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Heery International's record under review

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 Editor's note: For clarification, District 6 Richmond County school board member Jack Padgett was one of several local officials invited to watch the Oct. 3, 2010, Atlanta Falcons game in Augusta sales-tax manager Heery International's skybox, but he did not attend, according to Heery spokesman David Rubinger. Padgett said he did not receive an invitation. The Chronicle regrets the error.

Construction is underway at the Municipal Building in downtown Augusta.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Construction is underway at the Municipal Building in downtown Augusta.

The best-paid jobs on the city of Augusta’s payroll aren’t held by city employees, but by independent contractors.

For the past decade, Hee­ry International has garnered $9.5 million in fees. On Tuesday, the Augusta Com­mis­sion is set to approve another contract extension with Heery that would keep its employees on the city’s books for two more years as overseers of sales tax-funded construction projects.

The firm has heralded the opening – “on time and under budget” – of the Au­gus­ta Judicial Center, the new sheriff’s administration building, the Augusta Con­vention Center, the Augusta-Rich­mond County Public Library and the Reynolds Street parking deck over the past four years.

Little independent data, though, are available to back up Heery’s contentions, given that the company sets and adjusts the project budgets, then reports back on savings.

One example is the judicial center. Heery’s original contract lists the courthouse as a $72 million project. The building turned out to be smaller and woefully lacking in parking when it opened in 2010. Heery listed the project budget as $67 million and claimed a $5 million savings for the city.

Project delays have been blamed on others, such as business owners who sued the city in unsuccessful attempts to force the government to change its bidding process in major construction projects.

In a letter requesting the two-year extension, Heery Vice President Dennis LaGatta points to 2011 litigation over the city’s award of a construction contract to Turner Construction for the remodeling of the municipal building as the cause for the project’s delay.

There was an injunction in effect for a few months, but changes to the scope of the project delayed renovations for three months more. The remodeling job that taxpayers approved for $14 million is now a $40 million project.

Butch Gallop, who became a subconsultant with Heery in 2003, said Heery can’t be faulted for doing what the city wants, including the use of “construction manager at-risk” contracts instead of “hard bids” to allow for greater local participation by subcontractors.

“We’re an extension of staff,” Gallop said. “We have to adhere to what Augusta-Richmond County asks us to do.”

He said the firm’s 10-year tenure is evidence of its success in Augusta.

“At the end of the day, it’s about our performance,” he said. “Augusta-Richmond County is pleased with the work Heery does.”

Still, Augusta has paid Heery hundreds of thousands of dollars for work on buildings not built, such as $188,709 in fees for a new public works building and $244,270 for a government administration building. The projects helped form the basis for Heery’s initial $4.1 million, three-year contract that the commission approved without public debate in 2003.

Other projects in that original budget included $56,640 for a performing arts center, $390,480 for a new civic center and $326,814 for a new planning and licensing facility, none of which has materialized.

Heery has always remained safely below its maximum contract amount, though the maximum has always included budgeted funding for abandoned projects.

Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said Heery is “doing a fine job” in construction management and community outreach, despite the firm’s high fees, project delays and payments for work on buildings never completed.

“You have to eat it sometime,” Johnson said. “We spend a lot of money, a lot of time on things that don’t happen. Sometimes it gets us to a position where we understand we may not have needed that building.”

Heery works hard to win support from the commission, according to campaign finance reports and documents released in 2007 litigation between Heery and the Dekalb County (Ga.) School District that remains unresolved.

The firm has made campaign contributions, such as a 2009 donation to candidate Bobby Hankerson, described in a Heery memo as “a former commissioner that has supported Heery at the onset of our contract with ARC (Augusta-Richmond County) six years ago.” The firm also provided access to its Georgia Dome box seats to several Augusta Commission members, city employees and a few Richmond County school board members.

