact, this needs to be performed for all of the various cost-plus GMP contracts the city has done in the last 3 years. Based upon the volume of these contracts, this writer projects that the costs recaptured by a comprehensive effort would range from $1.25 million to $5 million.

Nothing much is “guaranteed” in a GMP contract, just that the contractor keeps the change. Rarely is the change of the loose pocket variety. Augusta has let its contractors keep $millions in change by fruitlessly grumbling about change orders, then closing out “completed” contracts with nary a care.

That does guarantee a price.

Not if Augusta commissioners get wise.***

Al Gray

Editor’s note: City Stink contributor Al Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a Lincoln County, Georgia-based firm focused on construction, public administration, policy and cost recovery reviews on a guaranteed results basis. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Below are the documents referenced in this story:

r w Allen Gmp G-1 Tee Center
RWA – Tee Contract

“Galloping” Away with Taxpayers’ Money

Augusta Stumbling Into a “Gallop”


Wednesday Feb. 15, 2012

Augusta, GA
*updated at 3:45pm

by IndyInjun

We were watching WRDW’s Chris Thomas on the latest Marriott hotel fiasco, a TEE Center change order of $396,000, when a familiar face appeared defending the hotel’s pricey standards that Augusta is being asked to fund. It was long-time Augusta political activist and Charles Walker acolyte, Wilbert “Butch” Gallop. Mr. Gallop was identified as a “project liaison,” whatever that is.

At last count there were three oversight and management service companies, TVS Design, Heery International, and R.W. Allen, charging well over $4 million to manage the TEE Center and Reynolds Street Parking Deck projects. That’s a lot of overhead! Why are so many needed to administer these trouble-plagued jobs? Why is it so costly?

One reason is that Augusta is being charged $177.91 per hour for Butch Gallop’s services by program Manager Heery International for his work as “community liaison.”

We have a hint of what Butch Gallop’s “liaison” work for Heery International might entail from a June 17, 2009 article in the Augusta Chronicle by Johnny Edwards. In this article we learned that Gallop essentially worked as a “community organizer” to help drive out the vote by canvassing neighborhoods and supposedly dispelling “misinformation” to pass the SPLOST VI. Gallop worked alongside Janie Peel, Brenda Durandt, and Tricia Hughes on the “Yes to SPLOST VI” campaign.

Butch Gallop is quoted in the article: “The team that was put together — Brenda Durant, Janie Peel and Tricia Hughes — put something together to really educate the community… The naysayers always have something negative to say, but they didn’t know why they were negative. All they kept talking about was pork-barrel projects.”

All this while he was on the payroll of Heery International, which manages Augusta’s sales tax projects. So does that mean taxpayers are indirectly paying Butch Gallop to be a lobbyist and community organizer to help push thru these SPLOSTs, which greatly benefit Heery International? It sure appears that way.

Casting the net beyond the TEE Center and Deck projects we found Butch Gallop in the pay of ESG Operations, Inc., operator of the Messerly Waste Water Treatment Plant, at the rate of $2,500.00 per month. While whether Gallop was charged as a reimbursable cost under the waste water treatment plant contract or is absorbed in the overhead cost of the contractor’s services is immaterial. Augusta paid.

Just how many other Augusta contractors feel compelled to engage Butch Gallop’s services? What is going on here?

What exactly does a “liaison” do?

In these times of tough budget decisions, employee pay and benefit reductions, and aggressive cost-cutting, how will city leaders defend this galloping cost?

Augusta is squandering millions of dollars, while its commissioners dawdle and play the most unfortunate of political games. Stay tuned.***

Related Stories:

The Hotel That Never Was

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Hyatt Place hotel

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012
Augusta, GA

Donated land was not the only promise broken in the TEE Center and Parking Deck debacle. Some people may remember that the promise of  a $25,000,000 Hyatt Place Hotel was a major selling  point more than two and a half years ago to force commissioners to act on approving the TEE Center and Parking Deck deal. We have this Augusta Chronicle article from August 11, 2009 that shows how Julian Osbon and Courtland Dusseau were essentially issuing an ultimatum to commissioners: Approve the TEE Center and Parking Deck or the city loses the hotel. The TEE Center and deck were eventually approved on Dec. 9, 2009.

It is very clear that the hotel was being used as a bargaining chip to get the TEE Center agreement passed, which in August of 2009 was at an impasse. In the article, Julian Osbon, who owned the land where the hotel was to be built said, “I don’t think all the people understand the consequences. I wanted to make sure that if we did lose the hotel, that everyone had an opportunity to consider the possibilities.

