Coliseum strategy plotted at 'secret' meeting, members say

Asked for specifics about their allegations of legislator meddling, three Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority members said Tuesday that they attended a secret meeting with state lawmakers at an east Augusta church, where they were instructed to keep former manager Robert “Flash” Gordon from being fired.

 

Authority members Keith Brown, Janice Jenkins and Mildred McDaniel said the meeting was held at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, whose pastor is Augusta Commissioner J.R. Hatney.

Mr. Brown said state Reps. Quincy Murphy, Wayne Howard and Gloria Frazier attended, and the authority members in attendance were him, Ms. Jenkins, Ms. McDaniel, Willie Law and one other he wasn’t sure about, either William Fennoy or Booker T. Roberson.

“The push at the meeting was to secure Mr. Gordon’s job at all costs,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Murphy, the legislative delegation chairman, said there was a meeting in 2007, but it wasn’t a secret meeting and he recalls its subject matter differently.

It wasn’t about Mr. Gordon, but rather how the authority was operating and how the public bickering was causing derision, he said.

“We felt that wasn’t the way a board of that nature should operate,” Mr. Murphy said.

Asked why legislators would hold a meeting with only certain coliseum authority members, Mr. Murphy said he didn’t call the meeting and was only asked to attend. He strongly denied ever telling authority members how to vote or what issues to push.

“I don’t recall having a meeting to discuss Flash with any of the coliseum authority members,” Mr. Murphy said. “I have never asked anybody – the county commission, the coliseum authority – to keep Mr. Gordon there at all costs.”

Mr. Roberson said today that he attended no such meeting, that he’s only been to Good Hope for funerals.

Mr. Fennoy said it wasn’t him either, that the only time he recalls meeting with legislators was in Atlanta during the 2008 General Assembly session, when several delegation members wanted to know what was going on with the authority and what they were going to do to start getting along.

Mr. Brown said that at the Good Hope meeting, coliseum authority members were instructed to sit out of meetings, if needs be, to prevent a quorum so Mr. Gordon couldn’t be fired, which eventually did happen in March 2008.

Ms. Jenkins said she didn’t recall being told to skip meetings at Good Hope, but that was told to her at other times.

“Most of it was through phone calls,” she said.

Ms. McDaniel confirmed the meeting took place, but would say little else. She stressed that Mr. Hatney and the church weren’t involved; they just provided the space.

Last week, seven authority members and one former member signed a letter alleging that certain state legislators used pressure tactics to push their agendas, then passed legislation to dismantle the board when things didn’t go their way. The letter was signed by Chairman Richard Isdell, Mr. Law, Ms. Jenkins, Mr. Roberson, Mr. Brown, Ms. McDaniel, Harry Moore and Donnie Thompson, who recently resigned.

The letter asked Gov. Sonny Perdue to veto the restructuring bill.

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