Document hints at motive for bribe offer, lawyer says

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If the motive remains a mystery in an alleged bribery attempt involving parking deck profits and the downtown trade, exhibit and event center, a handwritten document attorney David W. Fry purportedly gave two city commissioners may shed some light.

David W. Fry: Lawyer charged with trying to bribe two city commissioners is free on $11,400 bond.  Special
Special
David W. Fry: Lawyer charged with trying to bribe two city commissioners is free on $11,400 bond.

According to an attorney who read it, the author of the illicit offer wanted a cut for himself.

Mr. Fry, 57, faces two counts of bribery, accused of offering Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and Commissioner Corey Johnson a contract to operate a parking deck if they would change their votes to approve funding for the $38 million TEE center. Commissioners and city officials have said the two were offered posts in a management company, yet to be established.

Mr. Fry was arrested at his Indian Cove Road home Tuesday and is free on $11,400 bond. A message left at his residence Wednesday wasn't returned.

At a news conference Tuesday to announce the charges, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson met with Mr. Fry the evening of Friday, Aug. 21, then went to see Attorney Freddie Sanders the following Monday. Mr. Sanders contacted the sheriff's office and arranged for the two to make a formal report, the sheriff said.

Mr. Sanders told The Chronicle Wednesday that Mr. Mason, whom he had represented in other matters, was trying to reach him throughout the weekend after meeting with Mr. Fry. At his office that Monday, both commissioners appeared upset, he said.

"They were just livid at how wrong this was," the attorney said.

They showed him a handwritten letter, which they said Mr. Fry gave them, that laid out the whole plan, even floating a possible name for the company and laying out percentages for Mr. Mason, Mr. Johnson and the letter writer, Mr. Sanders said. He said he couldn't recall the percentage amounts nor the proposed company name, though he said he believes it was an amalgamation of Mr. Mason's and Mr. Johnson's names.

"When I first looked at it, it was incredible," Mr. Sanders said. "In all my years, I've never seen anything like that."

Mr. Sanders said he made an appointment with the sheriff, accompanied the two commissioners when they went to the department and hasn't been involved since.

Sheriff Strength wouldn't comment on the case Wednesday. Asked about a motive, he said, "I don't know. I really don't. Maybe in the course of things, we'll find out."

The sheriff said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing, that his office has obtained documents and recorded conversations supporting the charges, and that more arrests are possible. He said his investigators and the FBI have interviewed other commissioners and Mayor Deke Copenhaver, and he's concluded none of them were involved in the attempted bribe.

Organizations poised to benefit from the TEE center say Mr. Fry wasn't working for them.

He has no involvement in Augusta Riverfront LLC, which would operate the center if it's built on Reynolds Street, according to company President Paul Simon.

He is not involved with the Downtown Development Authority, said Executive Director Margaret Woodard. The authority might issue bonds to build the parking deck and begin redevelopment of the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods.

Mr. Sanders said he doesn't know why Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson would agree to meet with Mr. Fry at his home. Mr. Mason has declined to comment, and Mr. Johnson hasn't returned phone calls this week.

MR. FRY 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 -- the mechanism for raising money for inner-city revitalization -- 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.

Being an attorney wasn't Mr. Fry's first career. He was 37 when he graduated from Mercer Law School in 1990, according to Chronicle archives.

Before that, he was a nightclub owner. In the late 1970s and early '80s, he owned D.W. Fry's near Wrightsboro Road and Highland Avenue, and later Marlowe's on Bertram Road.

The latter club created a controversy in 1984 when allegations arose that Mr. Fry wouldn't allow black patrons inside.

According to an account in The Chronicle , Marlowe's was billed as "Augusta's only private club," and numerous complaints from blacks prompted an investigation by the Richmond County Human Relations Commission. Two black men, Charlie Reid Jr., and his father, the late Charlie Reid Sr., filed a discrimination lawsuit.

The younger Mr. Reid told The Chronicle that he and his father tried to go to Marlowe's for lunch and were told they couldn't enter without a membership card.

After first being told no applications were available, a woman produced some from a drawer, and the younger Mr. Reid started filling it out while another woman began filling one out for his father.

Then Mr. Fry appeared, took the application away from the employee and told the two they couldn't be members, according to the newspaper account. Citing a Richmond County police report, The Chronicle reported that Mr. Fry cursed the men and pushed the elder Mr. Reid, then 62, in the back.

"They just told me, basically, they didn't cater to black people, and we could not be served there," Mr. Reid, now the owner of C.A. Reid Sr. Memorial Funeral Home, recalled Wednesday.

"Civil Rights had been in motion for quite some time," he said. "A lot of people thought that the Civil Rights issue had been resolved."

After the Human Relations Commission got involved, Mr. Fry agreed to relinquish the "private club" status and require only that patrons be 19 years old and properly dressed, The Chronicle reported.

Mr. Reid and his father filed a discrimination lawsuit, but he said it went nowhere because the defendant filed for bankruptcy.

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

RESOLUTION DELAYED

A recommendation on ending the Augusta Commission's impasse on building a downtown trade, exhibit and event center won't be ready in time for the Sept. 15 meeting.

The five-member committee formed last week and charged with formulating a proposal is on hiatus while the Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigates the bribery allegations, according to Commissioner Joe Jackson, one of the committee members.

Attorney David W. Fry, 57, faces two counts of bribery and is accused of trying to persuade Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and Commissioner Corey Johnson to change their votes by offering them posts in a parking deck management company.

