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Heery has record of contributions to politicians

Monday, June 17, 2013 9:13 PM
Last updated 9:22 PM
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Augusta commissioners, poised to vote Tuesday on extending Heery International’s contract, deny the company’s campaign contributions and gifts are “pay to play” handouts, but Heery’s conduct in other cities and states suggests otherwise.

Augusta has paid Heery and two subconsultants $9.5 million in fees since late 2003 to manage the city’s construction projects funded by sales taxes, such as the $62 million Augusta Judicial Center or $38 million Augusta Convention Center.

Over the years, Heery has made cash contributions to political campaign and community projects supported by city politicians, such as $1,500 sponsorship of the CSRA Classic in 2008. According to Heery internal documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, the sponsorship was tied to the firm’s desire to continue its work on sales tax projects:

“We are currently working on the A-R County SPLOST program. They are in the process of developing a project list for the 2009 SPLOST that exceeds $160M,” the memo said.

In 2009, Heery made $1,500 contributions to Augusta Commissioners Corey Johnson and Alvin Mason, who were not up for re-election that year. In 2010, Heery gave $900 to Johnson and Mason again, and $1,000 to unopposed Commissioner Joe Jackson. Heery’s subconsultant Dukes, Edwards and Dukes gave Mason a $500 donation. None of the three candidates reported raising more than $20,000.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, who recently claimed that a lone $1,000 donation from Heery in 2012 helped him retire campaign debt from 2009, reported a $1,000 contribution from “Meery” in April 2010 at Heery’s same 999 Peachtree St. NE address in Atlanta.

Heery has never reported anything to city or state officials about its donations, despite a local requirement that vendors report lobbying and state laws that require reporting of such gifts and donations as lobbying expenses.

Heery spokesman David Rubinger claimed all the group’s activities are within exemptions for reporting. Current state law doesn’t require vendors to report gifts to local officials, while the city’s ethics ordinance exempts campaign contributions and sports tickets from disclosure, he said.

“Courtesy” tickets to Heery’s skybox at the Georgia Dome were a favorite gift Heery provided commissioners. A game schedule obtained by The Chronicle showed Johnson and Mason attended at least three football games in 2009 and 2010, while Jackson and former Commissioners Calvin Holland and Joe Bowles attended one. Jackson said he had also attended an Atlanta Braves game using a Heery ticket.

State law, however, did snare Heery’s subconsutant Gallop and Associates principal Wilbert “Butch” Gallop in 2005. Gallop agreed to pay a $1,500 fine for failing to report lobbying activities, failing to file as a lobbyist even after being warned twice to do so, and for failing to respond to a subpoena to appear at a state ethics commission meeting, according to a consent order. Gallop stated on his lobbying registration, which was withdrawn the following year, that he was working on behalf of Gallop and Associates.

Rubinger said “at no time was Mr. Gallop lobbying for Heery under our current contract.”

Heery, meanwhile, argued in court filings that its refusal to engage in “pay-to-play” activities – which it defined as “using gifts, gratuities, tickets and payments to curry favor with public officials and gain construction projects” – cost the company a contract in 2007 with the DeKalb County school district.

“Heery calling itself an obstacle to pay-to-play is hypocrisy of the highest order,” because pay-to-play has been a driving force behind Heery’s success, responded a member of the DeKalb school system’s legal team, which cited numerous instances in court filings:

• “Heery contributed $10,000 in 2006 to the (Townson, Md.,) Sheppard Pratt Hospital Charity … (which was) on the verge of approving our latest change order for $227,000.”

• In response to a request from a Duval County, Fla., board member who solicited a campaign contribution in 2006, a Heery employee was instructed to respond: “Heery tend(s) to support people who support us.”

• In 2004, “Heery agreed to donate $5,000 to the Anne Arundel Community College Foundation ‘as long as we see very soon tangible results from the commitment.’ ”

Evidence of Heery’s pay-to-play behavior also was evident in criminal prosecutions of public officials throughout the country, the DeKalb school system alleged.

In Broward County, Fla., Heery worked from 2004 to 2007 for the school district, sheriff and county commission. There, a school board president who was also a county commissioner received a campaign contribution from Heery. She was later prosecuted for unlawful compensation. Heery also gave to the Broward sheriff, who was prosecuted and convicted of public corruption in 2008.

“In 2005, (Commissioner Diana) Wasserman voted to award Heery and its joint venture partners a $670,000 contract for ‘pre-design’ services for the judicial complex project … Heery’s contract on (the complex) has been amended six times to increase the contract to over $17 million as of February 2011.”

In the town of Southwest Rances, Fla., where Wasserman was arrested in 2010 for receiving improper compensation through her husband’s work on city projects funded through grants she approved, Heery had a contract to develop the projects. In 2009, Heery employee Celestine Aniekwu was charged with bribery of Broward County officials.

ALTERNATE PROPOSAL

Late Monday, Augusta commissioners were provided a cheaper deal for the two-year extension that freezes automatic annual increases and shaves about $188,000 from Heery International’s estimated fees, down to $1.5 million for the next two years. Commissioner Marion Williams, who hadn’t seen the proposal, said he was miffed that City Administrator Fred Russell negotiated with Heery after a committee vote to extend the contract last week failed 2-2. “He had no business going out and negotiating nothing,” Williams said.

