Motive unknown in bribery case

  • Follow Metro

Many in Augusta want to see city commissioners resolve their differences on building a downtown trade, exhibit and event center, but the motive behind an alleged illicit offer that has an attorney facing felony charges remains a mystery.

David W. Fry was arrested at his home and charged with two counts of bribery.  Special
Special
David W. Fry was arrested at his home and charged with two counts of bribery.

David W. Fry, accused Tuesday of trying to bribe Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and Commissioner Corey Johnson to change their votes to fund the $38 million center, doesn't appear to be connected to any organization that stands to benefit.

He has no involvement in Augusta Riverfront LLC, a company with ties to the ownership of The Augusta Chronicle that would operate the center if it's built on Reynolds Street, according to company President Paul Simon.

Nor is he involved with the Downtown Development Authority, said Executive Director Margaret Woodard.

Under some plans being discussed, the authority would issue bonds to raise as much as $17 million for a parking deck or as much as $8.5 million to jump-start development in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength, announcing Mr. Fry's arrest at a news conference Tuesday, confirmed that Mr. Fry wasn't a contractor and isn't part of any company in a potential management position.

As to what Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson were offered, the sheriff would say only that Mr. Fry "laid out this plan and if they would change their vote, how they, being commissioners, would benefit in the passing of a TEE center, subsequently building the parking deck."

Commissioners and city officials have said the two commissioners were offered posts in a management company, yet to be established, that would operate the deck.

Asked whether there was any evidence Mr. Fry could have delivered, the sheriff said only that offering something of value to get something done, in the context of city government, constitutes bribery.

Mr. Fry, 57, is charged with two counts of bribery. He was arrested at his home on Indian Cove Road off Berckmans Road.

The sheriff said Mr. Fry called Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson on Aug. 21 and set up a meeting. The two went to Mr. Fry's home and heard the attorney propose his plan, the sheriff said.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he was contacted by Mr. Fry, too, and told about a plan involving a parking deck management company.

"I have no idea what his capacity was," Mr. Brigham said. "He told me he was meeting with Corey and Al.

"I think he thought that I was going to commit to doing that," Mr. Brigham said.

Mr. Brigham said he didn't report the offer to police because he "didn't know if it was just somebody talking or what."

The Sunday after their meeting with Mr. Fry, Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Brigham to meet them in the parking lot of Longhorn Steakhouse on Washington Road, he said. The two wanted to know where he stood, and Mr. Brigham said he told them it sounded like a bad idea.

The next morning, the two commissioners went to attorney Freddie Sanders, who reported Mr. Fry's offer to Sheriff Strength. The sheriff's office began investigating and within days asked the FBI to sit in on interviews. Other commissioners and the mayor were interviewed, and the sheriff said he has concluded that none was involved in the offer.

At some point in the investigation, documents were obtained and conversations recorded, the sheriff said.

Mr. Johnson, who last week said he was unaware of any possible bribery, did not return phone calls Tuesday. Mr. Mason said he can't comment with the investigation ongoing.

"I will have faith in the justice system that it will do what needs to be done," he said.

Mr. Fry was released from the Richmond County jail Tuesday evening on an $11,400 bond. According to accounts, before his arrest he gave differing versions of his dealings with Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson to the police and news media outlets.

In the late 1970s and early '80s, Mr. Fry owned D.W. Fry's nightclub near Wrightsboro Road and Highland Avenue. He later owned Marlowe's nightclub on Bertram Road. In 1990, he graduated cum laude from Mercer Law School, according to Chronicle archives.

In recent years he has been on the periphery of commission dealings, offering both solicited and unsolicited ideas and advice.

In 2005, he represented the Citizens Action Committee, led by activist Woody Merry, in its unsuccessful efforts to change all 10 commission districts to at-large seats that would have to be won countywide.

He got involved in the TEE center earlier this summer, when Commissioner Joe Bowles asked him for a second opinion on whether collecting the $1-a-night hotel fee would be illegal if the facility weren't built. Mr. Bowles said Mr. Fry confirmed what City Attorney Chiquita Johnson said, that without the TEE center there can be no bed fee.

In June, Mr. Fry sent a long letter to Mayor Deke Copenhaver suggesting the city build a "Sports, Entertainment, and Convention Center Multiplex" with a retractable roof.

According to documents obtained by The Chronicle , he e-mailed the letter to Commissioner Don Grantham and Mr. Brigham on Aug. 23 -- two days after his meeting with Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson.

In a postscript note, he said trolley cars should be put on Reynolds Street "in view of the possible T-Center/Parking Complex Approval as of September 1, 2009."

That was the date of the next scheduled commission meeting, where the commission had the mayor form a committee to hammer out a possible resolution on the TEE center.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (52) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 09/09/09 - 12:53 am
0
0
There's more to this story.

There's more to this story. Why the parking deck? What was his connection to the parking deck? There's more to this.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 09/09/09 - 01:18 am
0
0
Of course these other people

Of course these other people and groups are going to deny any connection to Mr Fry. But let's see what a thorough investigation says.

