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Forensic audit won't come cheap

Parking deck inquiry discussed

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The search for criminal wrongdoing in Augusta’s Trade, Exhibit and Event Center parking deck project could cost more than $200,000, officials on a subcommittee that guides the selection of a forensic auditor said Monday.

An audit of the downtown parking deck project could exceed the cost of the city's annual audit.   FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
An audit of the downtown parking deck project could exceed the cost of the city's annual audit.

That is more than the city pays its external auditor to perform an annual audit of all departments. Finance Director Donna Williams, who serves on the subcommittee, said that cost averages about $191,000.

Also, well-paid “professionals,” such as bond attorneys, will expect the same rate they were paid to conduct TEE-related transactions when they respond to inquiries from the forensic auditor, Augusta senior legal counsel Wayne Brown said.

The subcommittee was established after auditors who responded to the city’s January request for proposals asked about the budget for and scope of the inquiry.

“One of the questions that was continually asked was what was our budget,” said Procurement Director Geri Sams, who is on the panel.

The Augusta Commission voted in December to have a forensic audit performed on the parking deck deal after learning, among other things, that the city built the deck on land it didn’t own and was partial collateral for a bank loan and that it had traded another corner parcel with a state senator so he could avoid capital gains taxes.

The landowner, 933 Broad LLC, has ties to management of The Augusta Chronicle’s owner, Morris Communications Co. Jim Plunkett, a special city counsel for the deal, said the city built on “air rights” to preserve the tax-exempt status of bonds that were issued while allowing the landowner use of ground floor parking spaces. The city owns only the deck and the space above it, not the dirt beneath, with the exception of 0.07 acre.

At the time, 933 Broad President Paul Simon said the firm would transfer the land to the Augusta Land Bank Authority to dispel commissioners’ concerns, but Brown said the transaction hasn’t occurred yet.

Other questions that bidders have include where exactly to look and what to look for, Sams said. The forensic auditors will be simultaneously preparing to be witnesses in a criminal case if wrongdoing is found, she said.

Commissioner Bill Lock­ett, the chairman of the subcommittee, said the forensic auditor should at least examine land ownership, the lien, the land swap, the general contractor who performed the work and the city’s agreement with Marriott International, which will operate the center, now known as the Augusta Convention Center, and parking deck.

“Was that agreement properly prepared, or was it prepared for the Marriott, as opposed to the city?” Lockett said. Brown asked him what his suspicion about the management agreement was.

“My suspicion is we’re not getting a fair share of the proceeds,” Lockett said, handing Brown a list of questions.

Sams recommended that the date of a May pre-bid conference with vendors be moved to mid-June so the group could further develop its recommendations.

Brown, Sams and Williams said they would forward recommended responses to vendor questions to the commission before the commission finance committee’s next meeting May 29.

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FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/15/12 - 04:30 am
0
0
Superficial Audit Better for Whom?
Unpublished

I'd think about whom a superficial audit as opposed to an in-depth one will benefit.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 05/15/12 - 07:27 am
1
0
Where there's smoke there's
Unpublished

Where there's smoke there's fire. The has grown into the Marriot's Center and not the City's. Just like every other crooked deal in Augusta this too shall pass. To many people with old money involved. It's a shell game to all of us under privledged tax payers....pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 07:38 am
2
0
How long, how long?

How long is it going to take for 933 Broad, LLC, to transfer the land to the land bank? Are they hoping that we are just going to forget about it?

belle
307
Points
belle 05/15/12 - 07:39 am
0
0
What is his suspicion?
Unpublished

Where does one begin, we spend millions on a building that has no land to sit on...what happens if Marriott wants their land back? We have no idea who is supposed to manage this floating deck and who gets to keep what amounts of profits from it's usage. We know it was used as collateral in another land deal before it ever opened...I don't know about Lockett but I'm suspicious as heck. And seriously, $200,000 is not a lot of money to resolve all these issues on a multimillion deal.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 07:42 am
4
0
Fair Share

I guess Bill Lockett has been listening to too many Obama speeches. This "fair share" rhetoric is getting tiresome. Lockett says he suspects the city is not getting a fair share of the proceeds from the new Marriott parking deck. Well, Commissioner Lockett, the time to ask those questions is before the commission votes for the contract, not after.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 08:00 am
2
0
Huh?

