Historic Augusta accused of fraud by Goodale House owner

Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 5:19 PM
Last updated Sunday, Aug 24, 2014 1:04 AM
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The owner of the Goodale House, one of Georgia’s oldest homes, filed a criminal complaint against Historic Augusta last week because he says the nonprofit organization fraudulently used his name last year to receive a $75,000 grant to buy the property.

Under Georgia law, nonprofit organizations are prohibited from “misrepresenting or misleading” anyone to believe that any person “sponsors, endorses or approves” solicitation of charitable funds without written consent to use their name.

In 2012, Historic Augusta submitted a grant application with The 1772 Foundation in Rhode Island to “increase the capacity” of its revolving fund, an account the organization has to save for the acquisition, rehabilitation and eventual resale of architecturally significant sites in Richmond County to “preservation minded buyers.”

In its application, the nonprofit specifically stated it hoped to purchase the Goodale House, a distressed plantation home east of downtown Augusta that was built in 1799, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in danger of being lost.

Wesley Sims, the property’s owner, was listed as a potential “partner” and the application further states that the Alabama investor who bought the Goodale House for $15,250 in a December 2009 online auction “lives out of town and has indicated he does not have the means to make necessary repairs.”

Sims, who called the statements lies and reaffirmed his commitment to restore the Goodale House, said he had no idea his name was included in the application in a phone interview last week, more than a year after The 1772 Foundation sent Historic Augusta a $75,000 check on Jan. 22, 2013.

“I was blown away,” said Sims, who mailed a report Friday to the Secretary of State’s office, the Georgia agency that monitors nonprofit activity. “It’s unethical and laws have been violated.”

In his complaint, Sims told Secretary of State Brian Kemp that Historic Augusta’s grant solicitation has put a “cloud over our fundraising efforts and stopped donors from getting involved.” He asked Kemp to investigate and hold accountable those involved.

As of Friday, the secretary’s office had not yet received the complaint, spokesman Jared Thomas said.

“These violations were not and are not made in error nor ignorance,” Sims wrote. “Their acts were intentional and for the purpose of receiving money.”

The Secretary of State and Attorney General’s offices declined comment on the accusations, but if criminal charges are filed, historic preservation experts in Georgia said the case could be a hard sell for the prosecution.

“Fraud is pretty hard to prove,” said James Reap, a member of the state bar who teaches historic preservation law at the University of Georgia. “It would be a question of fact and whether there is enough evidence to show Historic Augusta portrayed its grant solicitation in a way that was untrue.”

Erick Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta, said last week he feels confident no violation occurred, since the grant was requested for the organization’s revolving fund.

“A revolving fund is a tool historic preservation organizations nationwide use to secure property that is in danger in some way or needs to be acquired for it to be catalyzed for the good of a community or neighborhood,” he said. “There’s nothing improper about it at all.”

Montgomery said the organization has not spent the funds and that it was not eager to publicize the grant’s amount or intended purpose on the assumption that the owner might become “greedy.”

The nonprofit initially announced in a news release in February 2013 that Historic Augusta had received a $75,000 grant from the 1772 Foundation to enhance the preservation organization’s revolving fund.

“If it ever gets consummated where we buy the house and start rehabbing it, we certainly want to credit 1772 fully, but when it comes to real estate, sometimes you just need to keep quiet,” the director said.

In March 2013, Montgomery said Historic Augusta offered a $20,000 contract to Sims to purchase the house, after 19 months had passed with little noticeable effort being made to stabilize the home.

Montgomery said, however, the nonprofit did not receive any response from Sims, who in October was cited by the city and has been summoned to Richmond County Magistrate Court three times this year because the house’s collapsed wall and chimney jeopardize its structural integrity.

Sims was given a 90-day extension to obtain construction permit and start work on the house, but before the last court hearing in July, Montgomery said Sims offered to sell the property to Historic Augusta for $107,000.

Montgomery said the organization declined because cost estimates completed in 2012 determined it will take about $165,000 to make the property, which has an assessed value of $13,000, whole again.

“We are still interesting in buying the house, but his counter offer was unreasonable,” Montgomery said.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation supported the nonprofit this week, saying that “nothing inappropriate” occurred in the organization’s efforts to purchase a building seen as a significant landmark statewide.

