Augusta public officials did not want to talk publicly Tuesday about the audit of the city's Municipal Golf Course.
Shortly after Baird & Co. partner J.T. Cosnahan rose to present the findings of his financial audit of golf course operations, staff attorney Vanessa Flournoy said the meeting should be closed because it involved "potential litigation." So the subcommittee of commissioners investigating the city's recreation department voted to close the meeting.
The Augusta Chronicle challenged the vote on the advice of Georgia Press Association attorney David Hudson, who called the stated reason for closing the meeting "bogus" because there is no current threat or plan for litigation.
Mr. Hudson, who is also the newspapers's attorney, said commissioners didn't vote to close the meeting to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation and couldn't change the reason for closing it afterward. In addition, the excuse of an ongoing criminal investigation doesn't apply in this case because the audit report is not a record of law enforcement, a prosecutor or regulatory agency.
"Government in secrecy is not a partisan issue," Mr. Hudson said. "It is of common concern to everybody. We should not tolerate it."
Subcommittee members who voted to close the meeting were Mayor Pro Tem Marion Williams and Commissioners Calvin Holland and Jerry Brigham. Commissioner Joe Bowles did not attend.
The audit, turned over to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office last week, found two dozen irregularities in the facility's operations, ranging from violations of purchasing policies to a "substantial amount" of missing beer, according to a copy obtained by The Chronicle.
Auditors also found a lack of control over inventory, memberships, gift certificates and rain checks.
Baird & Co., the city's internal auditor, was asked to audit golf course finances in the wake of course manager Guy Reid's resignation Oct. 19.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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