Comments (16) Add comment
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Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 06/17/13 - 09:33 pm
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0
Williams is correct.

I'm with Williams on this one.

just an opinion
2638
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just an opinion 06/17/13 - 09:41 pm
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Close 'em down

Sugarcoat it all you want. Bottom line: they were buying votes. And the sad part about it is the commissioners took the money. No shame.

internationallyunknown
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internationallyunknown 06/17/13 - 09:58 pm
7
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Now that's sad.

Now that's sad.

GnipGnop
12239
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GnipGnop 06/17/13 - 10:17 pm
8
1
While I agree with Marion on Heery

He shouldn't point to many fingers considering his sweet BOE church land deal and his insider info going to his son in law on the drag strip.

dichotomy
32977
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dichotomy 06/17/13 - 11:36 pm
9
1
That's the other thing about

That's the other thing about our commissioners. Not only do they take the bribes and the gifts and the perks, but when an issue pops up like this the ones that weren't around to get their "cut" get all indignant and point fingers at the ones that did.

We need to start electing 5 new commissioners every year so that we will always have 5 fresh ones around to point fingers at the "oldtimers".

Riverman1
84008
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Riverman1 06/18/13 - 04:54 am
9
0
The Family

They work methodically. Once they get their hook in you, the offers that you can't refuse begin. It's all one big "Family." By the way, the feds should scrutinize the use of campaign funds by the Commissioners. Using that money for personal use has landed more than one politician in jail.

jmo
16016
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jmo 06/18/13 - 07:18 am
5
0
Is it time.....

for the Federal Grand Jury yet?

nocnoc
42651
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nocnoc 06/18/13 - 07:42 am
5
1
Where are all the whining, screaming Downtown Commissioners Now?

Remember those that were yelling ETHICS, ETHICS, WE NEED ETHICS
or "they must be censored" and even the demands "They should quit."?

I guess delivering REQUESTED work and something tangible for taxpayer money is an Ethical Problem for some downtown commissioners.

But

BRIBES, GIFTS, OFF SEASON CAMPAIGN DONATIONS and SPORTS VACATIONS are OK?

OK, 3 previously scolded commissioners have taken the high road to avoid looking vindictive. It would have been an easy target for them to request and rightfully get.

But now the question becomes:

Where is the JUSTICE for the Taxpayers?

We have a clear violation of OCGA (GA LAW)..
Do we have to contact the SOS in Atlanta and.or the State AG ourselves?

Or can the taxpayers expect to see action by the Local DA or Solicitor, given the issues at play here?

nocnoc
42651
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nocnoc 06/18/13 - 07:55 am
5
0
ONE LAST QUESTION While HEERY

ONE LAST QUESTION

While HEERY has collected $9.3 Million over 10+/- years or about $930K a year on average.

What percentage of that amount do the GIFTS represent?

Also can't ARC just hire local people for this amount?
We have some great Construction/Project Management groups here.
Some not even connected with local Politics.☺

...point to ponder
755
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...point to ponder 06/18/13 - 08:03 am
6
0
May not be pay to play...

But it sure is some type of extortion to ask a vendor for funds for a pet project or pay off campaign debts.

These elected commissioners are fooling no one and should be investigated.

The aame ones who scream ethics violations and then have their own hands caught in the cookie jar.guys are not suited for elected office.

I believe our Mayor needs to step up to the plate and show some backbone and get this matter investigated.

LillyfromtheMills
13282
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LillyfromtheMills 06/18/13 - 08:41 am
3
0
This is what makes politicians

Crooked - the money is there - just take it.

Marinerman1
4856
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Marinerman1 06/18/13 - 09:48 am
5
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This Is Scary...

When Marion "I Have Fred Russell's Hard Drive" Williams gets agreement from some on this group -- This is scary...

seenitB4
87304
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seenitB4 06/18/13 - 10:18 am
4
0
Amen to that nocnoc!

Also can't ARC just hire local people for this amount?
We have some great Construction/Project Management groups here.
Some not even connected with local Politics

Little Lamb
46022
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Little Lamb 06/18/13 - 10:35 am
5
0
Not his style . . .

PointsToPonder posted:

I believe our Mayor needs to step up to the plate and show some backbone and get this matter investigated.

The mayor does not want to get into any discussion on ethics or conflict of interest. He does not want to show leadership. He's more of a country club, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce kind of a guy. Taking a stand on a controversial issue is not in his self-written job description.

rmwhitley
5547
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rmwhitley 06/18/13 - 04:10 pm
0
0
Most politicians
Unpublished

have a history of taking "donations" when they should not.

jmo
16016
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jmo 06/18/13 - 07:03 pm
2
0
It all goes back to......

Why does anyone spend $100,000 to be elected to a $10,000 a year office?

404Law
226
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404Law 06/19/13 - 06:27 pm
0
0
I'm surprised Susan McCord

I'm surprised Susan McCord would be involved in writing this lowball stuff -- simply courting the uninformed who know little or nothing about campaign finance. I've contributed more than Heery to commissioners over the years. I guess that's why I was one of the fortunate one's to still have my trash collected regularly? This is supposed to be investigative journalism? Spurious associations, indeed.

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