A schedule of 2010 Atlanta Falcons games lists school board members Eloise Curtis, Jimmy Atkins and Jack Padgett; Johnson and Commissioner Alvin Mason; procurement Director Geri Sams and several Heery personnel attending the Oct. 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers. Mason, Gallop, Johnson and Heery are listed as attending the Nov. 8 game against the Washington Redskins. Commissioners Joe Jackson, Mason and Johnson and then-Commissioner Calvin Holland are shown as attending the Dec. 6 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, each with a guest, and former Commissioner Joe Bowles is listed as attending the Dec. 13 game against the New Orleans Saints. On the same schedule, Gallop and Mason are listed as attending the Jan. 2, 2011, game against the Carolina Panthers.

A 2009 Atlanta Braves schedule shows unnamed commissioners attending July 1, July 17 and Aug. 16 games.

Jackson said he had attended one of the Braves games “right after I was elected” and was prepared to refund the money and end the city’s contract with Heery.

“We have nothing else to build,” he said.

Two commissioners – Johnson and Mason – made generic requests to Heery for payments, either for their campaigns or for community events tied to their tenure on the commission. Both letters, which appear to be on city stationery, show Mason and Johnson seeking money for community breakfasts, newsletters, neighborhood association awards, donations to nonprofits and scholarships.

“Please make all checks out to The Committee to Elect Alvin D. Mason,” states an August 20, 2009, memo seeking about $9,800 in payments, including 12 community breakfasts at $400 each, 12 newsletters at $150 each and 12 neighborhood association awards at $100 each. Johnson, who had received a $500 check for a breakfast Aug. 19, wrote a similar request for support.

Asked to comment, Mason said he was preoccupied with Saturday funeral arrangements of his neighbors and had no comment.

Johnson said there was nothing wrong with his accepting money from Heery for community breakfasts and other events.

“Anytime you do outreach in the community, that’s public service,” he said.

Heery had no qualms about helping out. On Oct. 7, 2009, a Heery memo indicates it was ready to assist “as election time draws near and a change in appointment for the mayor pro tem is imminent,” approving $1,500 each for Mason and Johnson.

Terry Taylor, a board member for the watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, said any gift to an elected official, however small, undermines confidence in government, while favors create a sense of obligation.

“Whenever money is involved, or gifts, we should always ask questions,” he said. “Businesses don’t spend money for no reason.”

Heery hopes to earn its highest fee yet – $1.97 million – from the municipal building if allowed to proceed, according to the request.

Another delayed project – a new bus operations and maintenance facility – was voted on to Heery’s project list last month. The city and the school board purchased a vast south Augusta tract several years ago, but although the school system’s new facility has been open a few years, the city has yet to break ground on its part of the project.

Heery’s new proposal also includes its first foray into use of the new sales tax-funding transportation projects. The firm estimates a $280,326 fee to assist Daniel Field airport with the $1 million installation of new hangar doors, one of a handful of air projects on the tax project list.

Commission member Jackson said he wasn’t surprised Heery tapped into the transportation tax funding.

“They’re going to find a way to do it,” he said. “We could use that money to give our own people cost-of-living raises.”

Heery also requires $1.4 million to finish renovations and expansions at the Charles B. Webster Detention Cen­ter, according to the proposal.

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Conservative Man
5448
Points
Conservative Man 06/01/13 - 07:37 pm
5
0
Hmm....

....I could quote sentences ad nauseum from this article to prove my point. But ...bottom line....Heery (and it's acolytes) have shown themselves not to be a friend of the taxpayer, but a friend to the ruling class in Augusta..
Starting with the Judicial Center when a prominent member of the Heery team was told by Fred Russell, "You represent Heery in signature only, I'M the project manager on this job"....This person subsequently quit because of this.....
Heery is a part of the problem. As is ANYONE in government connected to Heery International....

Brad Owens
4290
Points
Brad Owens 06/01/13 - 07:46 pm
4
0
Heery needs to go..

This needs to be stopped. Their performance on the TEE Center alone merits getting fired.

