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Forensic audit sought for TEE Center parking deck

Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 2:27 PM
Last updated Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 5:29 AM
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The search is on for an outside firm to conduct a forensic audit of the dealmaking leading up to construction of the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center parking deck.

A request for proposals issued by Augusta’s procurement department Thursday seeks bids from firms for a forensic audit to examine financial records from Jan. 2, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2011, including “examining all funding sources, expenditures and contractual obligations relating to the TEE Center parking garage/land acquisitions/associated leases/financing,” according to a copy obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

Though a local auditor reviews the city’s books annually, a forensic auditor, if hired by the commission, will search for criminal activity and other wrongdoing.

The complex series of transactions associated with construction of the TEE parking garage – including a decision to have the deck built on privately owned land, with the exception of one small parcel, and the decision to build using air rights instead of acquiring the property outright – have been a point of contention for several commissioners since they became aware of them late last year, after the deck was completed.

The owner of the land beneath the deck, a firm called 933 Broad Street, has ties to management of Morris Communications, the owner of The Chronicle, and similar ties to Augusta Riverfront LLC, the firm that both operates the downtown Marriott and will run the TEE Center and its associated parking.

Commissioners voted 6-4 on Dec. 20 to approve a modified version of Commissioner Bill Lockett’s motion for a sweeping forensic audit of all city departments and dealings with outside firms to limit the audit to the TEE Center parking garage. Commissioners Matt Aitken, Joe Bowles, Joe Jackson and Jerry Brigham opposed the motion.

City Administrator Fred Russell has served as the point of contact between the commission and attorney Jim Plunkett, the city’s special counsel for the complex project that includes not only the TEE Center and parking deck projects but also the Augusta Richmond County Coliseum Authority’s 2010 issue of $22 million in revenue bonds to fund construction.

Russell, a former Richmond, Va., deputy chief of police, said Thursday that “obviously I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong. If we have, I’ll be surprised,” and noted that the deck had just received another award, this one from American Concrete Institute.

Questions about the process that Plunkett attempted to answer during this week’s commission finance committee meeting prompted the committee’s 2-2 divide over whether to approve a parking management agreement with Augusta Riverfront. That agreement goes before the full commission Tuesday.

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eb97
835
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eb97 02/03/12 - 11:56 am
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@Spinks, you are so right.

@Spinks, you are so right. What can we the people do to be sure our local government obtains an audit group that is not connected to Augusta and those involved with the problems. My thoughts are, they will select a group that is bought and paid off by the ones that are in hot water right now if a legit audit group completes the process. They would be foolish to select a group that would out them.

Native Augustan
12
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Native Augustan 02/03/12 - 12:18 pm
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Any time you deal with Paul

Any time you deal with Paul Simon your are going to lose as he has extremely good people advising him on business decisions. Look back adn see how many times Augusta has dealt with him and come out the loser on the deals

mike1sc
217
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mike1sc 02/03/12 - 02:28 pm
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Something that always amazes

Something that always amazes me when watching the current round of sparring between Fred Russell and the Commission, and then posters here with their "get rid of Fred" rants. This parking deck didn't just arrive one day. Every member of the Augusta Commission had to have had access to and copies of....everything they ultimately approved. Fred Russell has no vote.....but the members of the Augusta Commission do and they approved this. I guess now everyone will say it was a trick or better yet....the dog ate their copy so they didn't know what they were approving.

mike1sc
217
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mike1sc 02/03/12 - 02:30 pm
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eb97....a conspiracy theory

eb97....a conspiracy theory huh?

mdl1946
1021
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mdl1946 02/03/12 - 02:34 pm
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This deal needs to be

This deal needs to be investigated and ANYONE guilty of any thing illeagal should be fired and or in jail!

Conservative Man
5564
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Conservative Man 02/03/12 - 03:29 pm
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mike, I think the

mike, I think the Commissioners trusted those who said this would be great and didn't bother to look into the details. It IS their jobs to do so, but in this case they failed to do due diligence and it's coming back to bite ALL of them in the rear end...and as far as the "conspiracy theory" thing goes, if it's proven to be true ....not a theory any more but a realtiy....

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 02/03/12 - 04:08 pm
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Fred Russell The Fall Guy. I

Fred Russell The Fall Guy. I like it. Have a great weekend and enjoy the Bowl

Riverman1
83528
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Riverman1 02/03/12 - 04:51 pm
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You mean this TEE thing is a

You mean this TEE thing is a major rip-off? Son of a gun. I learn something everyday.

Riverman1
83528
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Riverman1 02/03/12 - 04:53 pm
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David Fry must have been

David Fry must have been prescientific the way he was offerring the parking concession in exchange for votes to approve the TEE.

Little Lamb
45852
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Little Lamb 02/03/12 - 05:26 pm
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It is kind of stupid for the

It is kind of stupid for the city to be paying the Marriott owners to run the parking lot that serves the Marriott Hotel guests. I'll bet Holiday Inn wishes they could get one of these Russell parking deals.

Riverman1
83528
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Riverman1 02/03/12 - 05:36 pm
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LL, exactly. The TEE is going

LL, exactly. The TEE is going to be empty 99% of the time, so why should the city be paying to park Marriott guests?

eb97
835
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eb97 02/03/12 - 08:33 pm
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Riverman, you know the deck

Riverman, you know the deck is for parking VIPs that come to one of the ball games at Deke's still to be built ballpark. Surely the commissioners didn't just want us taxpayers to pay for parking patrons of the hotel, lol.

Riverman1
83528
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Riverman1 02/04/12 - 01:44 pm
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Fred Russell says the parking

Fred Russell says the parking deck got an award from the American Concrete Institute. So who owns the local cement company?

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