Originally created 06/20/06

Festival needs public accountability

As co-organizer of the original James Brown Appreciation Day in 1986, I challenge Charles Walker Jr. to release all the financial records of the recent music festival.

After publicly playing the race card, Mr. Walker also should allow the news media and Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength to watch the videotape of his run-in with sheriff's deputies to see exactly what happened instead of trying to sell the tape to some national tabloid TV show.

Mr. Walker is dragging James Brown's name through the mud by turning this tribute to the legendary soul singer into a public spectacle that has divided the community.

IF MR. WALKER cared about Mr. Brown's good name, and about the future of the music festival, he would have handled the incident quietly by playing the tape for the sheriff. Instead, he chose to make inflammatory accusations while refusing to reveal all the evidence.

The deputies had every right to inquire about promised compensation and to hold organizers accountable for what was happening at all the venues. If the videotape truly revealed misconduct, it would have been played on the national network news by now.

For more than three decades, Sheriff Strength has had a reputation of honesty, including his days as a hard-working armed robbery investigator. Can the same be said about the Walker family?

ORGANIZERS OF the James Brown Music Festival owe a public accounting of all finances to the Augusta community after turning a wonderful idea into a scandal because of greed, in-fighting and apparent mismanagement.

In the wake of the lawsuit filed by the lead singer of one of the music festival bands, the only way to prove that the money was not misspent is to have a certified public accountant do a complete examination of all financial transactions, deposits and payments. I feel sure The Augusta Chronicle would be willing to pay for that examination by an impartial CPA. If every penny was spent properly, then Mr. Walker can regain some credibility and hold his head high.

Terence Dicks and I ran the 1986 James Brown Appreciation Day that attracted 5,000 people to the banks of the Savannah River, on a shoestring budget, and no admission fee was charged. All expenses were covered by advertisements in the event program.

IF MR. WALKER has nothing to hide, and if he cares about Mr. Brown's reputation, he should jump at this chance to show that all monies were properly spent, and that he wasn't the victim of a police shakedown.

Don't hide behind a claim that litigation won't allow you to reveal the financial information, because the public will understand the money troubles if organizers did not enrich themselves while tarnishing the reputation of the sheriff's department, refusing to pay bills and dragging the festival's namesake into a controversy.

If you are unwilling to open the books and play this videotape, maybe the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

(Editor's note: The writer, a former Augusta resident, has lived in Negaunee, Mich., since 1988.)


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