Osbon, also sent a letter to commissioners and the Mayor that expressed this same sentiment, urging them to approve the TEE Center or they would lose the hotel and lose what he estimated being a $215,000,000 25 year economic impact to the city. Osbon also sent out an URGENT COMMUNITY ALERT (see 2nd pdf at end of article) to elected officials and business leaders essentially telling them that the only thing holding back construction on a new $25 million hotel was an agreement over the TEE Center. He also goes into a lengthy diatribe excoriating the black commissioners who he believes were holding up progress on the TEE Center, reserving most of his venom for Dist. 1 commissioner Betty Beard.

Perhaps Commissioner Beard does not understand that revenue producing venues such as a successful convention center is where the money will come from to revitalize the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods which are her pet projects, but are unfortunately in another Commissioner’s district.   It appears that District One voters have been ignored by our elected representative.”  

You must remember that 2009 was an election year and Beard’s seat was coming up for reelection. It appears as an obvious political threat towards Beard:  Vote for the TEE Center or pay a political price for not doing so. Shortly after this URGENT COMMUNITY ALERT went out, Beard decided not to run for reelection. Ultimately, Matt Aitken, a pro TEE Center candidate defeated Bill Fennoy in a run-off and took office. After his election win, the TEE Center agreement was approved just days later.

Osbon also issued a deadline of August 31, 2009 to commissioners to approve the TEE Center agreement saying in his Community Alert: “But August 31st is an important date for me. It represents the time to “draw a line in the sand,” I invested in my property at a time when it was very questionable as to whether or not it was a wise thing to do. As mentioned above I have held the property for more than a decade primarily to insure the best use of it by the community. Yes, I will make money if the hotel closes on it. And probably I will make more money if they do not. My property is the key piece in any development in the Common area and will easily increase in value. But nothing will bring more value to Augusta than the proposed Hyatt Place Hotel.


Osbon’s self-imposed August 31st deadline for an agreement on the TEE Center was extended when things got even more complicated when revelations emerged that two commissioners were allegedly offered bribes by local attorney David Fry. That news came out about the same time as Mr. Osbon’s date for “drawing a line in the sand.” And complicating matters further is that one of the commissioners who was approached in the alleged bribery attempt, Alvin Mason, revealed that he was receiving political threats back in May of that year from a prominent local businessman, Joe Edge, the President of Sherman and Hemstreet Real Estate Company, who ironically was handling the sale of the land for the proposed Hyatt Place hotel. This Sept. 15th, 2009 article by Johnny Edwards  that appeared in the Augusta Chronicle gives more details about this political threat.

Alvin Mason released excerpts of the email he received from Mr. Edge. Here is one of the more interesting lines: “I own real estate in your district, and I will do everything I can to ensure you don’t get re-elected if the commission does not change their mind.” (referencing the stalled vote on the TEE Center). The May 28th email references the proposed Hyatt Place hotel, which was not made public until August of that year when Osbon began issuing his ultimatums to commissioners.

The hotel had now become a focal point in the debate over the TEE Center and commissioners were being urged and in some cases politically threatened to change their votes on it based on the promise of this Hyatt Place hotel and its supposed  $215 million 25 year economic impact on the city.

The First Signs of Trouble

So now let’s fast forward a few months to January of 2010. The TEE Center and its companion parking deck have been approved and plans are underway to begin construction. We have this  January 20, 2010 article in The Augusta Chronicle by Tim Rausch that seems to indicate that the hotel was moving forward. Courtland Dusseau, a managing partner of Alabama based Legacy Hospitality, LLC, the developers of the hotel said, “We’re working on budgets today. We’ll have the business plan, financial plan put together by tomorrow and start meeting with bankers. We were concerned about when the TEE Center was starting. As long as it’s gonna happen, we’re fine.” It was even expected that the hotel would be open a year before the TEE Center. But here we are in 2012 just six months from the expected opening of the TEE Center and there has not even been a ground breaking for the hotel.

