CANTON — The Newnan-based firm conducting a forensic audit into Cherokee County’s costly dealings with Ball Ground Recycling missed the deadline Thursday to turn over its findings to District Attorney Shannon Wallace.
In August, the Cherokee Board of Commissioners set the formal deadline for the financial probe’s completion as Sept. 12, but Rhonda McClendon, owner of McClendon and Associates, which is performing the audit, said Thursday morning the results of the investigation were not yet ready to be turned in. McClendon said she now expects the audit to be complete and presented to the District Attorney’s office Sept. 20.
Wallace said Thursday she had been notified of the new delivery date for the report, but said it is still too soon to tell if the delay will be significant to her investigation.
“Until we are in receipt of the audit, we won’t be able to assess the potential impact of the delays in the preparation,” she said. “We are ready to begin this process and eagerly await submission of the report.”
Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens said Thursday he did not expect the delay to be significant to the investigation.
“We certainly had hoped it would be (here) today, but it’s not,” Ahrens said. “I don’t think it has any effect, except to have a more complete report. There’s a good chance that it’ll be more thorough than not.”
McClendon said there are “various reasons” for the missed deadline Thursday.
Part of the cause for the delay, McClendon said, was difficulty she experienced in convincing some hesitant witnesses to be interviewed for the audit.
“I don’t carry a badge or a gun, and I can’t compel them to be interviewed,” she said. “There’s some issues with some people who have just (recently) decided to talk to me.”
McClendon said the volume of documents involved in the audit has also slowed the process of investigating the deal between Cherokee County and Ball Ground Recycling, which since Bobo filed for bankruptcy last year has left the county on the hook for $100,000 in monthly lease payments.
“It’s a substantial report,” she said. “The project covered so many transactions, so many years.”
Ahrens also said there is much work to be done in the audit.
“It’s very, very broad in scope and very detailed information,” he said.
Communicating with all the lawyers of the parties connected to the 2006 deal to guarantee the debt on the $18 million in bonds to relocate Bobo’s facility has also been time-consuming, McClendon said, as has working around the “protective order” in place for documents from Bank of North Georgia, where Bobo once banked.
Wallace said once she receives McClendon’s report, “forensics experts from law enforcement and I will review it to determine whether the audit shows evidence of criminal activity.”
Commissioner Brian Poole, who has been vocal about his questions regarding the Bobo situation, said Thursday that whether McClendon’s report comes in a week late or not, he hoped it would provide answers.
“We’ve got to use this report to find out who’s accountable for this whole Bobo mess we’ve got ourselves into,” he said. “I’ll just be thrilled to know it’s in (Wallace’s) hands.”
Once the District Attorney receives the report, Poole said the case should be “priority No. 1” for investigation.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m chomping at the bit to hear what happened with all the money.”