Mark McDonald, the president and CEO of the trust, said in his 15 years in historic preservation, nonprofits often hold or seek funds for a specific property without the knowledge or consent of the landowner.

Historic Augusta said in its application that it hoped to partner with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to market the Goodale House to someone who will complete a certified rehabilitation.

Sims registered a nonprofit called Historic Home Preservation Society in 2012 with the Georgia Secretary of State, but online federal records do not list the organization as a 501c3 charity, which is required for transferring preservation grants. Sims said the status is pending.

“A nonprofit is not required to disclose all of its strategies involved in a potential real estate deal,” McDonald said. “When you’re negotiating to buy property, the amount of money that you are willing to pay has to be kept close to your chest or else you would not have any bargaining position.”

Reap agreed the practice generally is acceptable, but that determining if a violation occurred would most likely fall in the hands of the granting organization.

Mary Anthony, the executive director of the 1772 Foundation, said her organization asks for a report on grants nine months after they’re awarded and said that it regularly meets with its grantees.

In Historic Augusta’s follow-up report in October 2013, it stated it continues to work toward acquiring the Goodale House, stabilizing it and selling it through its revolving fund.

“Our applicants generally highlight pending opportunities, as with the Goodale property, and that was the project featured in the application,” Anthony said in an e-mail. “However, the grant was designated for the revolving fund program, not a specific house, and not an individual.”

Anthony said the grant does not have a deadline.

“These funds ideally operate in perpetuity,” she said. “The proceeds from revolved properties replenish the funds. This recycling means that successful funds are ongoing and are never ‘done.’”

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corgimom
38162
Points
corgimom 08/22/14 - 05:42 pm
2
3
What did they say that isn't

What did they say that isn't true?

corgimom
38162
Points
corgimom 08/22/14 - 05:43 pm
2
3
He said in court that he

He said in court that he didn't have the money, so did he perjure himself?

Pops
14041
Points
Pops 08/22/14 - 07:30 pm
4
0
There are a lot of names mentioned

in that story........kept waiting for ole Chester Wheeler's name to pop up......

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 08/22/14 - 08:06 pm
7
2
Interesting...

"Mark McDonald, the president and CEO of the trust, said in his 15 years in historic preservation, nonprofits often hold or seek funds for a specific property without the knowledge or consent of the landowner..."

GnipGnop
12744
Points
GnipGnop 08/22/14 - 08:10 pm
4
2
Dixieman
17194
Points
Dixieman 08/23/14 - 04:21 am
8
1
I want a grant

I hope to be able to purchase the Empire State Building and may or may not partner with the current owner and Kim Kardashian. About $2-300 million should do it.
So gimme.
Thank you.
======================
Wait -- what kind of grantsmanship game is this???

flipa1
2953
Points
flipa1 08/22/14 - 10:18 pm
5
0
I tried to buy it for cold

I tried to buy it for cold hard cash and offered a very high price.

wessims
94
Points
wessims 08/23/14 - 01:13 am
3
2
SAY WHAT THEY WANT BUT....

