Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority members say they will start a new search for a civic center manager after rejecting a contract with the company they voted to hire in March.
The board voted 8-2 on Wednesday to end negotiations with Global Spectrum, scheduled to take over civic center operations next month. The vote marks the second time this year the authority members have refused to approve a management contract after voting to hire a manager.
Only Bonnie Ruben and Fred Reed Jr. voted against authority member Joe Scott's motion to end contract negotiations and board discussions of the contract.
"This contract was constructed in such a way it's a will before the funeral of the civic center," Mr. Scott said after making the motion. "There's no guarantee that helps us at all. All the benefits and substance of this contract is geared toward Global Spectrum."
Ms. Ruben contended the vote itself could be the civic center's death knell.
"They don't want anyone to manage this facility," she said. "They want to maintain their control of this facility, only they don't know what they're doing. They're controlling it into the ground. They're sending it to its final death."
A majority agreed with Mr. Scott, though, saying the contract ensured a profit for Global Spectrum at the expense of the civic center. Ellis Albright, who seconded Mr. Scott's motion, said the contract contained no guarantees for the complex but would cost the authority $145,000 more than the company's $102,000 annual fee and $75,000 manager's salary.
Mr. Scott upbraided board attorney Ziva Bruckner for negotiating the contract.
"I'm appalled at the way the contract was constructed," he said, then asked why the authority should pay her $120 an hour to write a standard-form management contract.
Member Millard Cox said the only guarantee he could see in the contract was that Global Spectrum couldn't lose any money.
"And it would add at least $300,000 to the loss we already have," he said.
Member Mildred McDaniel said the contract called for the authority "to give away the store."
Mr. Albright and member Wayne Frazier said the authority needs to form another search committee and start over.
"I think we need to find us a young person, just graduated from school who we can train and who wants to be in this business who can help us go the way we want to go," Mr. Albright said.
After the vote, Ms. Ruben expressed outrage and said she hoped the public will be equally outraged.
"It's bizarre, contemptible, defies reason and logic," she said. "I think these people have lost their mind. I think our elected officials who have chosen the people to be on this authority need to be held accountable by the public. I think they need to be taken out and horsewhipped."
Since Manager Reggie Williams left a year ago, the facility has continued its decline through "benign neglect," she said.
"Take a look at the financial statements," she said. "They speak for themselves. Business continues to shrink. We continue to offend our tenants like Frank Lawrence and arena football. We're just moving in the wrong direction. There's no captain of this ship."
Ms. Ruben lamented the center's loss of the United Methodists of North Georgia conference because of complaints the facility was dirty and food service understaffed during last year's convention.
"We could be benefiting right now from the North Georgia Methodist conference that is being held in Athens this year instead of here," she said. "That caused us to lose over $4 million worth of economic benefit to this area. And some of the same people that voted down this contract today are responsible for what happened there."
In February, authority members rejected a contract with John T. Mazzola, a former manager of the Florence, S.C., civic center, after voting to hire him earlier.
Also Wednesday, the authority's concession committee met with Jeffrey R. Kern, the regional general manager of Aramark, the center's food-service to air complaints about the service and management. They were dissatisfied with Mr. Kern's responses to their concerns and agreed to recommend rebidding the service to the full authority next week.
"It's bizarre, contemptible, defies reason and logic. I think these people have lost their mind. I think our elected officials who have chosen the people to be on this authority need to be held accountable by the public. I think they need to be taken out and horsewhipped." - Bonnie Ruben, coliseum authority member
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.