The other committee members are Mr. Johnson, Commissioners Joe Bowles and J.R. Hatney, and Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

Comments (16) Add comment
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Asitisinaug
4
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Asitisinaug 09/10/09 - 01:23 am
0
0
Fry had to be doing this on

Fry had to be doing this on behalf of someone for some reason. Either there was money to be made or it was a set up to see if these commissoners would take a bribe or something but there is much more to this story to be investigated.

jgdarling
3
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jgdarling 09/10/09 - 06:17 am
0
0
Looks like this was a plan to

Looks like this was a plan to sabotage the TEE center. It's the only logical conclusion.

joelee
0
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joelee 09/10/09 - 06:23 am
0
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How are we to expect Corey

How are we to expect Corey and Alvin to look out for our best interests?
They ain't even interested in their own!

justus4
113
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justus4 09/10/09 - 06:45 am
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This investigation is being
Unpublished

This investigation is being handled wrong. The minority commissioners are the ones who were being targeted and not only by the guy. What are Fry's charges? Why keep associating Fry with the minority commissioners, unless there is some other objective. Thats it! The minority commissioners are going to be dragged into a situation where their statements will not be believed. Minority commissioners MUST watch EVERYONE. especially the all-white media or any rep from that outfit and law enforcement, because their actions are designed to distract & mis-inform. And who else's name did Fry use? Why aren't their names so closely associated with Fry? And in 1984, Fry's behavior demonstarted an unusual level of contempt for people of color, so his motives are clear: Bring down any minority commissioner. His behavior proves his hatred. And again, where are those serious charges?

WhippingPost
1
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WhippingPost 09/10/09 - 08:03 am
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0
David Fry must be an evil

David Fry must be an evil genius to initiate this convoluted and interwoven crime that no one is certain of .... even the victims, whoever they are. I foresee a czar appointment in Fry's future.

lulu
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lulu 09/10/09 - 08:24 am
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I agree with justus. Go after

I agree with justus. Go after the weak minded first.

NANF
4
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NANF 09/10/09 - 09:17 am
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Mason and Johnson meeting at

Mason and Johnson meeting at Frys house is fishy. No good can come of people that agree to meet at someones home . Sneaky business would have been detected by HONEST people. But they just HAD to see if it was something that would be to their benefit. A contract already written up? Sounds like they knew about it before hand. Are they always prepared to record conversations? Talk about 3 crooks, these 3 , not the one, but all 3 are in something up to their eyeballs. Mason and Johnson used that meeting to try and free themselves from any blame.

Jonas
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Jonas 09/10/09 - 10:25 am
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I guessed he figured that the

I guessed he figured that the black commissioners didn't have any morals or ethics. Maybe he was trying to set them up for someone else and the plan backfired. Now Fry has to take the fall for his buddies (white commissioners) or risk this thing blowing up into a big mess.
This is probably how 99% of things get done in Augusta!!

You mark my words there is more to this. What is going on in Augusta first you have the Weinberger thing now you have a known racist offering two black commissioners money and to go in business with them.

sucram
0
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sucram 09/10/09 - 11:47 am
0
0
Fry tried to set up Mason and

Fry tried to set up Mason and Johnson and they knew it all along and flipped on him. Good for them. How much did Brigham and Grantham really know about this.

Evans Ga.
0
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Evans Ga. 09/10/09 - 01:19 pm
0
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Is it just me are does this

Is it just me are does this man look exactly like Attorney Calvin Chance.

thewiz0oz
9
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thewiz0oz 09/10/09 - 01:51 pm
0
0
Interesting - The Politics of

Interesting - The Politics of Difference - In Augusta we can make a black & white issue out of the weather - the blacks make it rain and the whites make it snow - I wonder who causes the lighting and wind-storms? Hey, maybe its a conspiracy!!

ispy4u
0
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ispy4u 09/10/09 - 01:57 pm
0
0
Only an idiot like NANF (see

Only an idiot like NANF (see 10:17 AM post) would blame those who did not fall for the bribe and did the responsible thing by going to law enforcement. I know you are disappointed that they did not fall for that trap?

HillGuy
8
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HillGuy 09/10/09 - 02:16 pm
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Why didn't Grantham and

Why didn't Grantham and Brigham go to authorities if they knew about this scheme? I encourage everyone to watch the WRDW story by Chris Brown on this.. it is top notch journalism., which is hard to find in Augusta. And as usual, Granthan held secret meetings about it, yet never bothered to go to the police. And why would these two commissioners, Grantham and Brigham, be approached by Fry for a bribe to change their votes if they have always been for this TEE Center? That makes no sense whatsoever.

Little Lamb
49266
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Little Lamb 09/10/09 - 03:38 pm
0
0
Come on, Hillguy. Fry was

Come on, Hillguy. Fry was attempting to buy votes from Mason and Johnson. But he was just trying to let Grantham and Brigham in on the action in order to keep the racial balance intact.

lifelongresidient
0
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lifelongresidient 09/10/09 - 03:41 pm
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meeting w/a man who was

meeting w/a man who was accused of excluding blacks in his club?!?!?!?!...put the squeeze on him then follow the money trail and it will lead to the person/people who have the most to gain from the TEE center's construction

helpicantfindthespacebar
1
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helpicantfindthespacebar 09/10/09 - 08:26 pm
0
0
justus you must have a

justus you must have a reading comprehension problem. The serious charges are two counts of bribery. What charges were you looking for?

HillGuy
8
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HillGuy 09/10/09 - 11:51 pm
0
0
Do not expect any indepth

Do not expect any indepth reporting on this story from the Chronicle. Their publisher has a vested interest in seeing this TEE Center built. Did you see the ludicrous editorial they ran.. that.. why should we let a little ole bribery scandal derail the TEE Center?? So the spinning begins. If you want hard hitting indepth reporting on this story, I suggest you tune into WRDW.. they seem to be the only ones asking the tough questions. And the Chronicle wonders why their circulation numbers continue to evaporate.. perhaps because they have lost what little credibility they had with the public to report the WHOLE story, and not just the side they want you to hear.

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