Originally created 08/04/98

Businessman with local ties indicted in Florida



A Florida businessman courted by Columbia County commissioners in 1993 and 1994 to manage the county's $8 million solid waste program was indicted Monday by a federal grand jury in Miami.

Jeffrey C. Nolan, who conducted business in Augusta as president of Renaissance Environmental Corporation, was arrested in Nashville, Tenn., shortly after the 29-count indictment was returned.

Authorities say Mr. Nolan and a partner, James "Rick" Byrd of Landrum, S.C., operated an elaborate scheme that defrauded the government of millions of dollars involving contracts to remove debris from Hurricane Andrew.

According to the indictment, another of Mr. Nolan's companies -- PZ Construction -- used Renaissance and other firms called Benchmark and DEMCO as "shell corporations" to "fraudulently conceal their diversion of funds."

The indictment says Mr. Nolan and Mr. Byrd used federal funds paid to PZ for hurricane debris removal on "lavish personal expenditures" and diverted those funds "in order to finance their other business ventures."

Mr. Nolan and Renaissance were the center of a year-long controversy in Columbia County that lingers in the form of federal lawsuits.

Commissioners Richard Reynolds, David Titus and Diane Ford wanted to hire Renaissance to manage the county's solid waste program. Opposing the project were commissioners Pat Farr and Pete Brodie.

Before a final vote in spring 1994, County Attorney Doug Batchelor warned commissioners that Mr. Nolan's other company -- PZ Construction -- was under federal scrutiny over allegations of fraud.

Commissioner Ford withdrew her support, halting the county's efforts to hire Renaissance.

Earlier this year, a former Columbia County employee -- Elaine Matthews -- filed a lawsuit against current and former commissioners, alleging their affiliation with Renaissance violated Georgia's racketeering laws.

Mrs. Matthews says she was fired in June 1993 as a result of bribes paid by Renaissance to the other defendants during March and April of 1993, as the county negotiated with the company to operate its landfill program.

The alleged bribes, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney John M. Brown in Richmond County Superior Court, included meals, plane tickets, lodging and fishing trips.