But in that same January 20th Augusta Chronicle article we had our first warning that this hotel may not ever happen. In the article, Dusseau admitted that he had no time line in place for ground breaking and had still not secured financing for the project. He was hoping that a grant from the OneGeorgia Foundation would help him secure other financing from local banks. So now, something that seemed like a sure thing once the commissioners signed the dotted line approving the TEE Center was up in the air. And it was a little more than ironic that Mr. Dusseau could not give the public a date for groundbreaking when commissioners were being issued a deadline just a few months prior to approve the TEE Center, based on this hotel. We have to ask, Did commissioners ever bother to get anything in writing from Mr Dusseau prior to voting to approve the TEE Center project on Dec. 9, 2009, that he did indeed have guarantees for financing the hotel  if the TEE center project was approved and built? Just like the supposed promise to release the liens on the property where the parking deck sits, getting things in writing before voting on something is always the smart course of action. But it does not appear that commissioners have learned from past mistakes.

Time Goes By

Months and months passed and still there were no announcements of when there would be groundbreaking for this Hyatt Place hotel. Then we have an Augusta Chronicle article from October 5 2010 telling us that the project was indefinitely delayed because of issues of securing financing. Mr Dusseau told Augusta Chronicle reporter Tracey McManus, “In today’s economic climate, it’s just really hard to get hotel financing. It’s just a matter of time.” A matter of time? Like the next century? While commissioners were being rushed by Mr Dusseau and Julian Osbon just a year earlier to approve the TEE Center project because of the immediacy of this hotel… now he was taking his own sweet time to secure financing. We have to ask… shouldn’t the guarantees for financing have been secured before Mr Osbon started issuing ultimatums to commissioners over this hotel?

Then, in December of 2010, Dusseau was coming to city leaders with his hands out. He was hoping the city would lend its credit to help him with financing his 139 room Hyatt Place hotel. This Dec. 13, 2010 Augusta Chronicle article by Susan McCord gives more details. City Administrator Fred Russell declined the request saying that the city didn’t need to be in the hotel business, but two new levels to the TEE Center Parking Deck were added around this time. It is not clear if that was motivated to help Mr Dusseau secure financing for the hotel.

A 2009 parking study did reference possible future development as one of the justifications for building a parking deck rather than less expensive surface parking. In that study, which was released in October of 2009, two options were recommended to satisfy expanded parking needs for the TEE Center. Option 1 was a much cheaper surface parking lot along 9th street at The Riverwalk. The second option was building a 400 space parking deck across Reynolds Street. Were city leaders compelled to go with the more expensive deck option because of the promises being made by Mr Dusseau and Osbon of another hotel being built directly across the street? We will have more on this in an upcoming article.

But my how things had changed. What was being presented as a $25 million gift to the city of Augusta by private developers just little more than a year earlier was now being pitched as something that the city should go into millions of dollars in debt to get built.

In a 2009 Letter to the Editor in The Augusta Chronicle, Julian Osbon called approving the TEE Center a “no-brainer”… and he once again referenced this hotel saying, “Does anyone really think the Hyatt Hotel Group would put a new $25 million facility in downtown Augusta without doing their due diligence?”


Due diligence? Like securing financing upfront? Perhaps Mr Osbon should have done his due diligence by getting assurances from Mr. Dusseau that this hotel was a sure thing as long as the TEE Center was approved before he started issuing ultimatums and deadlines to commissioners and firing off snarky letters to the editor and issuing his URGENT COMMUNITY ALERT.
Commissioners were pressured to approve the TEE Center partly because of this hotel and it appears by all accounts, that the hotel was pure fantasy…. merely a proposal and not a shovel ready project that simply awaited their approval. But this is not the first time commissioners have been  mislead over the TEE Center. They were told land would be donated and it never was. And let’s not forget that we have a trial about to get underway involving the alleged attempted bribery of two commissioners over The TEE Center and Parking Deck. But here we are two and a half years after Julian Osbon issued his first ultimatum over the TEE Center based on this hotel which it appears will never be built. Blame the bad credit market, but the fact remains that this hotel project should have been presented as a mere proposal that still required securing financing, instead of a sure thing to get commissioners to change their votes on the TEE Center. It appears that commissioners lived up to their end of the bargain. They approved the TEE Center project. The parking deck is open for business and the convention center is just months away from opening. Like the land that was promised to be donated to the city for the parking deck, it appears that this hotel has also turned into thin air.***

Below are pdf files of the Augusta 10, 2009 Memorandum and the Community Alert that Julian Osbon sent out:


Below is the Urgent Community Alert

More Deception in Parking Gate?

Once again a majority of commissioners have egg on their face

Monday, Feb. 13, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

Well it appears that there may be no deal after all to release the liens on the property where the $12 million TEE Center Parking Deck sits, nor does there appear to be any deal in place for the property to be acquired by the city’s land bank.