Craig Spinks
818
Points
Craig Spinks 09/09/09 - 02:35 am
0
0
Is the FBI investigating this

Is the FBI investigating this matter?

wizzardx1
0
Points
wizzardx1 09/09/09 - 04:38 am
0
0
The motive is MONEY, it's

The motive is MONEY, it's always MONEY

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 09/09/09 - 05:01 am
0
0
if it weren't fer money, it

if it weren't fer money, it was a helluvaway to drum up free advertising for his practice

opiner
2
Points
opiner 09/09/09 - 05:12 am
0
0
The $11,400 bond was token.

The $11,400 bond was token. Is there anything other than accusations at this point?

Riverman1
93345
Points
Riverman1 09/09/09 - 05:24 am
0
0
"He has no involvement in

"He has no involvement in Augusta Riverfront LLC, a company with ties to the ownership of The Augusta Chronicle that would operate the center if it's built on Reynolds Street, according to company President Paul Simon." Uh huh.

Riverman1
93345
Points
Riverman1 09/09/09 - 05:28 am
0
0
Trying to get at crime,

Trying to get at crime, corruption and graft in Augusta is like trying to climb a slime totem pole. You get lots on you when you attempt it.

ColCo
919
Points
ColCo 09/09/09 - 05:31 am
0
0
Sounds like he was trying to

Sounds like he was trying to set up these two commissioners the same way Ed McIntyre was in the 80's. McIntrye bit, Johnson and Mason did not, good for them.

justus4
113
Points
justus4 09/09/09 - 06:08 am
0
0
This is not what it appears.
Unpublished

This is not what it appears. The minority commisssioners was the real targets and the history speaks to this guy's motives. What are the charges? Why are these two commissioners' name associated with this guy? Why was that info released? Who is behind this guy? Who is he working for? And what is the plan to prosecute? Will the charges stick? Minority commissioners: Don't trust anyone in this mess, especially if they say, "this is just between me & you." Remember, its U they are after....

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 09/09/09 - 07:13 am
0
0
This is much ado about

This is much ado about nothing. Fry offered the Commissioners something he couldn't deliver---and they knew it. The parking deck would be under the control of the Downtown Development Authority which is controlled by the Commissioners. Maybe he was trying to set up the two black Commissioners and one white, Brigham, or maybe he was working with the people who are trying to stop the TEE Center knowing publicity like this would damage passage by the Commissioners. Those who understand economic development understand the benefits in tax revenues and job creation coming from an expanded convention complex. Hyatt hotel certainly understands that by their willingness to build a $24 million hotel across from the proposed TEE Center, if the TEE center is built. All retail businesses in the downtown would benefit from increased traffic & the entire trade area would benefit from the trickle-down effect.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 09/09/09 - 07:41 am
0
0
My question is (and I don't

My question is (and I don't know either Mr. Johnson or Mr. Mason) but if they weren't considering the deal why did they meet Mr. Brigham in the restaurant parking lot and ask him if he thought it was a good deal? Were they considering taking the bribe?

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 09/09/09 - 07:41 am
0
0
So Fry suppoerted the

So Fry suppoerted the TROLLEY's, did work for Joe Bowels, and helped sue the city to change the charter...but he is NOT connected with ANYONE? Yeah RIGHT! The fact he supported the trolley's, another DDA project, makes me even MORE interested in what the DDA's connection is. I don't know anyone, outside the DDA itself, who supports the ludicrus trolley plan. Funny stuff here.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 09/09/09 - 07:42 am
0
0
This is much ado about

This is much ado about nothing. Fry offered the Commissioners something he couldn't deliver---and they knew it. The parking deck would be under the control of the Downtown Development Authority which is controlled by the Commissioners. Maybe he was trying to set up the two black Commissioners and one white, Brigham, or maybe he was working with the people who are trying to stop the TEE Center knowing publicity like this would damage passage by the Commissioners. Those who understand economic development understand the benefits in tax revenues and job creation coming from an expanded convention complex. Hyatt hotel certainly understands that by their willingness to build a $24 million hotel across from the proposed TEE Center, if the TEE center is built. All retail businesses in the downtown would benefit from increased traffic & the entire trade area would benefit from the trickle-down effect.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 09/09/09 - 07:42 am
0
0
This is much ado about

This is much ado about nothing. Fry offered the Commissioners something he couldn't deliver---and they knew it. The parking deck would be under the control of the Downtown Development Authority which is controlled by the Commissioners. Maybe he was trying to set up the two black Commissioners and one white, Brigham, or maybe he was working with the people who are trying to stop the TEE Center knowing publicity like this would damage passage by the Commissioners. Those who understand economic development understand the benefits in tax revenues and job creation coming from an expanded convention complex. Hyatt hotel certainly understands that by their willingness to build a $24 million hotel across from the proposed TEE Center, if the TEE center is built. All retail businesses in the downtown would benefit from increased traffic & the entire trade area would benefit from the trickle-down effect.

