Wednesday, August 25, 2010

25 AUG 10: Rec-Gate Jail Bait

Tuesday might be remembered as Demolition Day in Columbus. The Northern All-Stars tore up another opponent. Wreckers began tearing down Carver High School. And police ripped into the reputation of the Parks and Recreation Director more than anyone expected....

Columbus Parks Director Tony Adams and a member of his staff were arrested on three charges relating to the "Rec-Gate" audit of their department. Adams had been suspended with pay. Now the City Manager says he'll be suspended WITHOUT pay - yet Adams's title has yet to change to Sorta-Kinda Parks Director.

The second suspect arrested Tuesday was Herman Porter, who oversees the Innovative Sports Program. To hear Police Chief Ricky Boren explain it, Porter may have been innovative in other things - such as evading taxes.

The Columbus Police Chief says Tony Adams and Herman Porter created a private bank account for handling money from Nike to the Georgia Blazers basketball program. The Chief contends the money should have gone into a city bank account instead - because for one thing, Nike might have been interested in providing outfits to bicycle patrol officers.

That private bank account for Nike money reportedly was opened in 2005 - and just happened to close in May, after the Parks and Recreation Department audit was released by the Ledger-Enquirer. Of course, that doesn't really prove anything. Tony Adams and Herman Porter simply may have realized they needed money to pay defense lawyers.

Chief Ricky Boren announced three counts against Tony Adams and Herman Porter:

+ "False writings and fraudulent documents...." You'll notice the city auditor was NOT indicted on this charge - at least not yet.

+ "Conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision." I didn't really expect this until mid-October - with anonymous political fliers left on cars in Midtown.

+ Tax evasion - which is a misdemeanor count, not a felony. After all, we're talking AAU basketball here. A scandal in the Alabama football program certainly would be a felony.

Defense attorney Stacey Jackson insisted weeks ago there was NO contract between Nike and the city of Columbus [15 Jul]. Chief Ricky Boren seemed to agree with that Tuesday, but indicated there should have been one. Isn't this amazing? Give him 100 new officers, and the police chief suddenly takes the side of big government.

Stacey Jackson told WRBL people should NOT rush to judgment about the accused Parks Department employees. For one thing, he's challenging the police chief's view that the Georgia Blazers is a Columbus city basketball team. After all, few people thought the old Riverdragons were....

Tony Adams and Herman Porter were arrested at the Public Safety Center, while Columbus Council held an executive session on the mayor's "personnel matter" at the Government Center. Shame on Jim Wetherington for this. He should know "bait and switch" stunts are unethical at stores.

The mayor defended his decision to seek a Parks Department audit, during a speech at the regular evening Council meeting. Jim Wetherington said local tax money was spent on young athletes who live outside the city. Does he really want the Georgia High School Cheerleading Championship to leave town?

But Columbus Council passed new rules Tuesday to clean up the city audit process. The auditor will have to give three days' notice to Council, the mayor and City Manager before an audit begins. Last-minute lobbying to add The Courier and the Chamber of Commerce did not succeed.

Tony Adams and Herman Porter were free on bond Tuesday night. But a guilty verdict on the two felony charges could put them in prison for as long as five years. Hmmmm - has anyone ever made a basketball version of "The Longest Yard"?

There's another amazing case of deja vu here, related to the Columbus Northern appearance in the Little League World Series. Remember what happened during the 2006 title run - when Judge Haywood Turner was arrested on the J.R. Allen Parkway? [27 Aug 06] The arrest of another city official may be the good-luck charm Coach Randy Morris has waited to see.

-> A little piece of bread crust stole the show at our Monday night poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus kept cruising at the Little League World Series Tuesday. The Northern All-Stars humbled Hamilton, Ohio 6-0 -- and if Columbus, Ohio had made the tournament, the incentive for a blowout win would have been even bigger.

Three Northern players hit home runs in the win, while Troy Gilliland pitched a six-inning complete game shutout. You'll forgive Gilliland if he ignores the high school coaches at the World Series, and looks for someone from Troy University....

Northern is one win away from the U.S. championship game, with two chances to get it. The next game is Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. ET, which is almost the same time as a big political forum at Columbus State University. The candidates for mayor should NOT assume the audience is cheering for them.

Do you know what Randy Morris does, when he's not coaching Northern in the Little League World Series? I found out Wednesday he's a distributor for Little Debbie snack cakes -- so he was used to a "Star Crunch" even before any of his players became injured.

Because of Tuesday's two big stories, our top item in the news summary seemed to be overlooked by almost everyone....

+ GPB News reported Muscogee County schools won part of Georgia's "Race to the Top" grant for select districts. If the federal money is divided equally, Muscogee County could receive $7.7 million. If it's divided by Governor Sonny Perdue, Muscogee County might have to settle for $1,000.

(To take part in Race to the Top, Muscogee County schools agreed to a merit pay system for future teachers. I was going to suggest they have incentive clauses, like pro athletes have - but then I remembered those news stories about principals kissing pigs when students read a lot.)

+ WTVM showed a new learning project for children downtown. "If I Had a Hammer" lets students build sections of houses. The recruiting for Habitat for Humanity "collegiate challenges" is starting earlier than ever.

+ ABC News revealed first-graders in Moody, Alabama schools are required to take trash bags to class. This may sound primitive - but think about it a second. There's no envy over which student has the fanciest backpack.

+ Bill Ham was reelected mayor of Auburn by a four-to-one margin. That's really no surprise - since most Alabamians can't get enough ham at breakfast and dinner.

(The turnout was light for a special City Council election in Opelika. One man told WLTZ it's because people are "tired of voting" this year. You never hear this excuse on American Idol.)

+ Supporters of electronic bingo announced plans for a Saturday march to the Alabama State Capitol. If they really support these games, the marchers should line up in groups of five rows - with five people in each row.

(Saturday happens to be the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Junior's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Would any gambling supporter dare bring up the part about checks marked "insufficient funds?")

+ WFXE-FM midday DJ Vicki James admitted to WTVM she's "very single." Maybe that's why Foxie 105 moved her away from the morning show. James lost a lot of potential dates, because she had to be in bed by 9:30 p.m.

+ Instant Message to the Columbus city "sign crew": Thanks for restoring that knocked-down Oglethorpe Bridge sign to its proper upright position along U.S. 280. Hopefully no drunk golfers will come by and remove it again.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We had planned to mention the appearances of two more mayoral candidates on WDAK's "Viewpoint" today. But because one of them has a death in the family, we are putting a "48-hour hold" on that story.)

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