So it looks like instead of coming up with a last ditch effort to solve Parking Gate, what we have is merely more subterfuge and deception. And the mission of the city’s land bank is to acquire blighted properties that are often delinquent in property taxes. The property where the TEE Center Parking Deck sits hardly qualifies. So it appears we are back to square one. But the question must be asked… what exactly happened at last Tuesday’s commission meeting? Were commissioners deceived yet again over this parking deck saga? It certainly appears that way.

Al Gray and Lori Davis presented compelling evidence at last Tuesday’s commission meeting as to why the motion to approve the parking deck management contract with Augusta Riverfront, LLC should be defeated. Mr Gray made the point that commissioners should use this as an opportunity to exercise some leverage to demand more transparency and the right to audit all of the city’s financial relationships with Augusta Riverfront, LLC. That demand sent Augusta Riverfront, LLC and their protectors on the commission into panic mode, and at the last minute in what seemed to be a Hail Mary Pass, commissioner Jerry Brigham said that he had an agreement with Augusta Riverfront, LLC, that Wells Fargo had agreed to release all liens and have the land transferred to the city’s land bank. It had appeared that a solution had been reached, and a majority of commissioners, splitting along racial lines approved the management agreement with Augusta Riverfront, LLC. The four black commissioners said that Tuesday’s commission meeting was the first that they had heard of this deal. But it appears this solution was all a ruse, and nothing but an attempt to thwart the efforts to open up the books to the other contracts the city has with Augusta Riverfront, LLC.

So What’s Really Going On Here?

Did Commissioner Brigham really have an agreement with Augusta Riverfront, LLC before last Tuesday’s commission meeting? Commissioner Bowles says it all came together the afternoon before Tuesday’s vote. It seems to us that Commissioner Brigham should be able to produce something in writing from the bank that they had agreed to release the liens and consulted with the land bank that they could take the property before presenting this as a solution to commissioners. Was there anything in writing from the bank confirming release of the liens? We also have to question the judgement of the other five commissioners who voted for this “deal” last Tuesday. Now they all have egg all over their faces. There is no documentation that shows the bank has agreed to release the liens. So we have to ask. What’s really going on here? Was this really a good faith effort to find a last minute solution to put the land under city ownership free of all liens or was this a ruse to rush a management agreement through to cover all of this up?***


Related Stories:

Al Gray: Liening on a Stacked Deck

Augusta Deckgate: More Subterfuge?


Originally posted by CityStink
Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray

The author, Al M. Gray, was 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. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

The substitute motion that passed at last Tuesday’s Augusta Richmond County Commission Meeting to approve the Reynolds Street Parking Deck agreement pending lien-free donation of the land took this incredible saga to a new level of absurdity.

Beyond the criticism that the city didn’t own the land, there was no other impetus for doing such a thing. Opponents of the agreement were not questioning the efficacy of the previous air rights transaction in preserving tax exempt financing. To a lesser extent they were questioning a promised donation never made, which this ‘solution’ would meet. Yesterday’s Augusta Chronicle article spends a great deal of time on what looks to be a misdirection play. Air rights were not the major issue, the liens were.

The motion still applies to property with liens on it that have not been addressed or satisfied. Worse, it passed in the face of entreaties to institute rights of audit up front for this agreement and also to implement the capabilities to audit the existing Augusta Riverfront, LLC and Augusta partnership arrangements. City hired attorney Jim Plunkett expressed a willingness to do that on future contracts and perhaps include more provisions in the deck agreement itself, but studiously avoided the issue of auditing the existing partnership arrangements over the last 3 years.

The deck agreement is essentially a cost-plus fixed fee arrangement with the LLC’s controlling “costs.” The operations budget has to be funded on a 90 day reserve basis. If revenues fall short of expenses the City has to make up the difference. The capital budget is kept at the lesser of $250,000 or the annual plan capital reserve level. Since the PLAN is largely determinant, have the commissioners seen it?

What is really strange is the juxtaposition of what is said and what the evidence is about the release of those liens. From the Chronicle article we get this: Paul Simon, the president of 933 Broad, said he has had a letter from the bank holding the lien agreeing to release it when the deal is final since as far back as July 2010. He said he expected no problems in transferring the real estate to the land bank.

