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Augusta Commission votes against parking deck audit

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 9:23 PM
Last updated 11:49 PM
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The Augusta Commission voted 7-1 on Tuesday to abandon plans for a forensic audit on the deal-making associated with the downtown convention center parking deck and rely instead on local law enforcement to examine the deals for wrongdoing.

“I’m not going to spend $300,000, $180,000 or $10 to put on a forensic audit,” said Commis­sion­er Joe Jackson, who offered a motion to invite local law enforcement in. “If it’s that criminal, then let’s get the authorities in here at no expense to Augusta-Richmond County.”

If a forensic auditor had found criminal wrongdoing, the findings would have been turned over to prosecutors, who would have conducted their own investigation anyway, Jackson said.

“Why are we going to spend the same dollars twice?” he asked.

Jackson offered the motion as a substitute to Commissioner Bill Lockett’s motion to refer four questions setting the scope of the audit to a dozen firms bidding on the work. Jackson’s motion was seconded by District 1 Com­missioner Matt Aitken and opposed only by Lockett.

Aitken said he ran for the commission three years ago on completing the convention center and that the months of recent commission stalling and debate “makes us a laughingstock of this area.”

“I don’t want to see people dictate or hold this government in bondage than what we’ve already seen,” he said. “It’s time to move forward.”

During the meeting, one of Aitken’s opponents for re-election, Harrisburg activist Lori Davis, implored commission members to re-examine the deals. Davis frequently comments on the anonymously run blog City Stink, which has investigated and questioned various aspects of the parking deck and other city deals at length.

“It became apparent that the deals were put together … in favor of the companies involved,” Davis said. “We can ill-afford to continue to do business in this way.”

The vote followed a glowing financial audit presented by Miller Edwards of the firm Mauldin & Jenkins, hired by the city this year to conduct the required annual review. Edwards presented a “clean” review with no reportable findings, he said, and the audit revealed a $1.6 million surplus.

Commission members who previously voted for the forensic audit but changed their vote Tuesday included Corey Johnson, Grady Smith and Wayne Guilfoyle. Com­mis­sioners Alvin Mason and J.R. Hatney, who have routinely criticized the deals and their architects, were absent Tuesday.

Johnson said anyone with information about the transactions can submit it to District Attorney Ashley Wright’s office. Wright did not return a call requesting comment.

Guilfoyle said he hoped for a thorough grand jury investigation, like the one into the Augusta Fire Department a decade ago, “as long as we get it looked at and answered; if we can get it investigated without costing taxpayers.”

Paul Simon, the president of two firms involved in some of the transactions, said the details that created
controversy among commissioners in the past year had been approved by the commission several times, including when bonds were issued and sold to fund the project.

Simon’s companies, Au­gusta Riverfront LLC and 933 Broad LLC, have ties to management of Mor­ris Com­mu­nications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle. Au­gusta Riverfront runs the existing riverfront conference center under the Marriott brand and will operate the entire convention center when it is complete later this year.

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Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/18/12 - 01:31 am
8
0
"There's not much courage in Augusta, GA."

And there's almost none on the A-RC commission.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 07/18/12 - 02:26 am
6
1
Nothing to see here. Move

Nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Riverman1
90455
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 06:14 am
8
0
Nobody is messing with THOSE people

Nobody is messing with THOSE people. We have a white elephant TEE Center and parking deck that only benefits one place, The Marriott, and y'all had better not look into how it all came about. Finding criminal activity in this matter is not allowed in Augusta. Joe Jackson said it best yesterday, "What are you going to do if you find something?"

Nothing. In a reverse caste system, the Untouchables, are the ones on top.

eb97
835
Points
eb97 07/18/12 - 06:26 am
8
0
Unethical Deals

I noticed at the meeting that the commissioners failed to mention the one thing the tax-payers are concerned about and that is unethical behavior and deals by Mr. Russell and commissioners. Look at how Russell provided untrue info to the commission that the land was going to be donated to get them to vote yes on these deals. The commission voted yes and no land was donated. How much longer are we the tax-payers going to put up with this unethical behavior and deals by such a highly paid person with our tax-dollars?

Little Lamb
47950
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/12 - 06:48 am
5
2
The Lonely One

The commission has just declared Bill Lockett irrelevant.

Little Lamb
47950
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/12 - 06:51 am
5
2
Intent

The District Attorney has recently declared no criminal intent in the Vowell breaking and entering case. She recently declared no criminal intent in the Benedict photography case. Why doesn't she just declare no criminal intent in the parking deck case so we can be done with it?

