Wednesday, July 13, 2011

13 JUL 11: Mr. Don't Know It All

The people who insist Columbus has deep-down hidden secrets finally may have been proven right Tuesday. The mayor declared one city department had a well-concealed "conspiracy" for 15 years. And it has nothing to do with how Country's Barbecue prepares its meat.

Columbus Council received the final audit report on the Parks and Recreation Department. It shows $200,000 was diverted into a separate bank account over 15 years. How sneaky to start such a basketball project while Columbus was distracted by 1996 Olympic softball.

Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson noted the "Rec-Gate" scandal occurred during the span of "two city managers, nearly four mayors...." Now hold on - nearly four?! Does this mean the current mayor escaped it? Or is this a subtle slap at Bobby Peters's height?

It was the current City Manager who was under the microscope, as the final audit was released. Isaiah Hugley addressed Columbus Council on how he "oversaw" the Parks and Recreation Department. Of course, his career could be over if he saw illegal actions unfold.

Isaiah Hugley apparently made no apologies for his work -- saying Parks and Recreation employees found clever ways to work around the city financial system. Let's face it: some people carry gym bags which seem far larger than necessary....

The City Manager told Columbus Council he takes full responsibility for not noticing the diversion of Parks Department money. But he added: "I don't believe that management oversight extends to criminal behavior." In other words, Isaiah Hugley would have fit perfectly on the Casey Anthony jury.

Isaiah Hugley admitted some people considered him too buddy-buddy with former Parks Director Tony Adams. But the City Manager claimed his early backing of Adams was NOT due to friendship - it was due to the continuing police investigation. Hugley clearly does NOT listen to AM talk radio.

The City Manager denied any knowledge of the exclusive Georgia Blazers shoe contract with Nike. He also denied any knowledge that Blazers basketball players were recruited from outside Columbus. But that's understandable - as I think I've seen a better public relations campaign by the Columbus Lady Wings.

Columbus Council listened quietly to Isaiah Hugley's explanation, not asking any questions. They didn't have to ask any, of course - since there will be plenty of time to do that in a loud voice at a future executive session.

But Councilor Judy Thomas told the City Manager as far as she's concerned, the Parks Department audit discussion is not "over and done with." It's nice to see at least one Councilor still speaks in classic Southern, so most residents can understand.

Mayor Tomlinson said Tuesday of the top appointed city officials: "At this point.... I have faith in our entire team." The key words in that sentence seem to be the first three. If police find prime tickets to Columbus Civic Center events happened to land at Carolyn Hugley's insurance office door, things could change.

The take-home lesson of Tuesday's Council meeting may be that we shouldn't expect public officials to know every little thing every city worker does. In fact, they may not know some of the big things. After all, how many local Dads made perfect predictions of their Father's Day gifts last month?

-> Our other blog is asking a question based on the World Series of Poker Main Event. Read and comment at "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: Now for the latest potentially big scandal. The Opelika-Auburn News confirmed Tuesday night Angelia Curran has resigned from the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department board. That's in addition to her resignation as Deputy Fire Chief, which we noted Tuesday. But Curran still could raise money for her defense lawyers by selling fire extinguishers door-to-door.

Friendship Fire Board Chair Felton Adkinson also confirmed Angelia Curran's father/Fire Chief is a board member. Is that really outlandish -since corporations such as TSYS have Chief Executive Officers on their Boards of Directors? Of course, the corporate board meetings probably don't ask every member to bring snacks.

We received one e-mail Tuesday, which will require a great deal of research before we can answer it. That could take a while - but here are other things we can mention quickly:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported the city Charter Review Commission is considering a proposal to add two at-large members to Columbus Council. What led to this idea? Is it a plot to divide Council into two divisions, like Southeastern Conference football? Or is the idea to make Columbus more "Bible belt" -- with 12 Councilors to match the number of apostles?

+ Fort Benning invited reporters to watch soldiers train in Gunnery Division tanks. Trouble is, WLTZ misspelled it on the air as the "Gubbery Division." If Benning winds up expanding into Stewart County, the Goobery Division might be more appropriate.

+ Columbus Police reported someone stole a dump truck from Flat Rock Sand and Gravel. It was found at a Griffin junkyard, because the business owner tracked the truck's every move through GPS data recordings. That's impressive - but you'd think he would have paid a little extra for hidden webcams on the dashboard.

+ An Atlanta Police report claimed when Pittsburgh Steeler receiver Hines Ward was arrested last weekend on drunk driving charges, he was unable to recite the alphabet. If only Ward had put an Atlanta schoolteacher in the passenger's seat, to help change his answers....

(To be fair, this could be a case of police entrapment. Did the arresting officer say "D-U-I" several times, before asking Ward to recite A-B-C's?)

+ Instant Message to WTVM's Cheryl Renee: I don't blame you for being unable to speak for several minutes during Tuesday's 5:30 p.m. news. If I wanted to hear talk about women cutting off (ahem) secret parts of guys, I would have changed the channel to "Two-and-a-Half Men."

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