GOOGLE 1772 FOUNDATION 2013 ANNUAL REPORT. IT PORTRAYS A DIFFERENT PICTURE. IT LISTS THE GOODALE AS THE PROJECT FOR THE GRANT...NOT "REVOLVING FUND". EVERY GRANT THAT WAS FOR A REVOLVING FUND CLEARLY STATES "REVOLVING FUND." REGARDLESS, HISTORIC AUGUSTA MET WITH MEMBERS OF OUR NONPROFIT 2 DAYS AFTER WE INCORPORATED IN AN EFFORT TO "HELP" US SINCE THEY WERE THE LOCAL ESTABLISHED GROUP AS WELL AS ALREADY MEMBERS OF THE GEORGIA TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION. THEY SAID THEY WOULD SEE WHAT KIND OF PROGRAMS WERE AVAILABLE AND WOULD HELP US ANY WAY THEY COULD. WE LOOKED AT THEM FOR GUIDANCE AND IT'S APPARENT NOW THEY WANTED TO HELP THEMSELVES. THEY PORTRAYED TO US THAT IT WAS BETTER FOR THEM TO REACH OUT FOR FUNDRAISING HELP SINCE THEY WERE ALREADY MEMBERS OF THE TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION.THIS MUST HAVE BEEN THE "STRATEGY" THEY WERE REFERRING TO. ITS A SHAME CLAIMING YOU WANT TO SAVE THE PROPERTY YET SIT BACK IN COURT AND LET A JUDGE RULE TO ABATE THE HOUSE.SINCE THEN THEY HAVE TRIED TO INTIMIDATE US AND BULLY US INTO SIGNING THE HOUSE OVER TO THEM. WE HAD PEOPLE GET NASTY WITH US TELLING US THAT WE HAVEN'T DONE A THING WITH THE MONEY WE GOT AND THEY WOULDN'T GIVE US A DIME....TURNS OUT WE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT, NOR DID WE GET IT. THE WHOLE SCHEME WAS COMPLETELY UNETHICAL AND CONTRARY TO HOW ANY PROFESSIONAL PRESERVATIONIST SHOULD ACT!

wessims
94
Points
wessims 08/23/14 - 01:39 am
7
2
WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON?

So I read that the value of the home and land is only assessed at 13k. We have been paying taxes on 110k. Why now in the last two weeks has there been a significant drop? That's good for property taxes but it's totally not right. EVERY parcel on the same road (adjoinning land and surrounding) has a land value of around 25k-40k an acre. The Goodale's land value is only assessed at 4k an acre. The triangle half acre lot next door has a land value of 22k. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to see what's really going on.

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 08/23/14 - 06:03 am
2
1
Is this what was once called the Mackey House?

That had road signs all over Augusta point to it?

younameit
223
Points
younameit 08/23/14 - 09:13 am
2
5
Really? Really, Augusta Chronicle?

Here's what your reporter knows:
1. This corporation claims to be a non-profit but in 3 years has never obtained clearance from the IRS.
2. The same so-called "non-profit," when approached by Historic Augusta, sought a profit of almost $100,000 on the property after less than one year.
3. The governing agency that oversees Historic Augusta says they have "done nothing wrong."
4. The Secretary of State has not "filed" ANYTHING because they haven't even received anything.
5. The Secretary of State has never prosecuted anything in any court of this State.
6. The expert on Historic Preservation Trusts explained how Historic Augusta has used "best practices" to fulfill its mission IN THIS VERY INSTANCE.
7. Historic Augusta is known throughout the area to have an impeccable reputation and you have never reported the first story that would suggest otherwise.
And with those facts, gleaned from your own story and from basic knowledge of civics, you publish a story like this - full of innuendo from a shadowy, non-compliant "non-profit" - as a "news story?" Just what causes you to state in the first line that a "criminal complaint" was "filed?" Since when does the secretary of state, an executive branch agency, receive "criminal complaints?" Come on, editors, this is not the quality of work you're known to publish.

wessims
94
Points
wessims 08/23/14 - 09:25 am
5
2
Yes Really....

Its obvious younameit does not like that the story is out. The house was never for sale nor on the market. After having the home five years and putting tens of thousands of dollars in it we were approached by Historic Augusta to sell the home for 20k. 10 months later after much pressure we told them a price that was less than the assessed value. Don't try to make it seem like anyone was trying to make a bunch of profit off of the house after a year...that's an absurd statement. The Historic Home Preservation Society INC was established in 2012 and we thought we were working WITH Historic Augusta to save the home. The governing agency is the secretary of state so a complaint was filed as nescassary. If "best practices" is to act like you're trying to help and turn around and scheme a way to buy....and then take a house from another group then those practice ought to be rethought. An impeccable reputation does not mean you can act as you please and think that you're above the law. The reputation is not so impeccable now...but their connections will help since its obvious support from others in the field of preservation. Historic Augusta as a great organization but some of their directors have misled them. The truth has been reported....obviously upsetting people.We were pretty upset as well when we started a new fundraising campaign and were getting a lot of negative feedback from potential donors who had seen the 1772 Foundation grant for the Goodale and seen we had not put it to use. It was all on the net for the world to see....what's fair and just about that? The truth is out....and I'm sure it's getting tainted and folks are trying to cover their tracks...good story on the revolving fund.. ..it sure doesn't say that in the 1772 Foundation report... And now the Chronicle gets blamed for reporting FACT.