The proposed Consent and Subordination Agreement supplied to the Engineering Services Committee Monday, January 30, as an attachment (Page 15) to the CORE agreement, says that Wells Fargo Bank, “…consents to the foregoing agreement and subordinates the Security Deed to the foregoing agreement. Otherwise the Security Deed shall remain in full force and effect.” How can there be a, “letter from the bank holding the lien agreeing to release it,” from 2010 when the Consent and Subordination attachment, prepared by the City’s attorney and submitted just last week, clearly states that the Security Deed (lien), “…shall remain in full force and effect.” Doesn’t this just mean that the City is put in the same position as the Developer if the latter goes away via default? The liens would stand.

Has there really ever been a deal to release the liens? Will there be? It surely doesn’t look that way from these documents. How the new land bank deeding strategy answers this is unclear. “The lawyers are handling it,” doesn’t sound very reassuring, but we are being asked to bank upon it.***


Video from Yesterday’s Augusta Commission Meeting

Originally posted by CityStink
February 8, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
With Lori Davis

The author, Al M. Gray, was 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. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

We have video from yesterday’s Augusta Commission meeting.
AgrayNation would like to thank Kurt Huttar for providing the video.

Video of Al Gray and Lori Davis Speaking before the Commission:

Parking Gate Providing a “Teachable Moment” for City Leaders

The controversial new $12 million TEE Center parking deck

Originally Posted on CityStink.net
Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012
Augusta, GA

Contributions were made to this article by Al M. Gray, 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. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Today, Augusta Commissioners will decide whether to push ahead with a 15 year management contract with Augusta Riverfront, LLC over the controversial new $12,000,000 TEE Center parking deck, or to put the brakes on the deal because of recent revelations that we helped uncover showing that not only does the city not own the land under the deck, but that it has liens on it to secure more than $7,000,000 in debt. Citizen activists Lori Davis and Al Gray, representing the group Augusta Today, who uncovered the information about the land ownership and liens will speak before the commission today to explain why the management agreement should be voted down.

Some people will argue that we just need to move on and approve the deal;  that, yes this ordeal is a mess and there were lots of mistakes made, but that they cannot be undone now and so the best course is to just minimize our losses. But that argument is based on faulty logic. Is this really the best deal the city can negotiate with Augusta Riverfront, LLC? Let’s remember who negotiated it on behalf of the city: Administrator Fred Russell, the same Fred Russell who mislead commissioners on multiple occasions about the land being donated and kept information from them about the liens. Can we really believe that Fred Russell negotiated the best deal possible? It is only slightly better than the one the commissioners voted down a few months ago, and this current proposal has been only slightly improved with what Russell has described as, “minor tweaks.” With the information uncovered in the last couple weeks, is that really good enough? We don’t think so. The fact that this current deal has Russell’s fingerprints all over it is all the justification needed to defeat it.

Commissioner Grady Smith has a better idea. In an interview with WJBF’s George Eskola yesterday, Commissioner Smith said, “I think we should get into the room with the other side, let’s get all the facts on the table.” He is right. The Commissioners themselves should go back to the negotiating table with Paul S Simon of Augusta Riverfront, LLC and see if a better deal can be made, instead of trusting the one that Fred Russell crafted is in the best interest of the taxpayers. Commissioner Smith went on to say, “When you’re dealing with the taxpayers’ money, let’s make sure everything is on the table. A lot of times… where there’s smoke, there’s fire, innuendo’s. Let’s get them clear.” We could not agree more with Commissioner Grady Smith on that point.

Mayor Pro-tem Joe Bowles told Chris Thomas of WRDW that he would “absolutely not” support the current management agreement on the table saying, “It needs to be five years.It appears to us that our elected officials may be able to do a much better job than Fred Russell in negotiating new terms over the management contract for the TEE Center parking decks.

The Mayor’s Misdirected Outrage

Mayor Deke Copenhaver

It’s not often that Mayor Deke Copenhaver speaks out on an issue of controversy but he finally weighed in on the debate over the TEE Center parking deck and the calls for a deeper investigation. But the Mayor appears to have directed his outrage towards the citizen watchdogs who uncovered the misdeeds rather than the people responsible for the mess. In a lengthy guest column that appeared in this past Sunday’s Augusta Chronicle, the Mayor wrote:

I also have shared that those individuals and families who are the foundation of my support generally are not the people who grouse and complain through websites, blogs and silly Facebook pages where adults behaving in the most childish manner possible actually invest hours out of each day in trafficking in rumor, innuendo and misinformation while seeing who can act the most absurd.”

