Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Special Report: A Commission Deceived

Charlie Brown Placekicking with a Luciferian Administrator?
Tuesday, September 25, 2012 Augusta, GA
Lori Davis

*Editor's Note: Click on blue underlined text to see the documents referenced in this report*

Most of us came up reading and watching Charlie Brown’s cartoon adventures with his pals. The most infuriating sequence of strips were when Lucy enticed poor Charlie Brown to kick a football while she acted as holder.  At the last instant, without fail, Lucy would snatch the ball up and away, leaving poor Charlie kicking nothing and ending up on his butt. Lucy had to invent more and more ways to get Charlie Brown to participate in her charade, generally involving ever-more grand enticements, promises, and fantasies.

The Augusta Commission is Charlie Brown and Fred Russell is Richmond County’s Lucy.  By now there are 10 bruised and broken tailbones showing up in Commission Chambers. By now it hurts so bad, none of them can stand to laugh. 

Monday, the proposed contracts for the infamous TEE Center come to the Commission for consideration and approval. If they try to kick those footballs through the uprights immediately, they will find all of the incompetence, yes even deception, which Fred Russell has been up to. The damage will be that Richmond County will lose $tens of millions over time on this boondoggle, with $millions added  that were hidden in one-sided contracts that Lucy Fred “negotiated.”

Why do I write so bluntly? Is it that I think that Fred Russell intentionally misled the entire commission?
Yes and here is why.

These contracts were promised to be nearly complete THREE YEARS ago! Here are Russell’s exact words from the July 7, 2009 commission meeting. “Land acquisition is almost finalized.  The operating contract is almost finalized……I’m getting very close to giving you the final documents on all three if not the schematic  designs  the land acquisition and the operating agreements” Three years and two months later the final agreements are just coming  before the commission.

What did Fred Russell do with these agreements in all of this time? He allowed $50 million of Tee Center and Parking decks to be erected on land the city didn’t own. This was unbelievable incompetence and it may have been worse. It put the city in a difficult and now perhaps impossible negotiating position.
I submitted several Georgia Open Records Act Requests trying to get to the bottom of the Tee Center kitchen kettle of waste, including one dated July 2, 2012 and another dated August 3, 2012. A stunning string of misstatements by the administrator and irregularities surround the $1.4 million that Augusta paid for kitchen equipment.

When asked for the action of the commission that changed the PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT with Augusta Riverfront LLC, all the city could show was approval of the change order  with RW Allen LLC to purchase the equipment.

When the draft Tee Center agreements were obtained in March by Commissioner Guilfoyle, there were references to the kitchen space in the building, but not the equipment. The existing Conference Center agreements, recorded in the clerk of court office and the August 7, 2007 preliminary agreement approved by the commission, both say Riverfront LLC pays for the equipment. WHERE IS OUR MONEY?

The motion to approve purchase of the kitchen equipment presented by the Administrator stated  “There is no financial impact to the overall project cost. “ Beyond whether these costs belong to Riverfront LLC, not Augusta, which would make Fred’s claim ridiculous, there was only $700,000 in the project estimate for food service equipment, not $1.4 million.

Project contracts require the architect to review and approve all change orders, but the architect, TVS Design pointedly noted that it was cut out of its required approval of the change order, writing: “We understand that Change Order Number 01 was reviewed and executed on a process solely between the Owner and Contractor.”

The RW Allen contract requires that combined overhead and profit of the general contractor and the subcontractor on a change order not exceed a combined 22%. The pricing available to Augusta doesn’t permit verification that this maximum hasn’t been exceeded.

Commissioners need to be wary of the Russell move that now looms. These partners under the original Tee Center Deal of August 2007 are getting a $2 million annual subsidy courtesy of the Augusta taxpayer.  There is the matter of depreciation on $50 million of new buildings. There is the matter of the Augusta Convention And Visitor’s Bureau budget of millions of dollars largely dedicated to promoting their hotels. There is the $350,000 cash outlay every year from the Hotel bed/transportation tax. There is relief from property taxes. Rival hoteliers must pay these costs and get none of the benefit. All of this isn’t enough?

Summary for Commissioners
Did Fred tell you that Riverfront was obligated to pay for kitchen equipment ?  Did he tell you he was giving away $1.4 million of Augusta’s money if Riverfront didn’t pay its share?

Why did Fred tell you that the kitchen equipment did not raise the overall project costs when Riverfront was responsible and the cost was double the amount in the April estimate? (I got that included in the response to my first GORA.)

Why was the architect cut out of the approval process for the kitchen equipment change order? Did Fred tell you about that?

How can Augusta verify that it didn’t pay more than the RW Allen contract allows for the kitchen equipment when the details to do so are missing?

I note that these things are on top of Fred telling the Commission that the land under the Reynolds Street Parking deck was going to be purchased.
Why is Fred Russell bound and determined to snatch away the last pig’s skin of real value to Augusta and convey it to Riverfront LLC?  Is this why $50 million in buildings have been completed with no contracts between the partners in place?

Fred has been up to no good. He has either deceived or misled 10 commissioners throughout the Tee Center ordeal .It is a debacle for Augusta that he will leave as his legacy. Unless something changes, Augustans can spend the next decades shunning and lampooning these commissioners for letting an Administrator run amok, squandering millions of dollars.

Someday soon, accountability must return to Augusta and to America.  We citizens must force the issue!***


*Cost Recovery specialist Al Gray provided assistance with this report

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