After a unanimous vote from commissioners Tuesday night, the final cost of the audit performed by a Newnan-based firm came in at $495,673, more than six times the original cost of $75,000.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said during the meeting “like it or not,” paying the overage over the last increase to $400,000 was the right thing to do.
“I don’t think any of us like it, but I think our best option is to pay,” Johnston said. “We don’t know what’s in the audit specifically, and that’s one of the tough things about this whole thing.”
The results of the audit were turned into Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit District Attorney Shannon Wallace on Sept. 20. Her office is now in the process of trying to determine if there was any wrongdoing in Cherokee County’s deal to guarantee debt on $18 million in bonds to relocate Bobo’s now-failed recycling business in 2006.
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens also said the request from the audit firm, McClendon and Associates, was difficult to consider, because only the district attorney’s office has seen it so far. The audit was turned over only to Wallace at her request, which commissioners agreed to follow.
“We don’t have a product that we can judge, ‘Is it worth $500,000?’” Ahrens said. “We won’t know that until there’s either further investigations or something tangible that the district attorney has decided through investigation.”
Ahrens added McClendon and Associates could have charged more.
“I’ll mention at this point that the provider of these services, Mrs. McClendon and an attorney, have essentially reduced their actual or considered billing by some $75,000,” he said.
According to the chairman, that amounted to about a 25 percent break given to the county for the total time or expenses associated with the work.
Ahrens said McClendon and Associates and their attorney had shown “good faith” to at least meet the Board of Commissioner “somewhere, not exactly in the middle.”
Johnston added at some point the county might need McClendon to testify in the pending civil lawsuit against Bobo and company.
“We really don’t want an unpaid bill hanging around our neck,” Johnston said.
Both Johnston and Ahrens said although they haven’t seen the report, they have heard it is lengthy.
“The District Attorney has been officially in charge of that,” Johnston said. “But certainly the volume of the material that we know about and the feedback we have gotten along the way suggests that it was a very thorough audit, far more thorough than I think any of us initially envisioned.”
The report is about 2,300 pages, Ahrens said.
Also during its meeting Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners:
• Voted 3-2, with Ahrens and Commissioner Brian Poole opposed, to approve a request from EAH Investments to rezone 53.44 acres at 295 Hames Road and 2235 Jamerson Road to R-15 zoning for a single-family residential subdivision, but it was approved without the developer’s requested variances;
• Unanimously approved a proposal from Strack Inc. for construction of a pipe culvert replacement on Oakmont Drive in the amount of $68,400;
• Voted unanimously to an automatic and mutual aid agreement for fire services with the county and the city of Milton;
• Voted unanimously to accept an agreement with the county and the Landon Group for asphalt surface course installation on the Woodstock Road entrance to the Centennial Lake subdivision. The Landon Group will pay the county $23,250 for the installation;
• Voted 4-0 to approve an agreement of $75,370 to relocate three Georgia Power poles, which are in conflict with the East Rope Mill Road Improvement Project. Johnston abstained from the vote because he works for a Georgia Power associated company;
• Unanimously approved a contract for completing design revisions and updates to Highway 20 and East Cherokee Drive improvement project for $49,140;
• Unanimously approved renewing a fire and emergency services agreement with the city of Waleska; and
• Unanimously approved repaying the 2013 TAN and not seek a TAN in 2014, which will reduce operating cash by $1,264,900. The cash low point will however be at an adequate amount for 2014 at about $4,235,000, according to County Manager Jerry Cooper. The move is hoped to save the county about $45,000 in interest costs in fiscal year 2014.