We assume that the Mayor is talking about us and Augusta Today.  That’s OK, we don’t mind being called names. And I guess it does mean that the Mayor is paying attention to what we are doing, so that’s a good thing. But, “trafficking rumor, innuendo, and misinformation?” We’re not exactly sure what the Mayor is referring to unless he believes that the city’s own public records contain “misinformation” on the parking deck deal, because that is where we have found most of our evidence thus far. And we would think that the Mayor would also be outraged to learn that there was a pattern of deception to mislead the public and public officials over the TEE Center parking deck: First learning that the land was never donated as promised and then to learn that it has liens on it jeopardizing the city’s air rights. But the Mayor seems to think there’s nothing to it all.

The Mayor also took the time to blast the call for a forensic audit, calling it a, “waste of money.” Actually, we now agree with the Mayor that a forensic audit may be unnecessary, but not because there is not impropriety involved over the TEE Center and parking deck, but rather because we have already proven a pattern of deception found in the public documents that we were able to obtain as well as through newspaper articles going back over 5 years. So in a sense we have already done the forensic audit for the city for free. Now, it all depends on what authorities choose to do with the information we uncovered.

And whereas we appreciate The Mayor’s concern for not “wasting” any more of the taxpayers’ money, that argument does seem to be a bit disingenuous coming from him. The Mayor didn’t seem so concerned about taxpayer money being wasted on huge severance packages going to fired incompetent department heads because Administrator Fred Russell could not keep accurate employee evaluations. The Mayor also did not seem too concerned about tax money being wasted on continuing to fight a loosing lawsuit against the video X-Mart. The Mayor also didn’t speak out when the city’s procurement department was costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of tax dollars in lawsuits. And just recently, The Mayor asked and received $100,000 in tax money for what is essentially a fancy conference room in the middle of Broad Street. This, amid one of the tightest city budgets in years that included layoffs and cuts to nearly every department, including public safety.  But now all of a sudden when it comes to investigating the irregularities over the TEE Center and parking deck, the Mayor is concerned about what he calls, “government waste.”

But in a broader sense what is most troubling is the Mayor’s attitude that all of this should  just be swept under the rug because he thinks it makes the city look bad to outside companies. We agree with the Mayor, yes, building $50,000,000 worth of taxpayer financed facilities on privately owned land with liens attached to it, does indeed make the city look very foolish. But what would make the city look even worse in the eyes of outsiders is to blatantly try to cover it all up and suggest there’s nothing to it all. You see, that’s the dismissive attitude that lead to the financial collapse of 2008. A culture of corruption thrived in the financial sector because of a lack of oversight. Real estate was over valued with our tax dollars, and the folks with the creative accountants and lawyers made out like bandits with the taxpayers bailing them out in the end. We believe that outside companies would be far more concerned with obvious efforts by city officials to try and cover up deception, corruption and the blatant misuse of tax dollars, after all they would be paying large sums in taxes to this city if they chose to locate here.

Albert Einstein once said that, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” Well, this is certainly not the first time Augusta has found itself in a bad situation over one of these  real estate deals. We would like to remind the Mayor that the the city forgave a $7,500,000 UDAG loan to Augusta Riverfront, LLC back in 1998 over the construction of the Marriott over the objections of then City Administrator Randy Oliver. We have to wonder how this current situation would have been handled differently with someone like Oliver at the helm instead of Russell. Back then, Oliver received some heavy criticism from some very powerful local special interests for raising objections over forgiving the loan. But, then Oliver knew who he worked for, the taxpayers, not the special interests.

The question now before Augusta leaders is, “Will you learn from this error and make sure that it doesn’t happen again?” It is very clear that a lack of oversight contributed to this. We now need our elected officials to be more engaged in the process and not simply trust Fred Russell or the lawyers to provide all of the answers, because it is apparent that the commissioners had extremely important information held from them by the city administrator and the lawyers; and these are people who are supposedly working on behalf of the city and being paid with our tax dollars.

In his Sunday guest column, the Mayor chided certain elected officials (without naming names) for “bullying” certain city employees. We certainly agree with the Mayor that  it is important to maintain decorum at commission meetings and there is certainly no place for insults and name-calling. But we must say that the timing of his column was quite odd. What about the taxpayers who have been “bullied” over this bad deal over the parking deck? It seems that the Mayor could have found the space to address that issue, but instead he seems to think that any criticism of the public employees who are partly responsible for this debacle should be off limits. We could not disagree with him more. We need our commissioners asking more tough questions and holding employees accountable. That’s what we elected them to do. In fact, perhaps if commissioners and the Mayor had been more engaged in the process from the beginning, all of these could have been averted  years ago.

