When Augusta Commission members reported being blindsided and subsequently rejected a $25,000 donation of emergency call boxes from pipeline giant Kinder Morgan, the mayor’s office and other city officials had been working to arrange it since July.
E-mails obtained by The Augusta Chronicle through an open-records request show that on July 27, Mayor Hardie Davis’ chief of staff, Lynthia Owens, met with city risk management staffers to discuss the logistics of installing a “gift of $20,000 to $30,000 from Kinder-Morgan.”
Kinder Morgan has peppered communities with offers of gifts along a 210-mile route for a proposed petroleum pipeline through Georgia. The Georgia Department of Transportation denied the firm a certificate of need required to condemn private property.
When they received an Aug. 14 e-mail invitation marked “confidential” – the first commissioner correspondence about the donation obtained through The Chronicle’s request – Commissioners Mary Davis, Sammie Sias and Bill Lockett immediately questioned it.
“Don’t we think this needs to be approved by the commission to put in our city?” Mary Davis said.
“Who authorized them to get to the point where they are now?” Sias said, in a response to her.
Kinder Morgan public affairs consultant Jorge Lopez told City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson, Hardie Davis and Owens in an Aug. 16 e-mail that the “planned route for the Palmetto Pipeline only crosses one landowner in Augusta-Richmond and is less than two miles,” while asserting “the donation has nothing to do with the pipeline.”
As commissioners became more vocal in rejecting the gift, an Aug. 20 news conference was called off and Kinder Morgan officials refused to confirm reports that the proposed pipeline route might no longer include a portion of Richmond County.
A day later, Hardie Davis claimed only limited knowledge of the donation.
“Much of what we read in the paper in your article was news to us,” the mayor said. “We were not aware of any confidential communications that had gone out.”