Infighting takes over arena board's agenda

Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority member Richard Isdell pretty much summed up the situation on the authority last week when he said, "We're clearly at war, it seems like."

That was Thursday after auditors from Baird & Co. showed up at the arena offices to begin auditing financial records of Centerplate, the facility's caterer. The authority had authorized the audit a couple of months before because of missing money, but the auditors had never gotten around to starting.

Remember, this was two days after a board faction we will call the "Firesome Four" abruptly gave CPA Harry Dolynuik and attorney Ed Enoch the boot in what was clearly a coup that left authority Chairman "Harrisburg" Harry Moore speechless, but only for a few hours.

So when civic center Manager Robert "Flash" Gordon saw the auditors there, he starts making phone calls. Soon, Willie "I'm Running" Law and Keith "Which Way Is Home?" Brown rushed over and were in the office when Mr. Gordon was on the phone with Mr. Moore.

I guess it was a conference call because Mr. Law told Mr. Moore he was going to tell the auditors to leave. Mr. Moore told Mr. Law that he was not the chairman and that if he told them to leave, he'd "call the law."

Things went from bad to worse, with Mr. Brown and Mr. Law accusing Mr. Moore and Mr. Isdell of trying to do away with the authority.

Finally, Mr. Moore lost his temper and said that if he had to come down there, he'd be the only one walking out the door.

"That's the Harrisburg in me," Mr. Moore said. "You step on my toes, and I'm going to fight back."

After awhile, everybody cooled down a little, and Mr. Moore told the auditor to leave and come back later. Mr. Brown said the auditors showing up Thursday "could be a coincidence, but it's ironic they came today when it's something we discussed three months before."

TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE: What's really ironic is that Mr. Gordon was under the gun for his management of the facility, and the board goes into a closed meeting Tuesday to discuss his performance contract and ends up firing Mr. Dolynuik and Mr. Enoch.

Though several board members had expressed dissatisfaction with Mr. Dolynuik and blamed him when the previous finance officer didn't file federal payroll taxes for months, causing the IRS to fine them more than $30,000, I'd never heard a peep about Mr. Enoch's service.

During that same meeting, authority members learned that Mr. Gordon and Finance Director Margaret Ellis have outsourced the payroll duties. Maybe that would be cheaper than getting in trouble with the IRS. But if she's not doing the payroll, I wonder what she is doing to earn that $55,000 a year they're paying her. There can't be that many bills to pay.

TAKE THIS, SANTA CLAUS! Tuesday's firings came after state Sen. Ed Tarver and Rep. Hardie Davis had left a meeting with authority members to get their opinions of how the board is functioning and whether it should be changed or abolished. (Like they're going to do something.) Many said the real problem is all the negative media attention they get. Others hinted of "outside influences" causing all the trouble.

No sooner had the lawmakers left than the Firesome Four started in on Mr. Moore about his Christmas party. They said he did it unilaterally and without a vote. Then they went into a closed meeting, and when Mr. Dolynuik and Mr. Enoch emerged from it, they were no longer employed. Not there, anyway.

After he recovered later that day, Mr. Moore said he'd ask the legislators to abolish the authority.

The personnel committee refused to reconsider the firings Friday and moved to hire an interim lawyer and CPA (they wouldn't say who) and advertise for permanent ones. They want to make a deal to rescind Mr. Enoch's firing if they can get Mr. Dolynuik's to stick.

Mr. Moore said someone will make a motion to rescind the firings at the full board meeting later this month. Let's see who doesn't show up.

JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE PARANOID DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE NOT OUT TO GET YOU: Mr. Brown said no one should be surprised about the firings, especially Mr. Dolynuik's, because he'd made motions to fire the CPA two months before. Furthermore, he said, it's not that the board or management isn't doing a good job.

"It's about the hotel-motel tax money and the baseball stadium," he said. "That's what this whole thing is about."

The Coliseum Authority bond debt that the hotel-motel and beer tax pays will be paid off in February 2010, and the money could be diverted somewhere else, Mr. Brown said.

"And if a baseball stadium is built, by law the authority would run it, and some people don't want that," he said.

"The plan to get rid of the authority is being orchestrated so far in advance, so it won't look like that," he said. "That's why it's a big push right now."

NOBODY'S PERFECT, EXCEPT IN BRONZE: Imagine Leadership Augusta's chagrin when they sent Ted Hussey over to an Augusta Commission committee last week with a proposal to let them put a plaque honoring former Augusta Mayor Charles DeVaney on the Riverwalk, and the committee sent him back with a message to honor former Mayor Ed McIntyre in the same fashion, and then they might consider it.

Commissioner J.R. Hatney objected to the word "vision" on the proposed plaque. He said the Riverwalk wasn't Mr. DeVaney's vision. That, he said, belonged to another mayor (Mr. McIntyre). Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard said she wants Mr. DeVaney's record as mayor researched and aired before a plaque is approved.

Although Mr. DeVaney was charming, educated and helpful, he got away with murder, Mrs. Beard said. He misused airport funds to operate the city on, and if the city and county hadn't consolidated, the city would have gone bankrupt, she said.

Well, Mr. McIntyre's record won't pass muster, either. He went to prison.

HIS MOUTH WROTE A CHECK HIS BUTT CAN'T CASH: You'd think any fool would know it's a bad idea to send out a news release accusing a judge of not only unethical behavior but probably criminal as well, especially when you're going to be back in front of him one day.

But maybe radio talk show host Brian L. "Ryan B" Doyle didn't know that Judge Duncan D. Wheale was between him and an appeal of the $6.35 million slander judgment won by Sheriff Ronnie Strength .

The sheriff sued in Richmond County Superior Court in March after Mr. Doyle called him a murderer on a radio station. On Thursday, there Mr. Doyle was before the judge, asking him to set the judgment aside. When it was over, Mr. Doyle should have been thankful the judge couldn't double the judgment.

Judge Wheale pounced on him, demanding to know why he'd sent out a news release accusing him of meeting privately with the sheriff and his attorney before the last court proceeding. How could he say the hurtful things he has with no regards to the truth?

Mr. Doyle was accusing him of being a crooked judge, accusing the sheriff of killing a man in cold blood, ruining people's reputations without a thought of the harm, Judge Wheale said.

Shameful.

City Ink thanks Staff Writer Sandy Hodson for her contribution to this week's column.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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