HomeOpinionJohn ClarkeColumn: Augusta government continues to be 'dysfunction junction'

Column: Augusta government continues to be ‘dysfunction junction’



"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen," wrote George Orwell in his novel 1984.

That was surely what must have been happening in Augusta's commission chambers Tuesday April 18, 2023. The commissioners approved a multi-months long, hotly debated ambulance contra...

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  1. Today Governor Kemp is scheduled to be in Augusta to sign the NEWTON-BURNS SALES TAX bill which will allow a vote on a sales tax increase in Richmond County for the purpose of tearing down the existing Civic Center and building a new Civic Center at a cost of approximately Two Hundred Fifty Million ($250,000,000.00) Dollars .
    According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution the 2023 state legislature approved funding the renovation of the SAVANNAH CIVIC CENTER in the amount of TWO HUNDRED FIFTY MILLION ($250,000,000.00) DOLLARS ..
    Does Augusta need new state legislators ?

    • We already voted NO on this. More money spent to put it on a ballot to vote again. Brad Usry, coliseum authority vice chairman took it to the State to push again, even after our Vote of NO. We have many priorities that need to be done before investing into another failing coliseum. We have since voting NO are moving forward on The Bell.

      • We voted NO on raising property taxes to pay for a new Civic Center. This is voting on a sales tax increase. At least everyone who makes a purchase in this town, including visitors, Masters guests, etc. get to help. Also people who already pay NO property taxes, contribute.

  2. Giving the Richmond County Commission more money to waste and mismanage is lunacy. I have never seen such a low confidence feeling as I see presently. What does it take to get the commission back to functional status? I hope that giving the mayor a vote will make it possible to get some positive action. Their fear of audits of departments or overall is disturbing. It is actually suspicious. They don’t even have the awareness to recognize how this ambulance service debacle makes them look.

  3. Taken DIRECTLY from the article written by you, John Clarke, “Commissioners Francine Scott, Stacy Pulliam and Tony Stewart played their assigned parts as well.” Question, who in the HECK is “COMMISSIONER” Tony Stewart? Man if you are going to attack people, at least know whom you are attacking.

  4. We already voted NO on this. More money spent to put it on a ballot to vote again. Brad Usry, coliseum authority vice chairman took it to the State to push again, even after our Vote of NO. We have many priorities that need to be done before investing into another failing coliseum. We have since voting NO are moving forward on The Bell.

  5. The constant rejection of meaningful audits by some is definitely a red flag. Let’s hope the mayor is able to get a vote and uses it to turn on the lights. Many of us suspect that there will be a dramatic “scurrying of roaches” when that happens.

  6. Other than having it their way, exactly what do the obstructionist commissioners want for ARC? Nothing they do seems to better the quality of life for their constituents. When I drive by, I have yet to see anyone on “The Freedom Bridge.” The money thrown at that project and the subsequent plaque removal lawsuit would have paid for s forensic audit of the entire ARC government, including the commissioners’ personal finances.

  7. No authorization for any type of audit will come from within the Commission. The audit, when it happens, will have to be authorized by either the State or Federal Government. The ‘audit’ conducted each year does not cover Departmental operations or expenditures. If it did I thing the ACA reports which were not completed and are now costing the City at a minium $2+ Million shold have been caught. Hiring an outside Law Firm to negotiate with the IRS may help but at what cost. If some Commissioners keep saying there is nothing wrong with the operations that would be cause for an audit – then wihat about Keep Augusta Beautiful. No where in the past audits has KAB been mensioned. Start there,

  8. Another excellent weekly episode. At the last Commission Meeting, when the Audit motion was made, I was reminded that “Auditors only audit what they are provided”. Very wise words. Given the “surprises” that have popped up over the recent years, maybe that is the key — only provide the “clean” information, so you get a “clean” annual audit. Somehow, the first IRS bill for not providing the required documentation, should’ve shown up in the Financial records somewhere. Now, there are five such bills. Each year, ARC has received a clean annual audit. Hmmm. I do not have time to worry about the fact that John Clarke used to be a Commissioner — I’m too busy still trying to find “The Bag Man”…

  9. This is what a new 9500 seat arena cost to build in Savannah. Augusta wanted to build a new one with about 1000 more seats for well above two million dollars. The new arena was financed with splost funds. I’ve attended a concert there, it’s first class.

    Along with the hard construction costs, for which the city approved $147.5 million, the $165 million also includes architectural work, engineering and project management. The city also approved an additional $13.2 million for a 400-space parking garage.

    While the city was not involved in the naming rights partnership, they will receive $5 million from Oak View Group. Those funds will be put back into the arena, Johnson said.

    • I dug up the cost of the old arena proposal.

      Plans soon began to be developed for a new James Brown Arena to be constructed on the current site before plans were revealed in early 2021 for a new arena. The new arena plans call for a 10,000 seat capacity featuring meeting rooms, twelve suites, and a new connector between the Bell Auditorium and the James Brown Arena all with an estimated cost of $228 million for construction.[7]

      I believe if the citizens want a new arena, it should be payed for with Splost funds and relocated outside of downtown Augusta. There’s too little parking and the threat of crime is high.

      • Splost money was supposed to be temporary, now ongoing. Sales tax is too high. I would bet more property owners residents pay the majority of the sales tax than visitors. Splost revenue has many other priorities now it should be used for (i.e. cleaning and maintaining our city, police and fire protection, ambulance service). I hope one day we will be known as “The Garden City” again. along with being (if not one of) the safest and cleanest cities in Georgia and the USA. That’s what attracts reasonable-hardworking people and wants them to make “Augusta” their home and visit.

    • Excellent point .
      Prior to consolidation Richmond County had an INTERNAL AUDITOR (not an Independent Auditor), David Rollins . The Internal Auditor could be sent by a majority of the Commission or by its Chairman (now its Mayor) to audit a department or etc. That would work while Garnett Johnson is Mayor , but we live in fear of his successor. And how do we hire a competent INTERNAL AUDITOR with this Commission making the selection .

  10. Just the fact that the city may be on the hook for 10 million in back taxes and fines should be enough to warrant an audit..and how nobody has looked at what Davis did with the finances of the mayors office is beyond me..Augusta definitely puts the FUN in dysfunctional!

    • You would think, but it appears not. Seriously however, SOMEONE needs to be held accountable for the now FIVE fines being levied by the IRS ! I was extremely disappointed with the discussion about the “Audit Motion” at the Commission Meeting, when the words “going or moving FORWARD”. That means that the audit would not look at the IRS mess, OR former Mayor Davis’ shenanigans. The IRS garbage is five years old. It is almost old enough to have a full set of teeth !

  11. Prior to consolidation we had a financially sound and well managed Richmond County government and a City of Augusta government that was just the opposite. So naturally the legislative delegation drafted a plan doing away with the county government and thereby creating the host of problems we still face 27 years later. It serves the people who created it, so why should they move to correct its flaws. The public referendum to give the mayor a vote will fail for the same reason.

  12. As a use be commissioner, ARC has an annual audit by a CPA firm. ARC has a different CPA firm that serve as its internal auditor. So, people want to hire a third CPA firm to do a Forensic audit for all departments. John Clark held precious six do a forensic audit of Mayor Hardie Davis’s office, and he voted no. Because the motion did not include all department. If Mr. Clarke really wanted a forensic audit why did not vote for an audit for the Mayor office when it would have pasted with his vote. Pople keeps calling for audits like the government is not being audited. Yes, outside agencies like Keep Augusta Beautiful are not in the county Audit.

    The Augusta Commission only appoints members to the Coliseum Authority. Authority means it answers to nobody. The authority will be asking for the half percent increase of sales on an upcoming ballot.

    I got a headache reading the comments and the mixing of issues in the comments.

    • Thanks Jerry. It is confusing reading all the different items of importance as they skip around. So many many things were not nipped in the bud, swept under the rug or not given analyzing thoughts, or slipped through by the administrator and commissioners. Because of this we are not operating properly, reasonably or professionally. I think we have a good leader (Mayor Johnson), he is trying hard and is a down-to-earth proven smart-hardworking-professional leader. Let’s keep him in our prayers.

    • Okay, then the CPA firm that is the “Internal Auditor” is NOT doing the job, OR they are only receiving “clean” things to audit. The Internal Auditors of my previous employer would not allow the Finance Department to pass the “smell test”. No matching receipt policy over a specific threshold amount — Nope.

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