Friday, July 20, 2012
By Al Gray
George Eskola should be proud. In the run-up to the Augusta Commission meeting this Tuesday, there was a last-minute interjection of an accounting analysis by a party in the midst of the Tee Center Parking Decks controversy. George knew about it early. His wise years of experience said take the new gambit with a grain or two of salt.
“But this comparison is coming from Paul Simon of Augusta Riverfront LLC the company that owns the Marriott not the city's attorney who worked on the deal. ”
+100 for George.
Then there was this report by Jake Wallace of Augusta Fox affiliate WFXG.
Wallace seemed impressed by Mayor Deke Copenhaver's cheap trick of having the city's external auditor from the firm of Maulden Jenkins put on the agenda to give a positive report on the annual city FINANCIAL AUDIT soon after Augusta Today activist and City Stink contributor Lori Davis' presentation in favor of a forensic audit of the Tee Center Parking Decks agreements and against approval the proposed parking deck management agreement that would have been the subject of the forensic audit. Wallace wrote -
“Mayor Deke Copenhaver agrees, saying the finance team received high praise at tonight's meeting by an auditor for the 2011 audit, is the same team who worked the finances of the TEE Center deal.
"They applauded our finance folks for doing such a great job with fiscal management," Copenhaver says. "That's the same team that put this deal together. Why would they do something different on the parking deck and the TEE Center than they did with the city finances?"
Wallace totally blew it.
A city financial audit only attests that generally accepted accounting principles have been met with respect to the city's transactions. It does not extend to the point of questioning HOW the transactions come about or whether a contract is totally stacked against the city's interests. That is the role of a forensic audit. After a flawed deck deal is executed, a financial audit will find everything to be just wonderful versus the standard of the flawed contract. A forensic audit would derive the answers of whether there are material controls deficiencies in contract administration and would seek to identify fraud in the execution and application of the management agreement.
Deke trotted out a financial auditor and Fox obliged his clever subterfuge by equating the annual city auditor's report about finances with one about a much more in-depth audit of only a couple of complex transactions.
For another thing, the city's finance team has had practically nothing to do with the deck agreements, as Augusta is using outside legal counsel, bond counsel,and even has gone to the extent of excluding the Convention and Visitor's Bureau chief, Barry White, a figure who was integral to the early Tee Center presentations to the city commission and the city executive most attuned to the contract needs to be negotiated.
Wallace did not know that, or at least, did not report it.
Fox 54 came up short and looked amateurish in rising to the bait.
We are sure that they will get better, given a few more years around Augusta politics. It truly is a world all to its own.
This writer remembers George when he was an amateur, too.***