City wants taxpayer funds recovered - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City wants taxpayer funds recovered

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany city commissioners want the Inner City Authority to recover any money that was inappropriately or illegally spent by former CEO Don Buie. He was fired after an internal audit uncovered checks to Buie's wife and a girlfriend.  But there are also questions about facade grants and contracts he approved that board members never voted on.

The first issue on the agenda for Wednesday's ADICA meeting is to formally dismiss Don Buie as ADICA's director, though he was fired from the city last week. Then comes the appointment of James Taylor as the interim Director, who hopes to put much stronger regulations in place regarding how any ADICA money is spent.

Although ADICA doesn't really have any money of its own, it has spent quite a bit of the city's money recently, and how that money was spent is now in question.

"I think the average business people and the average residents out there are saying, 'if somebody ran off with money or gave away money that shouldn't have been given away, we need to go get it, we need to reclaim it.'" said Albany city commissioner Roger Marietta. 

That's why he made a motion to send a letter to the ADICA board asking them to do just that. "If a grant was given without the vote of the board, which I think deems might not be legal, what about something that might be legal, but not ethical, I think in either case, we have the full right to go after that money."

Assistant City Manager James Taylor, who will take over leadership of the organization tomorrow, says that's one of his goals. "That is our intent, to recover all monies that we can."

And cancel any contracts that aren't set in stone. It's possible that no contracts are, even the one ADICA has with the county to lease this building, according to ADICA's own attorney.  Taylor said, "He has some concerns as to whether or not any of these contracts have validity and are binding because they were not approved, the authorization was never given to the ADICA Director, CEO or the Downtown Manager, to do these things."

While the contracts are being researched, spending for the organization will come to a stop. Only expenses approved by both the ADICA board and the city commission will be paid. And the $6 Million bond issue will continue to be pursued, but none of that money will be spent without full disclosure of projects.  Taylor said, "Specific details what it's going to be used for, what the intent is, what the benefits of doing the project are. It's going to have to be a complete package before the city commission or ADICA board will approve them."

Of course one façade grant the board must consider having repaid, is one received by board member L'Juana Woods, whose restaurant is outside of the district where those grants are allowed. She received a check for $50,000. The ADICA board will also research past records to determine whether ADICA had any by-laws and policies relating to its governance.

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