What the Mayor is suggesting is that Appearances should trump The Truth. We could not disagree more. And besides, public officials look the most foolish and suspect in the eyes of the public when they are trying to cover up the truth. It’s always best to get the truth out in the open, admit mistakes were made,  and then learn from them so that the same mistakes cannot be made over and over.  In the case of Parking Gate, we have a teachable moment, how our elected officials choose to learn from it is up to them.***


TEE Center and Parking Deck: A Grand Deception?

The TEE Center and Parking Deck are tainted with deception

Billy’s Best Bud?

Originally posted by CityStink
February 6, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Indy Injun

The author, Al M. Gray, was 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. Cost Recovery Works is no longer in business, as of December 31, 2020.

Mr. Paul S. Simon has been a successful Augusta business leader, civic-minded patron and is a proud founder of one of the best banks in the area, Savannah River Banking Company. He is admired far an wide. His partner in Augusta real estate ventures, newspaper publisher emeritus Billy Morris, has been a man of similar high regard here from his history of generosity and benevolence.

Admiration stops when it comes to the activities of these men with respect to the TEE Center and Deck controversies. In an article in Morris’ Augusta Chronicle in 2007 it was clearly stated that Augusta Riverfront’s land would be deeded to the city. Subsequent articles told of the land “donation.” The land never got deeded and the donation turned into air. Barry White, of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, wrote July 8, 2007, “Not only does Augusta Riverfront, LLC bring proven expertise, it has offered to donate to the city downtown real estate valued at an estimated $1 million.” The “land valued at $1 million” looks to be underwater because of $7 million in liens. Despite these things these gentlemen never set the record straight, with the assertion that land would be donated continuing to the commission meeting in December 2009 in which the TEE Center was approved. Setting the notion of the grand donation in print and never retracting it certainly looks like deception from this vantage point. See the timeline in one our earlier stories on the matter here —> Deeds and Misdeeds: A “Chronicle” of Promises to Donate Land for TEE Center/Parking Deck.

If someone can show otherwise, please do so and a retraction can be issued.

The deception of the LLC mavens may have been simply neglecting to correct misdirected glowing praise they had first basked in. Indeed there are no documents known to be in the public domain that have their signatures or even business letterhead on to prove anything. Most of the versions of the Term Sheet used in the negotiations even state that the LLC’s would retain the land. If there are ways to tie the Term Sheets back to the LLC mavens, then can’t one conclude that deception was there because they represented to the public one thing while expressing the opposite in private?

The actions of the County Administrator and attorneys look far worse. They represent the greatest malfeasance in office of any public officials that most of us engaged in this matter have ever seen. Their deception of the county commission, the media, and the public looks to have been continuous. Their actions to cater to the financial needs of the LLC’s look to have overridden the public interest that they have been paid to protect. A forensic audit like the one that the County Commission has approved is an appropriate response. The circumstances demand it.

Both county administrator and county attorneys admit to knowing about the Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo) liens very early on. They failed to tell the County Commission that the valuable “land donations” were really enormous liabilities. They allowed the $12 million Reynolds Street Parking Deck to be built on land the city mostly doesn’t own and the TEE Center to be built over a parcel the city doesn’t own. Now the city is being forced into retroactively approving contracts that the administrator promised commissioners would be in place up front. The commission is being told, “approve it first and then you get to use the building you constructed.” These are grounds for dismissal in this writer’s opinion.

Attorney Jim Plunkett‘s assertion Monday that the buildings, “had to be built,” before the necessary easements could be established flies in the face of the public’s experience with real estate transactions.

The $1.8 million claimed financing savings from using air rights, the Jackson land swap, and the WAGT purchase to reduce the LLC ownership interest appear bogus. Examination of the situation shows that the only reason higher cost taxable bond financing would have ever been necessary was because the LLC’s were retaining too much ownership. In other words, the interest “savings” came from not losing tax exempt financing on that which would have otherwise been eligible. Isn’t this like setting a neighbor’s house afire, then rushing in with fire extinguishers pretending to be a hero?

The new wrinkle in the TEE story – Assignment of Rents

Why did the attorneys have to maintain the same number of parking spaces for the LLC’s? The truth is probably found in the Assignment of Rents that the LLC’s had also executed with Wachovia Bank. Since the property is entailed and also liened by the Assignment of Rents, that had to be accommodated by going to the air rights package.