Riverman1
82436
Points
Riverman1 06/01/13 - 09:47 pm
7
0
Commenters brought all this

Commenters brought all this up years ago. It also appears the Chronicle has turned on Alvin Mason....interesting.

dichotomy
32133
Points
dichotomy 06/02/13 - 12:28 am
5
1
"“on time and under

"“on time and under budget”

Well send Heery out here to South Augusta and see if they can get countyman's Five Guys Burgers and Fries built.

For $9.5 million they ought to get SOMETHING built that would benefit South Augusta.

$9.5 million ????????????? We can't get the "city" to put that much money into a project in South Augusta...much less pay that much for someone to manage a project.

External project managers, external Engineers, external Consultants, external Studies, external Legal people.....it's no damned wonder we are broke and spending SPLOST money that hasn't even been approved yet.

Too bad we can't contract out the Commission and the Administrator. Maybe then we could operate our government "on time and under budget".

jwilliams
789
Points
jwilliams 06/02/13 - 12:54 am
6
0
Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Corey

Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said Heery is “doing a fine job” in construction management and community outreach, despite the firm’s high fees, project delays and payments for work on buildings never completed. How can the “GREAT ONE” say that Heery is doing a fine job when there are “HIGH FEES, PROJECT DELAYS and PAYMENTS FOR WORK THAT WAS NEVER COMPLETED?” Could it be because he’s getting his palm greased or is it his obvious ineptness or is it both? Corey “THE GREAT ONE” Johnson, his words not mind, has a personal and business relationship with Butch Gallop, who became a sub consultant with Heery in 2003, but has never recluse himself from any vote involving Heery. Johnson also said in this article (June, 2013), that there was nothing wrong with his accepting money from Heery for community breakfasts and other events. What other events? So as all of ARC can see, “The Great One” doesn’t see anything wrong with accepting money. Can you all say, lack of integrity? Now before you lovers of the “Great One” remind me that he did not take the money during the bribe attempt, let me say this, Fry’s mistake was that he did not go after Johnson separate from Mason. Mason being there is what saved Johnson’s “FANNY.” I agree with Terry Taylor, a board member for the watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, when he said that any gift to an elected official, however small, undermines confidence in government, while favors create a sense of obligation. The biggest favor ARC can do for its self is to not entertain any more attempts by “The Great One” for any elected office. He parades HIMSELF around as a public servant, when in reality he is all about “SELF SERVING”. In closing, here’s another sign of “The Great One’s” ineptness, taken from this article, “You have to eat it sometime,” Johnson said. “We spend a lot of money, a lot of time on things that don’t happen. Sometimes it gets us to a position where we understand we may not have needed that building.”

Little Lamb
45360
Points
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 07:21 am
3
1
No checks or balances

From the story:

. . . the company sets and adjusts the project budgets, then reports back on savings.

Yeah, that's kind of like letting Eric Holder investigate Justice Department wiretaps on Associated Press reporters and Fox News reporters. It's kind of like letting the IRS investigate IRS targeting Tea Party and pro-Israel groups on their tax-exempt applications. No independent oversight leads to waste, fraud, corruption, intimidation, cronyism, etc.

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 06/02/13 - 08:18 am
0
0
Tax payers paid almost
Unpublished

Tax payers paid almost $300,000 to oversee a $1,000,000 project. Excuse me if I'm wrong, but WTH???? Seriously??? I'm still laughing all the way to Columbia County. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

balloon2008
88
Points
balloon2008 06/02/13 - 08:54 am
6
0
Wow for all that money why

Wow for all that money why dont we hire 5 costruction managers and pay them 100k a year and save a million.