Old House
8
Points
Old House 08/23/14 - 10:05 am
5
3
Best for the house.

I'm not from Augusta, but do frequent the city for business so I have no ax to grind.
The question now becomes what is best for the house.
With all due respect Mr. Sims, in the 5 years you have owned the house all I have seen is tattered blue tarps, posts about ghosts and a significant wall falling down.
You may have the best of intentions but you simply don't seem to have the money to rehab the building. I've seen many significant buildings lost to the "best intentions".
Forget the lawsuit. Find a buyer who can rehab the property and cut your losses. This isn't about you, I or the Historic Augusta group. It is all about the building and history. Year after year I have heard promises about the rehab but other than blue tarps, nothing.
If I'm wrong, please correct me. Please point out the significant portion of rehab in the last 5 years? You seem to have lost all of your supporters. Your Go Fund Me page in a month has only raised $175. Where do you think the $100,000+ just to stabilize the building will come from?
Please Mr. Sims, for the good of the house and history, find a qualified buyer NOW!

younameit
223
Points
younameit 08/23/14 - 11:37 am
1
6
Oh, Mr. Si...ims:

When one compares the Corporate records of the Secretary of State, your testimony in Court, the records of the Internal Revenue Service, your comments here, your as-yet-unfiled letter to the Secretary of State, and your solicitation of funds on "Your Go Fund Me" a real bad stench begins to waft. I'd be careful. Very careful.

GeorgiaCarolina
242
Points
GeorgiaCarolina 08/23/14 - 10:59 am
4
3
Just Fix It or Sell

My Lawd, I have seen less drama on RuPaul's Drag Race.

Just fix the dang house or sell it to someone who will so that it is not lost forever.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 08/23/14 - 12:46 pm
6
2
Sounds like...

…if you are targeted for code violations then someone probably has an eye for your property…

This makes me wonder if Historic Augusta has filed any grant applications with Bonnie Ruben's properties in mind?

gargoyle
20524
Points
gargoyle 08/23/14 - 01:47 pm
5
2
This smells like the Regency

This smells like the Regency Mall attempted land grab. A whole lot of government pressure on a land owner using shadow tactics to cover Historic Augusta in a attempt to Lo-Ball purchase his property. In a nutshell, Historic Augusta members are throwing a temper tantrum because they don't want to pay what the land owner wants for the property. If it was the treasure they claim it to be where was Historic Augusta passion to save the house when it was sold online a few years ago or were they out bid?

historylover
17600
Points
historylover 08/23/14 - 02:14 pm
6
2
Nocnoc

The house we now refer to as the Ezekiel Harris House on Broad Street in Harrisburg was called the Mackey House for many years but it was in error. The error was discovered by a college student who was conducting a study of the property in the late 1970's. I don't remember all of the details, but basically they found that the Mackey House sat much closer to the river than what we no KNOW to be the Ezekiel Harris House.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 08/23/14 - 02:16 pm
6
1
It is my understanding that a

It is my understanding that a local architectural firm has already said that the house is structurally unsound and needs to be torn down. Did this firm do the work for Historic Augusta? If so, why would Historic Augusta pursue a grant for property that they already had been told needed to be torn down?

historylover
17600
Points
historylover 08/23/14 - 02:17 pm
5
3
From the National Preservation Society's Website

"Two years later the fledging group bought “The White House” on Broad Street in Harrisburg, believing it to be the site of the First Siege of Augusta during the Revolutionary War. In 1964, the Georgia Historical Commission acquired and ultimately completely restored the building, operating it as a house museum. During restoration, someone discovered that the alleged “White House” was originally blue, so the Commission changed the name to the Mackey House, reflecting the owner during the Revolution. In 1975, Martha Norwood completed a definitive study, proving that the real “White House,” a.k.a. the Mackey House, was closer to the river, and that the house being interpreted as the Mackey House was actually built in 1797 by Ezekiel Harris, a tobacco merchant."

historylover
17600
Points
historylover 08/23/14 - 02:20 pm
3
5
younameit

Very good post. Agreed 100%.

historylover
17600
Points
historylover 08/23/14 - 02:25 pm
7
4
wessims

You posted earlier that you have put tens of thousands into the home. Where? I have rehabbed more than one historic property and if you have spent that much money and still have been unable to weather proof the home, you're doing something very wrong! Please elaborate.

