HomeNewsPolitics & GovernmentAugusta Port Authority wants to know 'where's the money?'

Augusta Port Authority wants to know ‘where’s the money?’

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The chairman of the Augusta Port Authority Clarence Thompkins III appeared before the Augusta Commission on April 19 and requested an audit of the authority’s finances. Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. told him to be patient and “everything will get straightened out.”

Thompkins says that he has been patient for more than two years and has never gotten a straight answer on how much money is budgeted for the Augusta Port Authority, which apparently co-owns, with the city, the property located at 101 Riverwood Drive that includes the Augusta Marina and the Boathouse.

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The matter is to be discussed again at the May 3 commission meeting, but Thompkins says that despite meeting with the City Attorney’s Office and Parks and Recreation Director Maurice McDowell, he has not only been denied any financial information, but that the city has circled the wagons.

“They have been lying to me for two years, and now they won’t even get into an elevator with me when I visit the Municipal Building,” Thompkins said.

The Augusta Port Authority was created by the Georgia legislature, and most of the members are selected by the Augusta-Richmond County Commission, but Thompkins says he cannot get a straight answer from anyone as to how much money is budgeted for the authority and how much money out of that budget has been spent.

According to Thompkins, he visited with Finance Director Donna Williams who told him that records showed that the authority spent $60,000 a year to the parks and recreation department to cut the grass at the property. The records also showed $18,000 in funding was spent to support the annual Iron Man competition and Thompkins himself was paid $28,000 a year to serve as chairman of the authority.

“I have never received a paycheck for sitting on that authority, the authority never signed any agreement to pay $60,000 to cut that little strip of grass when we are supposed to have inmates to do the work, and why are we paying a huge corporation to put on an event when they make all the profit?” Thompkins said.

After initially being shown some documents, Thompkins says the finance department then changed its tune about him receiving a paycheck and said that the money was allocated to an employee they could not identify.

At that point, according to Thompkins, even the finance department began stonewalling him and claimed they did not have the records. After scheduling several meetings with the authority members and then not showing up, McDowell finally met with Thompkins and authority member Frank Carl and told them that the money did not belong to the Port Authority, it belonged to the city of Augusta and that they should stop inquiring about the matter.

An open records request for the allocated budget was sent to the Augusta Administrator’s Office and the response was that the city was not the custodian of records for the Port Authority and that the request was denied.

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However, the city’s own checking account records, which are available online, show that an active bank account for the Port Authority does exist within the Parks and Rec Department. A second open records request was made specific to the bank account and the city doubled down claiming they are not the custodian of any records pertaining to the Port Authority.

The heading on the bank account clearly reads “Augusta Port Authority.”

An examination of special-purpose local-option sales tax VI shows that $500,000 was earmarked for the Augusta Marina and Boathouse, both co-owned by the Port Authority, but the city claims not to be the custodian of those records either.

So, it appears that the SPLOST funding simply vanished, much like the funding for the Jamestown Community Center vanished which put into motion an investigation that has District 4 Commissioner Sammie Sias currently on trial in Federal Court for lying to the FBI and destroying documents.

“We never saw a dime of that SPLOST money, anytime we have needed money for repairs in the past, we have had to go and beg the city for it,” Thompkins said.

District 3 Commissioner Catherine McKnight, who sat on the Port Authority prior to being elected as a commissioner says the mayor has tried to squelch her voice as well, referring to the April 19 meeting when Davis refused to ask McDowell to stand before the commission and explain the matter and says she is not going to leave the next commission meeting without an answer to her questions.

“Why do you think I have been asking for a forensic audit all along? We need answers, and it is the same departments that keep coming up with financial irregularities. I say, enough is enough,” McKnight said.

Scott Hudson is the senior reporter for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected] 

14 COMMENTS

  1. They need time to manufactor fake invoices to show where they spent the money that has gone into some crooked Augusta commissioner’s or Mayor’s or even employee’s pockets. The tip of the iceberg has been showing for quite some time so a forensic audit is clearly needed to root out all these criminals from the Augusta Government hush-fund.

  2. EVERY PROBLEM OF CITY AUGUSTA SEEMS TO have at its core TAXPAYER MONIES: Port Authority; MAYOR DAVES; SIAS; SEVERENCE PAY TO TAX COMM; RCSO $ TO GET CAMERAS; $800K SEXUAL DESCRIMINATION PAYMENT; on and on. Why does Augusta majority citizens never express concern???

  3. Same song and dance…Parks and rec spending $250k to maintain Pendleton King and $60k to cut a small piece of grass. Wake up people. Augusta and it’s waterfront could and should be so much more.

  4. How can the GBI not be investigating the corruption that is plain as day? People, this is why you have your taxes taken out of your paycheck instead of paying them personally..they know you wouldn’t pay a dime to these thieves!! It’s time for someone to shine a light on the cockroaches running this city and pocketing the money..way past time!!

  5. This is just another story of the dishonesty we have in the city government. It is time the taxpayers of this county demand an audit of all the departments. If thousands of our money can be lost and no one being held accountable for this, how can anyone say it would cost too much money for an audit.

  6. What does it take to get the GBI to investigate, they can’t keep stonewalling. I always thought Donna Williams was a step above the corruption but I guess not. There is a reason why the commissioners won’t agree to an audit their hands have to have cookie crumbs on them . This government and the officials are throwing the corruption in our faces and laughing while they do it.

  7. When I worked for the city back in the day as the accountant for SPLOST, I could tell you to the penny where all funds were allocated, spent, and budgeted. And, I could back that up with REAL invoices. Sylvia Cooper can vouch for that.

  8. If and when they finally have the enough evidence to prosecute Hardie Davis, I hope they continue down the chain of command and prosecute his minions and anyone in the government who stood mute while knowing these crimes were ongoing.

  9. The real question is why John Clarke and a few other commissioners won’t support a forensic audit on the mayor’s office only? In the past John Clarke has called for a forensic audit for the entire city from his colleagues knowing it would not pass. It would be too expensive and take years. When John Clarke was given the chance to vote on a forensic audit for the mayors office only, he voted NO !!! To save the taxpayers millions of dollars and time, All 10 commissioners should support a forensic audit starting at the mayors office only. I’m sure the tentacles of Mayor Hardie Davis will go to other departments .All the money that is Missing lies on the backs of the 10 commissioners. Commissioners are responsible for the budget and have let Hardy Davis fleece the taxpayers .I guess those commissioners that voted no for the forensic audit for the mayors office only ,are enjoying their increased commission salary and had no problem voting in their increased travel budget . My next question to the commissioners would be, out of the 10 sitting commissioners how many of them have contacted local law enforcement, FBI ,And GBI ? I do believe that all of Augusta’a problems fall up under the RICO ACT ! Get off you butt commissioners! Support a forensic audit starting at the Mayors Office! Let it fall where it may even if it touches you.

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