Quote:

Other questions that bidders have include where exactly to look and what to look for, Sams said.

If Bill Lockett knew what to look for and where to look for it, he would not need this audit. It's up to the auditors to do the looking and up to the taxpayers to do the paying. Bill Lockett doesn't do anything.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 08:04 am
2
0
Do you want more city business?

Quote:

Also, well-paid “professionals,” such as bond attorneys, will expect the same rate they were paid to conduct TEE-related transactions when they respond to inquiries from the forensic auditor, Augusta senior legal counsel Wayne Brown said.

Well, the auditors could tell these "professionals" that if they don't answer questions at no charge as a matter of civic responsibility, then they can expect no more city business when future bonds are issued. Fair is fair. The city has more leverage than it uses.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 08:09 am
0
0
LLC

Susan McCord reported:

. . . and the city’s agreement with Marriott International, which will operate the center, now known as the Augusta Convention Center, and parking deck.

I thought Riverfront LLC signed the parking deck contract, not Marriott International.

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 05/15/12 - 10:56 am
3
0
It's Best To Forget This Episode

We have about half the city powers involved with the $100 million TEE escapade and no one wants to look hard at what happened. We are left with a convention center without bookings sitting close to the other pink elephant down there.

raul
5012
Points
raul 05/15/12 - 01:36 pm
2
0
I think you would get a

I think you would get a non-conclusive answer from the audit that would be considered a waste of taxpayer money. Isn't there a way to get the feds involved?

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/12 - 02:43 pm
3
0
Lack of Interest

The small number of commenters on this subject shows that most Augustans have given up hope — they know their commissioners will waste money, so why fight it or rail against it?

Trade90
3
Points
Trade90 05/15/12 - 03:30 pm
1
1
It will not come cheap....But,

A forensic audit is needed and potentially can uncover a lot of things. Its worth embarking on soonest.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 05/15/12 - 07:38 pm
3
0
The overall view...

My take on it is that those who put this deal together. Namely, Mr. Simon, Mr. Morris, Mr. Plunkett, and "certain" members of the Augusta "ruling elite" including, but not limited to, the commission, the "executive" branch, and the "administrative" branch, knew PRECISELY what they were doing. Therefore they won....and Augusta's taxpayer's lose. In the meantime, we're stuck with the liabilty of upkeep with exactly zero return on our investment.....Any returns go to those who "rule" this city...This whole sorry affair is sickening to me as a citizen...Those responsible should be ashamed.....But knowing them as I do,.... they aren't...

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 05/15/12 - 07:43 pm
2
0
Credit where credit is due

Remember all, this Tee Center/Parking Deck garbage isn't Bill Lockett's fault. It's the fault of those who decided to give preferential treatment to their "benefactors" at the expense of the taxpayers....

dichotomy
33542
Points
dichotomy 05/15/12 - 07:59 pm
1
0
Every time I see Paul Simon's

Every time I see Paul Simon's name I cringe because I know there goes another boatload of taxpayer money. We always get the short end of the stick on the Paul deals. Probably because we let our mental midgets do the negotiating with him and then we let our other mental midgets vote on and approve the deal.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 05/15/12 - 09:03 pm
0
0
What's really costly..

What's really costly is avoiding the audit. Augusta can't keep doing business not caring about fiscal responsibility.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 05/15/12 - 09:08 pm
0
0
Getting a tip would be helpful

LL, I would think asking where and what would be great questions. Afterall, if there is someone willing to give that tip, it would certainly save time and money.

Raul, there's just no way that it's not been up or going up the ladder. Available resources may be the problem, lack of interest or ties that bind.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 05/15/12 - 09:11 pm
3
0
There is surely a stall...because

Tiiiiiime, is on their side...oh, yes, it is.....

Sorry, that just popped into my head, and I can't stop singing it.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 05/15/12 - 11:54 pm
0
0
Little Lamb- I'm with you.

Little Lamb-

I'm with you. You need help fighting this, you let me know how I can support you. I'm serious. This fraud waste and abuse needs to end. It's one thing that Obama is doing it. When he comes to Georgia once a year at most unless he's looking for money, you can't make enough noise unless you have hundreds of thousands of people- but local issues, and problems- that's something we can sink our teeth into.

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