Newsreader
11
Points
Newsreader 09/09/09 - 07:51 am
0
0
Much ado about nothing. The

Much ado about nothing. The two commissioners were being set up, but whoever set up this "sting" were smart enough to know that the publicity would doom the TEE center. The commissioners are colateral damage. Mr. Fry is a fruit head and is being used as a scape goat. The truth will never see the light of day. I do not care deciated the investigators are, the was setup as secrect conspiracy and the truth is locked tight in the hands of power. Congratulations to Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson, even though you nibbled on the bait, you did not get hooked. Mr. Brigham, you smelled the rat from the start, and took the high road. The three of you will survive, however, the TEE will not. The only question now is what to do with the money that has already been collected.

AAQueen
18
Points
AAQueen 09/09/09 - 08:06 am
0
0
WizO I hope you got your

WizO I hope you got your point across LOL

LaTwon
1
Points
LaTwon 09/09/09 - 08:30 am
0
0
so a man risks prison to

so a man risks prison to offer something he cannot deliver. i call b s on that.

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11036
Points
ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 09/09/09 - 08:38 am
0
0
Did Island Seafood move, I

Did Island Seafood move, I smell Fish!!

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 09/09/09 - 09:30 am
0
0
Brad, It's BOWLES not Bowels.

Brad, It's BOWLES not Bowels. Anyways, I had Frye give me an opinion as to the legality of $1.00 fee that was based on a contract with Riverfront Partners. Since there is no contract with them how can we collect a fee and spend the funds as if there is a contract with Riverfront partners???? I was and still intend to have this fee abolished if a deal is not reached regarding Riverfront and the TEE Ctr. Maybe we need to forget about this whole thing since it's obvious that there are only 5 votes for this project.

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 09/09/09 - 09:30 am
0
0
Its all a ruse ...johnson and

Its all a ruse ...johnson and mason are lying ..nobody is stupid enough to offer them a deal like this it just isn't worth it...any fool would know they would sing like a canary.......just a bit of drama to discredit folks wanting the TEE center built....disgusta as usual.

LaTwon
1
Points
LaTwon 09/09/09 - 09:53 am
0
0
why not use the counties

why not use the counties lawyers to give that opinion? who paid him? you? the county? why would he be giving advice on a trolley? is he the commissions bagman? is he involved with the bonds?

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 09/09/09 - 10:02 am
0
0
In the best interests of the

In the best interests of the citizens of Augusta, I beg for another referendum on the TEE Center on the November 2010 general election ballot. We need the chance to vote yes or no to the project as it has become, not how it was put four years ago. The project should be postponed until the voters have spoken.

LaTwon
1
Points
LaTwon 09/09/09 - 10:05 am
0
0
wasnt the urban portion of

wasnt the urban portion of property taxes supposed to go away when the old city bonds were paid off? havent they been paid?
is this a way of perpetuating that cash cow?

LaTwon
1
Points
LaTwon 09/09/09 - 10:07 am
0
0
little lamb , the vampires

little lamb , the vampires took their time in order to fatten the hog for slaughter. same as the court house.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 09/09/09 - 10:09 am
0
0
LaTwon, I asked him because

LaTwon, I asked him because like many of the anonymous posters here, he's not afraid to attack the government when it fails. He was in discussions with several in the community to do this work on there behalf. We are not talking rocket science for this opinion. Hell, even I had the same conclusion.
As for the Trolley, I guess he's been drinking the juice....
As for Bagman, Not mine, but ask the others.
Why did I go to him? The same reason Mason and Johnson went to an outside attorney I guess.
No he's not involved in the bonds, I don't think he practices actively anymore.

LaTwon
1
Points
LaTwon 09/09/09 - 10:14 am
0
0
thanks for the reply. they

thanks for the reply. they went to cover their asses it seems to me. logic seems to dictate that at least some of the yes vote are involved.

augusta now
7
Points
augusta now 09/09/09 - 10:16 am
0
0
Let's move on with the TEE

Let's move on with the TEE Center. It is good for Augusta. We have to have something well built and positioned to bring in the big trade exhibits. Everyone wins with this type of progress. We need the Hyatt! Think of what a little competition and variety will do for our City. It is obvious we can't keep buying and selling to each other. We need other peoples money coming into Augusta. We have the assets, the Savannah River, the Canal, the Riverwalk, and the arts/culture/history/trendy retail/ chef driven restaurants to keep them interested. Now let's get them here!

The Big O
0
Points
The Big O 09/09/09 - 11:39 am
0
0
"In June, Mr. Fry sent a long

"In June, Mr. Fry sent a long letter to Mayor Deke Copenhaver suggesting the citybuild a "Sports, Entertainment, and Convention Center Multiplex" with a retractable roof." - lol....this guy is completely delusional.

The Big O
0
Points
The Big O 09/09/09 - 11:40 am
0
0
"$8.5 million to jump-start

"$8.5 million to jump-start development in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods!" - are they going to spend $8.5 million on bulldozers, dumptrucks, and explosives?

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs