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Commission ends gridlock, moves forward on bonds without IFS securities

Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014 8:55 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 4:49 AM
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The Augusta Commission ended just under three months of gridlock over a plan to issue some $160 million of refunding water and sewer bonds and $30 million in bonds for system improvements Monday, rejecting overtures from a firm touting its minority ownership that twice delayed the plan’s approval.

The normally sleepy transaction was rocked by the appearance earlier this summer of IFS Securities, an Atlanta-based firm which signed up to speak to the commission as a delegation, then took the opportunity to call into question the city’s longtime use of financial advisor Dianne McNabb of Public Financial Management’s Atlanta office to handle all the city’s bond transactions since 2006.

After failing in votes divided along color lines to approve the refunding Aug. 5, and again after a fiery exchange between IFS officials and McNabb Aug. 19, commissioners voted 9-1 to approve it. Only Commissioner Marion Williams was in opposition Monday.

Commissioner Bill Lockett questioned IFS’ late arrival at the table and its use of racially-charged rhetoric, including a call to end “economic apartheid” in Augusta by hiring the black-owned firm, which promised last week to advance $30 million to the city’s strapped general fund.

“I’m a stickler for fully complying with the law, and my recommendation was that we don’t entertain any other entities like that without going through the procurement process,” Lockett said. “I decided over the weekend that I would support the bonding.”

Lockett, who is African-American, said the firm’s rhetoric might hurt its chances at garnering future Augusta business.

“It not only turned off some of the ones on the other side, it turned off some on our side too,” he said.

Lockett and other commissioners agreed IFS’ appearance made it likely the commission will look more closely at future bond issues.

“This has been a learning experience because I know in the next one, I’ll be more involved,” he said.

Williams said his mind hadn’t changed, despite learning of IFS principal Craig Walker’s prior federal prison sentence and other types of issues that did not appear in PFM’s filings with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

“I thought the minority firms should have an opportunity to at least bid on the stuff,” Williams said. “This is a diverse city and we’re not diverse in any kind of way downtown.”

In only his second vote on the commission since being appointed a few minutes earlier to complete the unexpired term of resigning Joe Jackson, District 6 Commissioner Ben Hasan said the firm’s colorful language shouldn’t overshadow the role IFS had in exposing Augusta’s behind-the-scenes practices surrounding the large transactions.

“Sometimes you never know why people come into your life,” Hasan said. “The moral of the story for me, for Augusta, is Augusta has another option for moving forward … The message is that there are other options out there.”

Commissioner Bill Fennoy attributed his vote to move forward without IFS involvement to the recommendation of city department heads such as Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier.

“I have confidence in our directors and I don’t believe they’re going to have the city doing business with anybody that’s not reputable and that’s not going to do the best quality work for the city,” Fennoy said.

Commissioner Donnie Smith, who rejected IFS’ overtures in an earlier vote, said the firm probably hurt its future chances in Augusta, something with which Fennoy disagreed.

“They tried to force us in the corner,” Smith said. “Without procurement, without doing an RFP, and then you played the race card? How can we forget about that?”

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Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 08/26/14 - 08:35 pm
9
9
"After failing in votes

"After failing in votes divided along color lines..."

Listen up readers, the AC will keep race an issue in this city by always scoring ARC votes based on race. If race is germane to votes then the AC would always stipulate that Columbia County Commission passed an action and all commissioners are white. But reporters don't do that.

AC, you can't ask the citizens to move beyond race then keep bringing it up each time you report on a vote. I almost dread the reporting once Mayor-elect Davis takes office in January. So I am calling you out now. Don't tell us how votes fall along racial lines; let US decide if that is important or not.

JRC2024
10420
Points
JRC2024 08/26/14 - 09:37 pm
13
0
Why would anyone even think

Why would anyone even think to do business with a firm that acted like that and much less had a representative that had received time in a federal prison for misconduct. You cannot trust people like that.

Dixieman
17337
Points
Dixieman 08/27/14 - 05:39 am
13
0
Finally a sensible decision from the ARC Commission!

They got it right!
But I'm afraid it follows the old saying that "even a broken clock is right twice a day" so this is probably just an accident.

Riverman1
93637
Points
Riverman1 08/27/14 - 05:47 am
14
0
Truthmatters, in this case

Truthmatters, in this case the firm trying to get the bond business is who injected race into the issue.

rfaulk
52
Points
rfaulk 08/27/14 - 05:49 am
12
0
I am very tired of hearing

I am very tired of hearing "they voted along racial lines" and "African-American" . I appreciate people being proud of their heritage but we should be more proud of our country, work for it or move back to the hyphonated country you are most proud of. There is one human race. Forget your ethnicities. I cannot believe how stupid this city government is working. Not working is the better term

Little Lamb
49030
Points
Little Lamb 08/27/14 - 06:57 am
5
1
9 - 1

This vote was probably tied into the choreography of the property tax increase. It was scene two.

nocnoc
49130
Points
nocnoc 08/27/14 - 07:00 am
4
1
Refunding bonds????

This is a gray area for me...

Does this mean they will, for lack of a better term

Re-Fi'd ARC

and these BONDs won't be paid off and only refinanced to restarted the repayment process all over again?

OR
or just at a lower percentage a rate?

nocnoc
49130
Points
nocnoc 08/27/14 - 07:02 am
5
1
Keep tell yourself a lie Augusta

Remember it is about improving the WHOLE COUNTY
and nothing to do with Race based voting .

....After failing in votes divided along color lines to approve....

dsterling9
1255
Points
dsterling9 08/27/14 - 07:06 am
8
0
RACE AGAIN

Any company coming forth with a presentation as IFS filled with racial slurs is trouble. The company should have presented a performance based presentation only. Now each time anyone hears the company name some will only see hatefulness. ARC does not need a company like this. By the way...wonder how diverse their employee structure might be.

Pops
14366
Points
Pops 08/27/14 - 07:09 am
9
0
Williams and another one of his brilliant statements

“This is a diverse city and we’re not diverse in any kind of way downtown.”

Unbelievable.....

dichotomy
37448
Points
dichotomy 08/27/14 - 07:47 am
5
1
"Williams said his mind

"Williams said his mind hadn’t changed, despite learning of IFS principal Craig Walker’s prior federal prison sentence and other types of issues that did not appear in PFM’s filings"

"Commissioner Ben Hasan said the firm’s colorful language shouldn’t overshadow the role IFS had in exposing Augusta’s behind-the-scenes practices"

This county is in big trouble in the future. But don't be complaining about BEHIND THE SCENES. Isn't that how the TAX HIKE JUST GOT PASSED? Vote trading and political covering for others? How about the TEE center? That whole thing was done behind the scenes.....ALONG WITH the Laney Walker project. All BEHIND-THE-SCENES vote trading.

The only difference now is that ALL the BEHIND-THE-SCENES stuff will come out ALL BLACK.

The only reason we knew about this is that they had to go before the commission and convince some white commissioners. Next time this can all be worked out BEHIND-THE-SCENES without any public exposure.

Hang on to your butts folks. It won't be long until the scandals hit and money starts disappearing. Write it down that I said that 08/27/14. I'll be reminding you of it in a year or two.

itsanotherday1
48306
Points
itsanotherday1 08/27/14 - 07:57 am
10
0
For Truth Matters

In case you overlooked this from Lockett: “It not only turned off some of the ones on the other side, it turned off some on our side too,” he said.

Just how is he defining "sides"?

justthefacts
25031
Points
justthefacts 08/27/14 - 10:11 am
1
1
IAD

I read that several times to try and determine his meaning. I hope hewas referring to the previous statement and meant potential investors as one side and Augusta as the other. Hopefully.

itsanotherday1
48306
Points
itsanotherday1 08/27/14 - 10:25 am
5
0
JTF

In the context of the racial overtones he was commenting about, it is clear to me to what he was referring; revealing his "us against them" mentality. Race first; best practices for the community, second.

LillyfromtheMills
14295
Points
LillyfromtheMills 08/27/14 - 10:55 am
3
0
I, too

Wondered about that statement ^

AFjoe
5506
Points
AFjoe 08/27/14 - 10:56 am
4
0
Dumb and Dumber Staring

Lockett..."Turned off some on "OUR side"
Williams..."Not enough diverse going on...We needs to vote on "THE STUFF"

corgimom
38385
Points
corgimom 08/27/14 - 12:47 pm
4
1
It was clear that he was

It was clear that he was talking about whites and blacks.

And, in that context, I think it was perfectly appropriate, since that horrible firm made it about race to begin with.

Little Lamb
49030
Points
Little Lamb 08/27/14 - 03:20 pm
3
0
Clarification

I think he was being more specific than merely "whites and blacks." I think Lockett was referring to white commissioners vs. black commissioners.

itsanotherday1
48306
Points
itsanotherday1 08/27/14 - 03:33 pm
2
0
I totally agree LL. And THAT

I totally agree LL. And THAT is the problem with ARC government.

kellisimon
5
Points
kellisimon 08/27/14 - 07:29 pm
0
0
What the residents of the

What the residents of the "Urban Unserviced but double taxed District" want is a forensic accounting of its repayment of the bonds (general obligation and revenue bonds) impressed upon it to repay.

With the Colclough derivative fiasco that cost the county $3M in one year and other bond calls, refund refinancing that lowered interest rates and freed principle and other accounting chicanery WHAT portions were written down from the USD's original repayment obligations?

WHEN will taxation in Augusta be truly equalized? Water rates were not only equalized with the county south of Gordon Hwy servced by the former City's utilities. The USD has been levied with a drainage charge when in fact the storm drains had been built out, extended and renewed and paid for years before the charge was assessed. In simple terms the utility drainage charge to USD users is a "fiction" for USD user paid for those storm drains years ago. Maintenance of the drains in the USD has no rational relationship to cost ans is arbitrary and capricious.

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