Heery extension fails, 2-2

Commissioners question rates, contributions

 

The project management group under contract for a decade to oversee Augusta sales-tax construction projects didn’t pass muster with an Augusta Commission committee Monday, with a vote to extend Heery International’s arrangement failing in a 2-2 tie.

Heery and its two subconsultants, Gallop and Associates, and Dukes, Edwards and Dukes, have received about $9.5 million in fees over 10 years under an arrangement that saw some of the group’s billing rates adjusted annually to more than $200 an hour while plying commissioners with Atlanta Falcons skybox seats and contributions unreported by Heery to Georgia’s government transparency commission.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, a recipient of Heery-funded community events, tickets and campaign contributions, made a motion to extend the contract without an annual percentage increase. His motion failed with support from Grady Smith against “no” votes from Commissioners Marion Williams and Wayne Guilfoyle.

City Administrator Fred Russell asked that the group’s $1.6 million extension be approved because of several Heery-led construction projects underway and that the commission examine who, if not Heery, will provide “management services” for an upcoming sales-tax referendum.

“If we change horses midstream, we’ve got some other issues that would far outweigh that cost in my mind,” Russell said.

Guilfoyle questioned why Heery billed for the work of subcontractors at higher rates than the 10 percent above cost that is typically paid for other city contract work and asked for a rebate of overpayment.

“Basically, they get marked up as we have been,” replied Heery staffer Forrest White. “That’s the way our contract has been set up. Like what was said, it’s negotiable.”

Heery staffer Michele Brown-Rall added that the group was “selected on a professional services contract,” so the subconsultants’ rates are the same.

“I need more information before I proceed,” Guilfoyle said. “There ought to be a credit given back for all these years.”

Lincoln County, Ga., activist Al Gray weighed in on the contract, saying Dukes’ and Gallop’s cost multipliers ought to be different because they’re subcontractors for whom the city supplies office space, equipment and other expenses.

“For Heery, Dukes and Gallop to all have the same overhead and personal expenses and that sort of thing, it’s very unlikely because they’re dissimilar in terms of their mix of functions,” Gray said.

Williams asked how Butch Gallop, of Gallop and Associates, could be more aggressive at recruiting local participation than the city’s small business office is if Gallop bills for only four hours a week.

“I see your two faces quite frequently,” Williams said of Gallop and state Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, the owner of Dukes, Edwards and Dukes. “We’re paying for something that we’re not getting.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith asked whether Heery had properly reported all gifts and contributions to commissioners.

White said that Falcons and Braves “courtesy tickets” didn’t have to be reported and that the firm had properly filed reports of other contributions.

“Any donations, yes we have,” White said.

City Clerk Lena Bonner said recently that no firm – Heery or otherwise – had ever filed a report with her office.
A search of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission database showed that no one employed by Heery, Gallop or Dukes has ever reported a campaign contribution to an Augusta official, although several commissioners have reported contributions.

Commissioner Alvin Mason asked whether it was cost-effective for the city to rebid Heery’s contract now. Russell said no, but that he’d have an analysis of the costs before the commission votes on the extension next week.

Augusta Commission committee to revisit Heery International contract
Mason defends use of tickets, money from Heery
Heery International's record under review
Counsel of Heery International doesn't come cheap to city
IN OTHER ACTION

Commission committees:

• Received as information a proposal from Paul Simon, the chairman emeritus of First Tee of Augusta, for First Tee and Augusta Municipal Golf Course to be partners. Simon said his proposal has support from golfer Jack Nicklaus and requires the city to invest $1.9 million in redesigning “The Patch” as a shorter, better-quality course, but will eventually increase rounds and turn the city-owned course’s annual operating losses to profits within three years after renovations are complete. City Administrator Fred Russell said that an upcoming sales-tax package could be used for funding and that he and Simon will return with a finished proposal in July.

• Approved, 4-0, establishing a State Court Traffic Violations Bureau to process minor state traffic violations such as speeding and seat-belt violations but not local parking tickets. Chief State Court Judge Richard Slaby and Solicitor General Kellie Kenner-McIntyre said the bureau could process about 89 percent of cases now handled through State Court.

• Approved, 4-0, new protections for Augusta animals left in hot cars and additional protections for children left in hot cars, with new protocols and penalties for when Augusta Animal Control is called about a trapped animal.

• Heard the concerns of Steffany Fallen-Elliott, whose brother Phillip Boynton, 28, died after being beaten outside Club Pure Platinum in March. Fallen-Elliott asked the commission to consider taking action against the Gordon Highway nightclub’s license or require clubs to take additional precautions.

– From staff reports

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