The commissioners voted 5-0 at their regular meeting to advise County Manager Jerry Cooper to submit a request for quotation for publication, in order to find a forensic auditor to investigate the deal, including finding documents and information that the county says it has yet to obtain from company owner Jimmy Bobo.
Cooper told the commission that he could have a RFQ ready by the middle of next week.
Commissioners during the work session that took place before the meeting said it was important to assure the public that they would not be heavily involved in the selection of the auditor, given the frustrations of some over the county’s issuance of $18.2 million in revenue bonds for the development of Ball Ground Recycling, which Bobo has failed to repay.
County attorney Angela Davis said the audit is the commission’s effort to embrace a previous grand jury’s recommendations, which included a request for a “full and complete forensic audit be conducted to review all financial operations associated with Ball Ground Recycling and the Board of Commissioners (Resource Recovery Development Authority) concerning the issuance of bonds for the building and operation of Ball Ground Recycling.”
Members of the commission were scheduled on Wednesday to attend Bobo’s deposition in his ongoing bankruptcy case. They also met with members of a recently empanelled grand jury on Tuesday.
“The records that we believe are missing are still not produced in that bankruptcy proceeding,” said Davis.
“They were not included in the 10,000 plus documents that were produced, to my understanding. But there are other avenues that we’re pursuing in the bankruptcy process to get those. I think the board today became quite reconciled with the concept of going ahead and pursuing a forensic audit with the concept of supplementing with the addition of records, as they hopefully become available to us through this judicial process.”
Commissioner Harry Johnston said finding the right auditing firm could cost the county upwards of $20,000 to delve into the finances of Bobo, his recycling company and other affiliates, and piece missing parts together.
“There’s still the possibility that we reach a point and things have to stop after identifying what those barricades are and then bring that person in,” he said. “So $20,000 is probably way on the low end of what this is going to cost.”
The commission had been preparing to move forward on another grand jury recommendation that called for law enforcement agencies to determine whether any criminal or civil laws were broken.
The commission agreed and suggested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation get involved in a resolution unanimously passed on Sept. 18.
However, Chairman Buzz Ahrens said Tuesday that Cherokee District Attorney Garry Moss advised the commission to hold off on sending a formal letter to the GBI before more information was gathered.
“That’s intended to be supportive and positive,” said Ahrens.
Moss said following the commission meeting, which he attended, that his concern is that the county needs to gather the facts first in order to give the GBI something to investigate. Doing otherwise would be putting the cart before the horse, he said.
“An audit is necessary first,” he said. “It’s the foundation, the building block for the rest of it.”
In August, a grand jury recommended 13 actions, including a full audit of the financial operations associated with Ball Ground Recycling.
But a newly impaneled grand jury — which is serving the September term of the Cherokee Superior Court — last Tuesday called for a second investigation of the controversial business agreement between the county and Ball Ground Recycling, which involves a bankruptcy and $18 million of debt that the taxpayers now owe.