HomeNewsSecond ethics investigation focuses on Augusta mayor

Second ethics investigation focuses on Augusta mayor

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The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission has begun a second ethics probe involving Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. that centers on Davis’ personal campaign finance reports dating back to 2014, according to a letter sent by the Commission to Davis on Aug. 18, 2021.

According to the official complaint filed with the Commission in August, Davis is facing five counts alleging he failed to file campaign finance reports in a timely manner.

The complaint also alleges that Davis failed to file a personal finance statement for the years 2017, 2018 and 2020. Personal finance disclosures that are available on the Augusta Board of elections website appear to be duplicates of an original document.

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Davis did retroactively file personal disclosures on Aug.24, 2021 and, through his attorney Ed Tarver, filed a response to the Commission denying the allegations and asking that the investigation be dismissed.

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However, campaign finance forms filed in Davis’ name with the Richmond County Board of Elections contain some inconsistencies; the records show that over time, nearly $100,000 simply vanished from the books.

In the latest filing, the report lists a total of $258,825.87 in contributions received since Davis first qualified to run for mayor in 2014. The report claims that in 2020, the mayor’s campaign chest had only $348.39 left and does not offer a full accounting of expenditures over the past six years.

Over that same period, Davis has only accounted for $165,176 in expenditures, meaning that $93,649 remains unaccounted for.

Records show that, despite raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, in February 2015, Davis reported that his campaign was $15,000 in debt. That was shortly after Davis ran for his first mayoral term. However, the section pertaining to who or what entity loaned the money is blank except for one instance that shows Davis loaned his own campaign $2,272.50.

A payout for a little over $6,000 to First Bank of Georgia was made in 2015 and logged as a loan repayment, but the bank is never listed as an official creditor of the campaign, according to the documents.

Nearly all the campaign finance documents filed by Davis are at best incomplete, and many pages on the filing are entirely blank.

Records do show that the campaign paid $238 to Peabody Apartments, a government-owned apartment complex. The expenditure as “poll worker.”

Davis’ campaign also paid Constellation Energy for electricity and Comcast for cable but had no address listed as a campaign headquarters and showed no expenditures for rent. Davis’ campaign records contain no catalogued “in-kind” donations, meaning Davis’ campaign does not list any individual or company that allowed him to use a building or office rent free, which would be considered a donation made “in kind.”

Jim Cox, a 25-year veteran political consultant and local ad agency owner, says it’s true that campaigns, even simple municipal election campaigns, can cost breathtaking amounts of money. However, Cox maintains the accounting method for such campaigns is relatively simple and similar to basic accounting for a small business.

“It’s really easy to be transparent. It’s a simple spreadsheet. You line up contributions on one side and expenses on the other. Then do your basic addition and subtraction, and you should end up with a number that lines up with what’s left in your bank account,” Cox said.

Meanwhile, Davis is also embroiled in another controversy with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. Davis and Tonia Gibbons, who served as Davis’ community relations and engagement director in the mayor’s office, have been subpoenaed in a probe concerning “dark money” used in the 2018 campaign by The Concerned Citizens of Richmond County to influence a non-binding resolution placed on that year’s ballot over whether the proposed new James Brown Arena should be built at the former Regency Mall site.

Dark money is virtually untraceable funds used for a political purpose, according to David Barbee, a long time Republican strategist and political activist.

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The Concerned Citizens of Richmond County commissioned an ad campaign using billboards in an attempt to garner support for moving the James Brown Arena to the old Regency Mall site. The group is not registered as is required by law, according to Travis Doss, assistant director at the Richmond County Board of Elections.

Documents have emerged from the Augusta Finance Office in the form of invoices and check ledgers showing that some of the so-called dark money used to fund the ad campaign included taxpayer’s funds routed through the mayor’s office to an architectural firm based in Atlanta. The Sizemore Group provided services to the campaign including the renderings used in the billboard’s design and they were paid with taxpayer’s dollars.

Barbee was the person who first noticed the possible issues that ultimately culminated in the expanded Commission investigations.

Barbee filed a complaint with the Commission shortly after the March 2018 vote.

According to Barbee, when he saw the billboards appear on Deans Bridge Road and Gordon Highway that included professional renderings of a proposed new James Brown Arena, he knew instinctively that The Concerned Citizens of Richmond County was not a grassroots organization but rather a well-funded political action committee that was not registered with the state.

“When I saw that first billboard, I realized that I might be looking at the tip of the iceberg, and sure enough, it was,” Barbee said.

The Commission does not comment on ongoing investigations, but a representative did confirm that both probes are ongoing.

Davis has not responded to phone calls or email; however, his office requested that any further questions be submitted in writing and sent directly to the City Attorney’s Office.

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

14 COMMENTS

    • Mr. Steel , everyone knows what Mayor Hardie Davis was doing in Washington ,DC. He’s up there looking for a lifeline from the Democratic Party! The real question is , how much more information needs to come out before the FBI,GBI,And Local Law Enforcement gets involved in the apparent theft of taxpayers money.I am sure the same individuals protecting him in the Federal and State levels of Government has had some input in why nothing has been investigated by any of these agencies that should have stepped in !!! Wishing someone in the News Business would ask our state and federal law agencies, are they aware of what has been going on with our Mayor Hardie Davis and has it been brought to their attention? And has anyone filed a complaint against Mayor Hardie Davis for the misuse of taxpayers money to any of these law enforcement agencies? And the final question, Are you going to investigate?, And if not, Why not ??? !!!

  1. It is very troubling to think that he used the same underhanded campaign financing and record keeping while he was in Atlanta representing us. Whatever institution sold him a divinity degree should revoke it. He missed the “Thous shall not steal.” lectures. And Ed Tarver is his attorney? Why aren’t The New York Times and Washington Post suing to get the mayor’s federal and state tax returns?

  2. NOTE: Odie Donald, our city administrator, posted his personal editorial in the Augusta Chronicle at 10:00 A.M. on December 12, 2021. It’s a glowing interpretation of our county government’s efficiency and moral strength. He does mention that “there will be challenges and mistakes. But when we mess up, we “fess up,” and push forward to continuously improve.” He also states that our Mayor, Hardie Davis, is a “visionary leader”. I am not challenging Mr. Donald’s interpretation of his commitment to our community. We all know the history of the many micro-managed administrators who have bit the dust due to temperamental relationships with our ten elected commissioners. My question is this: Are any of our governmental officials, elected or appointed, going to stand up, swear in, and testify as to our mayor’s indiscretions?

  3. Several months ago I witnessed the mayor in a restaurant on Washington Road having a great time with constituents coming into the establishment! Some lady was with him at the booth eating everything on the table! The old mayor didn’t eat much but the lady sure did! He was just drinking and ordering other folks drinks! A true piece of S:;t!

  4. All those credit card purchases should be deemed supplemental income and subject to taxes I’m. If commissioners don’t vote for a fiscal audit now they should be recalled, stand up, hire an out of town lawyer and stand up to the constant corruption that’s not even hidden anymore. Hardee continues to thumb his nose at the citizens and state law as if he is above the law. Preacher my ass…

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