The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to move forward on another recommendation issued by a grand jury on a failed business venture.
The commissioners approved sending out a request for proposals to submit to five firms to perform an audit on the Resource Recovery Development Authority's deal to back bonds up to $18 million to relocate Cherokee Recycling, later renamed Ball Ground Recycling, to land near Ball Ground. County Commissioner Jason Nelms was not present.
County Manager Jerry Cooper said the RFP was drafted with the input of Cherokee County District Attorney Garry Moss, a member of the grand jury who has experience in the issue and others. Two of the firms were recommended by Moss as they've done work for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the recent past. The other three, Cooper added, were selected for being the top firms in the Atlanta area.
The forensic audit was one of 13 recommendations issued by a grand jury for the county to undertake in an effort to recoup money lost in the deal.
Two speakers, Bill McNiff of Nelson and Carolyn Cosby of Ball Ground, spoke during public comment portion of the meeting and criticized the county for performing the task of finding a forensic auditor.
Both residents are members of the Canton Tea Party Patriots, and the organization has been highly critical of the Ball Ground Recycling deal. The organization, which Cosby serves as chair, initially encouraged and welcomed Moss and the grand jury's investigation into the matter.
However, McNiff implored the county to stop spending money to investigate the mater and ordered the county to turn over the investigation to Moss. Cosby went one step further and called for an outside investigation.
"The relationship between the DA and board of commissioners is now too close," Cosby stated, adding that alleged closeness makes an outside investigation "more of a necessity."
However, county leaders have stated in the past that the grand jury and the GBI would not conduct an investigation without a forensic audit.
Cooper added the audit will stretch back to Jan. 1, 2006, and will review every action taken in relation to the deal through Sept. 30 of this year.
“It’s very detailed (and) comprehensive in what we are looking for," he said.
The RFP will be posted today on the county's website and Cooper said sealed proposals should be returned to the county by Oct. 26.
The commission in 2006 created the Resource Recovery Development Authority, composed of the five commissioners, and backed up to $18 million in bonds, which were used to relocate the former Cherokee Recycling to land along Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground.
The agreement stipulated Bobo was to make payments of the bond into an escrow account, but the county learned last year Bobo hadn't been making the payments. That forced the county to pick up the tab, which it will still be responsible for if it does not find a new operator for the site.
Ball Ground Recycling in late May filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the company was subsequently forced to remove itself from the property. The county, along with the RRDA, have been in bankruptcy court trying to remove the automatic stay imposed by the bankruptcy filing.
The Cherokee County grand jury in June decided to launch an investigation into the deal and earlier this month issued 13 recommendations for the county in the aftermath of the deal gone sour.
The most notable recommendations include calling for a forensic audit into the financial dealings of Ball Ground Recycling; replacing the members of the Resource Recovery Development Authority with non-elected officials; placing on the ballot any future partnership between the county and private entity which would call for issuing bonds; and for the county to exhaust all avenues to recoup money owed to taxpayers in the failed business.
It also recommended the county look into recovering the cost of removing debris from the Blalock Road site.
The grand jury late last month also voted to “investigate and further inquire into the Resource Recovery Development Authority of Cherokee County, its books, sites, and property in order to clarify the details that led up to the County having to assume the re-payment of the bonds that funded Ball Ground Recycling, LLC.”
The commission last month passed a resolution commending the grand jury for its recommendations and started the process to replace two members on the RRDA.