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 07/18/12 - 06:54 am
0
0
7-1 against an outside audit
Unpublished

7-1 against an outside audit huh??? well that just goes to show who along with "why me worry/tax'em till it hurts" fred could be getting "white envelopes" from time to time to to allow "shady" deals to pass.....hey joe, how many criminals did the tee center catch so far? did the employment level get to zero yet as a result of the tee center's construction??

dichotomy
36257
Points
dichotomy 07/18/12 - 07:11 am
8
0
If I were a member of the

If I were a member of the group who approved this deal, I would not want an audit either.

Riverman1
90455
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 07:25 am
6
1
LL Asked

LL asked, "The District Attorney has recently declared no criminal intent in the Vowell breaking and entering case. She recently declared no criminal intent in the Benedict photography case. Why doesn't she just declare no criminal intent in the parking deck case so we can be done with it?"

Because they will never let it get to her. That would be going way too far for their comfort even if they knew she would say no criminal intent. Untouchables.

I imagine they all smirked at Lori Davis after the vote.

Riverman1
90455
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 02:16 pm
7
1
Why Not Just Give Everything to the Marriott?

Since we now have about $100 million tied up with the TEE, parking deck and Laney Walker payoff to make it happen, plus we will pay hundreds of thousands a year for the Marriott to market and manage things that only help them, why don't we eliminate our budget office completely? Just give the Marriott all tax revenue and let them use it as they see fit and give us a little of what's left which ain't much.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 07/18/12 - 08:48 am
3
1
"Edwards presented a “clean”

"Edwards presented a “clean” review with no reportable findings, he said, and the audit revealed a $1.6 million surplus."

Not certain this is suppose to make us feel safe. Obviously better than a deficit but it's not like somebody ordered a few maintenance trucks and we didn't get charged for them. It's 1.6 million $$$ that was "lost"?

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 07/18/12 - 10:55 am
5
0
Good point Riverman

I have always contended that an asset is really a liability if it is not producing revenue. Could that be the case here?

Riverman1
90455
Points
Riverman1 07/18/12 - 02:15 pm
4
1
Carleton, of course it's a

Carleton, of course it's a white elephant with the marketing and maintenance costs. They are not even trying to draw events from out of the state now. Remember all the grandiose talk about all the big conventions and how we were losing tens of millions if it wasn't built?

The realization of who will come and who won't has hit them. They are even trying to get "family reunions" which I have no doubt could have used existing venues. The TEE will have the lowest occupancy rate of a convention center anywhere and no events that haven't used or couldn't use existing venues will come. A $100 million white elephant.

eb97
835
Points
eb97 07/18/12 - 12:58 pm
5
0
Our very own Nancy Pelosi

With Russell, we have our very own Nancy Pelosi, "Vote yes for this deal and then you can see what is in it and how it will go down." Yeah, this is just what the Augusta taxpayers need. The commissioners need to get a clue.

Little Lamb
47950
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/12 - 01:45 pm
2
0
Summertime Blues

Commissioners take time off in the summer to go on vacation with their families. Wouldn't the city be better off if they suspended commission meetings and committee meetings in June, July and August? At least it would cut down on re-votes to change their mind about something they've already approved.

itsanotherday1
46881
Points
itsanotherday1 07/18/12 - 01:50 pm
2
0
$100M to enrich a few; yet

$100M to enrich a few; yet they can't properly fund law enforcement. Talk about low occupancy; that place will sit empty 24/7/365 if they don't clean out the riff raff from downtown.

Lori Davis
968
Points
Lori Davis 07/18/12 - 02:16 pm
5
0
Mission Accomplished!!

In reality, our "group" never thought there ever would be a forensic audit. We had already uncovered most of what a forensic audit would uncover anyhow..Our main goal was to get the Mayor and Commissioners to go on record in asking for , either a grand jury investigation or involvement by the GBI. In trying to stop an audit they actually gave us what we wanted the whole time.....In actuality THEY were played and didn't even realize it....Mission Accomplished...Next step is to hold them to what they've agreed to do......Keep up the pressure everyone. The truth will eventually win out!

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 07/18/12 - 04:53 pm
0
0
@ LL

Makes too much sense to ever be acted upon.

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 07/18/12 - 05:30 pm
0
0
Years ago when the TEE was
Unpublished

Years ago when the TEE was just a dream of a few, I remember that we were told that the annual income would equate to about $4k a day for every day of the year. Of course we hear nothing anymore about what this little jewel is going to do for the city. BTW how many groups of 500 - 1000 have signed up to rent the joint? In any event we voted for this monster just like we will vote for the TSPLOST and we will continue to vote for our beloved incumbents.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/07/12 - 04:02 am
1
0
Open

For too long certain businesses and political clicks in the CSRA have had their way.

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