The attorneys did not notify the commission about the Assignment of Rents nor did they notify about the security deeds on the property. They failed to do this even though the security deed says that any buildings or structures “hereafter erected” also come under the security deed. How does an attorney let his client build on land under such language without clearing that up first?

Billy Morris got another sweetheart deal at our expense

In the background, coincidentally or otherwise, the LLC’s interests were being sublimely served. The banking crisis that exploded in 2008 spilled over into commercial property markets in 2009 and 2010. Across the nation and especially in Georgia, the epicenter of bank failures, borrowers were being faced with crushing demands by banks, when loans came up for refinancing. Banks increased the amount of equity required and also reappraised properties which were falling in value, generally increasing the amount of new equity required to refinance. Morris Communications announced its bankruptcy filing in March 2009, just as the TEE Center cost estimates were being prepared. The security deed against the deck parcels owned by 933 Broad showed a final payment date of June 30,2009, only a week before the July 2009 commission meeting where the commissioners were first confronted with the terminology about air rights instead of land donation. Did the LLC’s have demands or needs to come up with more collateral like everyone else?

The appraised value of the parcels was $552,000, far less than the loan amount cited in the security deed of $7 million. Now, to clear up one misconception, the $7 million loan seems to have been secured by additional properties, not just the deck land. This being said, commercial property values fell by 20 to 40% locally, which likely prompted action or concern with respect to the LLC loans. Please see the land acquisitions document here—> TEE Center Land Acquisitions. Pay close attention to Page 2.

The Jackson land swap and hot dog stand buy-out must have looked like manna from heaven to those LLC’s. It gave any bank real estate appraiser a comp value of $2.2 million an acre! This would not only have applied to the deck parcels, but the parcel under the Tee Center, and the lands of affiliated Morris Simon entities. It would have relieved the pressure from the reappraisal process.

There is no way of knowing the magnitude of the cash outlays the Jackson swap averted for the LLC’s except that the relative values before and after the swap transaction had to have been huge.

Fred Russell has been less than honest over this deal

Then there is the matter of the effects of Augusta’s Administrator and attorneys hiding the loans and liens from the Augusta Richmond County commission. Approval of the TEE Center was a close thing, with the term sheet initially failing a vote on August 21, 2007, only to be revived and approved later in the meeting. The disclosure of security deeds for a $7 million loan would have been disastrous. Approval would have been impossible. As it was, the commissioners were under the impression that $1 million in land would be donated, not $552,000 of land with $7 million in liens.

Get the picture? Morris Communications announced a restructuring in March 2009 that ended up writing down its debt by more than $100 million. About the same time, or sometime well before construction by the city began on land it doesn’t own, administrator Fred Russell and attorneys had to have been aware of the liens and Assignment of Rents on the Morris LLC property, yet they did nothing to inform the commission! The conclusion is that they had a determination to see the TEE Center built no matter what, even to the extent of hiding material facts from their employers. What kind of discipline or censure is the commission going to respond to that with?

The commission is in a box of these peoples’ making. It has to approve the Conference Center and Reynolds Street Parking Deck Agreements first, before there is any relief from the bank liens. There is no option but to approve the deals. In any other environment couldn’t this be seen as extortion by the county’s own employees?

Why did they do these things?

Forensic Audit Would be Impotent

Despite our call for a forensic audit in the past, this new information would makes the exercise a farce. First of all, Administrator Russell and attorney Plunkett admitted last Monday to knowing about the liens and not telling the commission. Second, the forensic auditor would likely run into the same stonewall of claimed attorney-client privilege and unsigned, undated documents that citizen Lori Davis met in her open records request. Mayor Copenhaver and Finance Chairman Brigham are right that a forensic audit in the face of such pronounced and determined refusal to disclose anything of a material nature would be a fruitless exercise. Commissioner Johnny Hatney very correctly pointed to the need for all agreements with these LLC’s to be audited. It is noted that the two new agreements call for financial audits. Those would be even more worthless than a forensic audit. Those things are rubber stamps.

Serious reforms have to be in place before the Commission votes to approve the new agreements with the LLC’s.

Commissioners have allowed themselves to be trapped in a box

The public simply won’t stand for anything less.

Meanwhile. Mr. Morris is so happy with Administrator Fred Russell that his Augusta Chronicle feted Russell with a tribute piece.

The people of Augusta-Richmond County might have a different tribute in mind.

Commissioners find themselves in a box canyon not of their making. They cannot be happy.***