G'ment Watcher
97
Points
G'ment Watcher 06/02/13 - 09:18 am
6
0
Heery

I'm in a position in which I should see Heery's representative on every government job, but since they have been hired to do what the General Contractor should already be doing, I have seen one person, one time and he asked one question (Is everything going OK? )and, as far as I could tell, never checked any of the work being done. He did not notice obvious mistakes that were being made, but these were corrected by others before proceeding and I doubt that was even noticed by their people. I think in many cases these errors were left until they came by just to see if they would notice. I don't really understand why we are wasting the taxpayers money on this company. I certainly agree with Brad on this - it needs to stop.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 06/02/13 - 09:16 am
1
0
Heery's is a shadow company...
Unpublished

for someone local. The AC could find the name. But they will not. Which shell is hiding the pea? Bait and switch? Smoke and mirrors? Dog and Pony Show? All of these entertainment events are booked daily by the ARC of No Covenant Government. This has resulted in a shortfall of entertainment events at the TEE Center.

soapy_725
43676
Points
soapy_725 06/02/13 - 09:22 am
1
0
A Grand Jury with
Unpublished

prosecution powers need to be empaneled. And a forensic audit conducted. ARC taxpayer deserve no less. How many times do you have to call authorities and tell them you have been repeatedly raped before someone is arrested and prosecuted?

Do what the Native Americans in SC did several years ago. Threaten to shut down the county and state court systems with individual lawsuits over collective rights. They won!!!

Ninety thousand rape cases times 365 days a year. Perpetrators named in the AC with mug shots.

faithson
5145
Points
faithson 06/02/13 - 10:02 am
3
0
interesting

how we need to pay a second party to do what should be done by our own purchasing, engineering and inspections departments... says a lot about who runs things and the trust they don't even have for their own. Have we not moved beyond the ole charlie walker cabal with their fingers in the pie.

Riverman1
82436
Points
Riverman1 06/02/13 - 12:01 pm
4
0
See the Similarity?

There’s a government inquiry going on in Canada that’s sounds similar to this idea of paying off people to keep construction projects going.

“Witnesses at Quebec's ongoing Charbonneau Commission have narrated stories about how Rizzuto and other mafia figures received kickbacks from Quebec's construction contracts and even mediated disputes between entrepreneurs.”

"What you have to understand is that the mafia without political and financial connections is like milk without lactose, like coffee without caffeine," Nicaso said during a phone interview Saturday from Italy.”

http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/sunnews/canada/archives/2013/06/20130601-14...

robaroo
723
Points
robaroo 06/02/13 - 01:37 pm
2
0
Cost of Doing Business

"Two commissioners – Johnson and Mason – made generic requests to Heery for payments, either for their campaigns or for community events tied to their tenure on the commission."

Sounds like Heery knew what they had to do to keep doing business with the city. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have paid it if they didn't think they had to.

I don't know anything about the construction contracts other than what was in this article. I prefer private contractors doing the work as opposed the city doing it themselves as long as the oversight is good. There is a lot less political interference with a private contractor.

triscuit
2995
Points
triscuit 06/02/13 - 02:43 pm
2
0
This sickens me. Tell you

This sickens me. Tell you what...award construction jobs to the many talented local contractors who are more than capable of following and completing jobs on time and within budget. Evaluate them on reputations a d NOT the color of their CEO or relatives. How in the world did the Kroc Ceneter get built without Heery? What about lots of huge church and private business expansions? Oh wait, they hired the best contractors.

gargoyle
16258
Points
gargoyle 06/02/13 - 03:30 pm
2
0
JWilliams : After taking to

JWilliams : After taking to Mr.C Johnston at my dinner table, I'd have to agree with your assesment.At this point trusting him to walk my dog would be out of the question, letting him oversee public affairs would be just plain foolish

dichotomy
32133
Points
dichotomy 06/03/13 - 08:31 pm
1
0
ooohh..weee. Skybox Braves

ooohh..weee. Skybox Braves and Falcons tickets. Campaign contributions......that we know about......no telling what we don't know about. Yeh Alvin and Corey.....we taxpayers really believe you when you tell us "Aw shucks, that won't affect my vote."

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