As Old House posted, please do what is right for the HOUSE. If you cannot restore it then please do the honorable thing. Cut your losses and leave it to someone who can.

gargoyle
20524
Points
gargoyle 08/23/14 - 03:11 pm
5
2
A whole lot of drama for a

A whole lot of drama for a property that sat abandoned and for sale for years . No one seemed this interested while vandals tore out the bricks chimneys or dug up around the property looking for Confederate gold what changed? Its always the folks who don't want to pony up the cash that want a property owner to give away his investment. History costs cash and is bought and sold every day and opportunities abound around the old City of Augusta . The property has a owner after many years of neglect so its up to him what needs done unless the do-gooder want to help or buy him out .

wessims
94
Points
wessims 08/23/14 - 03:59 pm
6
2
Renovations

Most renovations took place prior to the wall falling. Yes, we haven't done a lot since the wall fell. It has almost been 3 years and we did not have the money at the time to rebuild. We were able to reshore the structure so it wouldn't fall in. All work had to stop until plans were approved by the city. That undertaking was an expense we did not have at the time. Historic Augusta reached out and put the home on there endangered list in an attempt to raise awareness and possibly bring in some help. We thought it was a great idea and welcomed their help. We didn't realize they wanted the house until they pulled this sham, got a grant for themselves, and then made an attempt at buying the home. Yes the home is important but its important that a nonprofit group that advocates historical preservation operate legally and justly. You can't justify it. These people have workshops and try to steer people into historical preservation. We formed our own group with supposed guidance from Historic Augusta and but they turned had their own agenda.

younameit
223
Points
younameit 08/23/14 - 04:17 pm
2
5
Un débatteur, he isn't

Your circuitous analysis, Mr. Sims, is comical. At least, since you persist in writing, we can now see why Historic Augusta (which has operated in exemplary service to the community for 50 years longer than your still-unsanctioned organization) saw the need to follow best practices to authorize the potential use of revolving funds to try to salvage the historic property that you now admit you've neglected to the elements for over 3 years.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 08/23/14 - 05:04 pm
8
1
This building is in the wrong

This building is in the wrong spot.. maybe if some of the Cabal owned properties all surrounding it we would see a demand for action.. but anyway, I am not against anyone, i am just wondering how I would feel if I owned property that I was seeking historic grants to repair and I get told that the money was already given to Historic Augusta, WITHOUT my knowledge or consent.

wessims
94
Points
wessims 08/23/14 - 05:14 pm
6
2
Frenchy

Your foreign tongue has nothing to do with the truth. The Goodale has never been neglected as you say. Some people and organizations think they are so much better than everyone else. Esteem does not give you the right to pick on the little guy, or the new guy. The truth will come to light. Historic Augusta has been around longer but this is not about historic augusta. Its about certain members of the group who used their positions to influence and push boundaries that are unethical. Maybe my moral standards are higher than yours and my direction more straight. Maybe you are a better debater.....but you cannot debate crap and have people who's eyes are open see gold.

Riverman1
93228
Points
Riverman1 08/24/14 - 04:35 am
5
0
As I Said Yesterday

Now that you understand the scheme, see if it is used in other places. Some puzzling buildings have appeared on the historic preservation list lately.

Little Lamb
48815
Points
Little Lamb 08/24/14 - 05:05 am
3
1
Greenfields

The land would be worth more with the house demolished and removed than it is with the dilapidated house standing on it.

Go ahead and demolish it.

justthefacts
24891
Points
justthefacts 08/24/14 - 05:57 am
4
1
Rick McKee

Mr. McKee should do a cartoon with Historic Augusta, symbolized as buzzards, circling over the Goodale House.

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