During a joint meeting of the Board of Commissioners and the Cherokee Resource Recovery Development Authority on Tuesday night, County Attorney Angie Davis said her office received records from the Bank of North Georgia and the closing attorney last Friday.
But county residents eager to find out what truth about the controversial deal could potentially be gleaned from the documents will have to wait even longer to get a look, as Cherokee County must comply with a confidentiality agreement approved by a judge, Davis said.
Davis said the documents were received through a request made by Cherokee County as part of a lawsuit it filed against Jimmy Bobo, David Bobo, their associated companies, and Sheffer and Grant Architects, after Jimmy Bobo filed bankruptcy in 2012 and the county was left holding the bill for $100,000 a month in lease payments on the property.
Davis said she has not yet had enough time to review the records.
“I’m still in the process of trying to see what’s there,” she said. “It’s hundreds and hundreds of pages. There’s things we did find missing that we’ve already sought follow up of. Once we get through (the documents), that should be helpful, because those are records we’ve never had access to.”
Commissioner Harry Johnston said he looked forward to viewing the documents. Johnston was on the Board of Commissioners when the RRDA was created to guarantee debt on $18 million in bonds to relocate Ball Ground Recycling to its final location on Highway 5 in 2006.
“The thing that I’ve been most anxious to get from one or both of these parties is (something) to unlock the mystery of how it appeared that we paid for property we did not actually receive the title to,” Johnston said. “I’m hoping the answer to that mystery lies in these documents. I know many members of the public are also very interested in the answer to that same question.”
Commissioner Brian Poole questioned why Bank of North Georgia and the closing attorney requested confidentiality.
“It’s kind of strange that you would get a request from their side saying, ‘OK, we’ll give this to you, but it’s confidential,’” Poole said. “This is a lawsuit.”
Davis said the confidentially agreement was likely because the information was not being handed over by the Bobos. The county can, however, contest whether or not confidentially is necessary, she said.
“Remember it’s coming from the bank and from a lawyer who didn’t represent us,” Davis said. “Because of that separation, they’re concerned about private confidential data and attorney-client privilege. We can always argue that, look, this really isn’t confidential.”
Within the suit filed Nov. 13, 2012, Cherokee County and the RRDA accuse the Bobos and their related companies of breach of contract, fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, giving the RRDA false information and benefiting at the county’s expense.
Commissioners have said the county was pursuing the suit to regain some of the money lost to the monthly payments it must make until an operator for the now-vacant facility is found.
Commissioner Chairman Buzz Ahrens said during the meeting Tuesday that the county has several potential operators looking at the property.
Cherokee County learned last year that Bobo stopped making payments on the property. According to the lawsuit, Bobo stopped making lease payments in January 2011. He was forced to vacate the property in July.
According to the lawsuit, Cherokee County will incur damages in excess of $1.2 million per year until 2037 as a result of the breach of the lease.
Davis said the lawsuit is still in its discovery stage and is “slowly ongoing.”
Typically, Davis said the discovery phase, which allows each side to request information from the other parties, lasts about six months, but that might not be true in this case.
“I think likely we will extend discovery in this case, because there is just so much to do, so many documents, so many parties, primarily, so many Bobo-related entities that we have to seek information from,” she said.
As part of the probe into the RRDA-Ball Ground Recycling deal, the Board of Commissioners has hired on Newnan-based accounting firm McClendon and Associates to perform a forensic audit in the agreement. The audit was requested by a grand jury investigating the deal. The board recently agreed to more than triple the price cap on the audit from the original $75,000 to $269,000, with another $25,000 to $50,000 tacked on for legal counsel for McClendon and Associates.
Ahrens said Tuesday night that the audit is ongoing.
He also said the RRDA, which was originally composed of the five commissioners, will soon be made up of only non-elected officials. This was set to be accomplished by July 1, but Ahrens said there has been difficulty in finding willing members. Ahrens and Johnston are the remaining commissioners on the RRDA.