Four questions intended to help forensic auditing firms focus in on potential illegal activities associated with a new downtown parking deck now need full commission approval before they are submitted to 12 firms bidding on the work.
The questions, presented at a Monday meeting of the city’s finance committee, failed 2-1 to gain approval, with Commissioner Jerry Brigham voting against and Commissioner J.R. Hatney absent.
The committee motion needed three votes to pass and now must go to the full commission, where it needs six votes to move forward.
The questions include whether the parking facilities were built without executed agreements between the city and deck manager, Augusta Riverfront LLC; whether bids were properly solicited, processed and evaluated from parties seeking to run the facilities; whether proposed management agreements exceed amounts bid by parking management firms; and whether illegal or fraudulent events occurred during property acquisitions for the facilities.
The questions, intended in part to help auditing firms estimate their price, are meant to determine whether the parking deck activities were within state and local laws, not whether the agreements are the best deal for the city, Senior Counsel Wayne Brown said.
“We did not try to have this be a management audit,” said Brown.
Augusta commissioners voted last year to seek the audit after several questioned seemingly unusual details associated with the construction project, including its construction on privately owned land that had a bank lien on it.
Before they vote on the audit questions, commissioners will have an opportunity to review completed parking management agreements, deeds and other legal documents at a 2 p.m. Thursday work session.
The management firm, Augusta Riverfront LLC, has ties to management of Morris Communications Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle.