City leaders warn of Augusta Land Bank overspending
AUGUSTA, Ga. -
CITY LEADERS JOIN THE LIST OF THOSE RAISING CONCERNS ABOUT HOW THE AUGUSTA GEORGIA LAND BANK AUTHORITY IS SPENDING TAXPAYER DOLLARS.
On Tuesday, Jan. 3 Land Bank officials came before the commission to answer questions. COMMISSIONERS SAY IN SOME RESPECTS THEIR QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN ANSWERED, IN OTHER WAYs, NOT SO MUCH. SOME SAY PRODUCE WHAT THEY’RE ASKING FOR OR PREPARE TO BE LOOKED INTO.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, Fox54 obtained dozens of pages of what Commissioner Sean FRANTOM CALLS “CRAZY EXPENSEs.” RECORDS SHOW THE AUTHORITY RACKED UP BILLS FROM THE HUNDREDS TO THE THOUSANDS, FROM TRIPS TO LOCAL SPORTS BARS TO WORK TRIPS IN DIFFERENT STATES.
FRANTOM also says he SAW WHAT HE DESCRIBES AS AN ALARMING TEXT MESSAGE EXCHANGE BETWEEN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SHAWN EDWARDs, IN WHICH NO DISCIPLINARY ACTION WAS TAKEN.
“it makes me question whether they’re even gonna have the conversation on something that if most people in corporate America if they said that, They wouldn’t have a job tomorrow," Frantom says. "So, that’s a little disappointing to hear that they haven’t had a discussion as a board yet."
SPEAKING OF WORK TRIPS. A TRIP TO TAMPA, FL. IN WHICH FRANTOM SAYS THE LAND BANK WAS “COMPETING” WITH THE DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY. “why is the land bank now in economic development, when they used to be in just transferring properties and who kinda gave that direction. The answer was the board, it was kinda vague.”
THE AUTHORITY RECEIVES $750,000 ANNUALLY FROM THE CITY’S GENERAL FUND, YET it is SUPPOSED TO BE SELF SUPPORTING FROM THE PROCEEDs it makes SELLING LAND.
ALTHOUGH, THEY DO AN AUDIT EVERY YEAR, HE SAYS THe CONVERSATION IS NOT OVER. moving forward, he believes CITY EMPLOYEES DO NOT NEED TO BE VOTING MEMBERS ON BOARDS. “REALLY THE COMMISSION HAS NO SAY IN WHAT THEY DO AND THAT WAY PRETTY EVIDENT IN WHAT THEY’RE DOING," Frantom says. "SO, ALL THAT WE CAN DO IS CHANGE OUT BOARD MEMBERS AND HAVE THAT DISCUSSION. OVERALL, I JUST WANT US TO BE BETTER. I THINK WE’RE BETTER THAN THIS, I THINK IF WE’RE SPENDING MONEY ON ALCOHOL THE WAY THEY DID. IT DOESN’T SEND THE RIGHT MESSAGE TO THE CITIZENS.”
Fox54 DID REACH OUT TO SHAWN EDWARDS AND THE LAND BANK FOR COMMENT AND has NOT HEARD BACK.
REPRESENtATIVE RICK ALLEN HAS ALSO SENT A LETTER DEMANDING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SHAWN EDWARDS TO ACCOUNT FOR THE FEDERAL FUNDS GIVEN TO THE AUTHORITY. We'll SHARE WHAT THAT LETTER REVEALED IN THE coming DAYS.
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