City parks director and specialist arrested - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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City parks director and specialist arrested

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) –  A hidden bank account operating under the city's nose-- that is what Columbus Police say they have uncovered in the Parks and Recreation Department probe.

The bank account has been open since 2005 under the name of the Department's Director Tony Adams and Program Specialist Herman Porter, according to Chief Ricky Boren.

"Investigators located the account and did an audit on the account. We're saying today that the funds going into that account that was fraudulently bypassed by the city some $200,000 plus," Boren said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Adams, 48, and Porter, 41, turned themselves in at the Columbus Police Department Tuesday morning. They are facing two felony charges- False Writings and Fraudulent Documents and Conspiracy to Defraud the city- as well as a misdemeanor state Tax Evasion charge .

"The Tax Evasion is a misdemeanor. The Conspiracy to Defraud the City is punishable by 1-5 years. False Statements and Writings is punishable by 1-5 years. Both of those could include a fine as well," District Attorney Julia Slater explained in Tuesday's press conference.

Chief Boren also exposed a secret contract he says Tony Adams made with Nike valued at more than $100,000- an agreement Adams' legal team said never existed.

"Contents of that deals with monies that was sent to Tony Adams as well as properties or materials that was sent from Nike to Mister Adams," Boren added.

The Chief says detectives are still looking into how the money was used and if there were any attempts at a cover up.  

"This is not anything that we enjoy doing- investigating individuals that work within the city government but they're no different than anyone else. If they break the law, then we will investigate the incident and bring that conclusion forward," he said.

Chief Boren says his department's investigation is ongoing. He believes there are other people that knew about this alleged fraud and may have participated in it.

Meanwhile, Tony Adams and Herman Porter have bonded out of the Muscogee County Jail.

City Manager Isaiah Hugley says they've been suspended without pay.

Also, News Leader 9 discovered attorney Stacey Jackson will no longer represent Tony Adams. Instead, he will be represented by Shaevon Thomas, a Columbus attorney. Meanwhile, Jackson tell us he will continue to represent Herman Porter.

Adams was hired by the city in March of 1990. He was promoted to the position of parks director in 2002 and earns about $80,000 a year.  Porter joined the city in June of 1991.

The parks department employs 300 people and has a budget of $10 million. In 1998, the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department became the first of its kind in the state to become nationally accredited. 

Timeline

May 17A 27-page audit was completed by the city's internal auditor John Redmond. In question was $150,000 to fund a traveling Innovative Sports Program, which fields about 470 athletes in boys and girls basketball, boxing and track and field. The Georgia Blazers under-17 elite basketball team operated under the program and was coached by Parks and Recreation director Tony Adams. In the breakdown of the Innovative Sports Program, the auditor recommended that the city stop funding the travel teams and they be funded or sponsored by a non-governmental source.

May 25 - Out-of-town travel funded by the city was suspended and temporarily placed on hold by the Parks and Recreation Department.

May 28 - Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington called for a police investigation into the city's parks department after an audit questioned its spending.

June 2 - Tony Adams hires defense attorney Stacey Jackson, who calls a news conference to say that "Mr. Adams never had a chance to respond to the audit."

June 8 - Tony Adams had until June 8th to respond to the findings in the audit during Columbus Council. Although Adams did not appear before council, with the support of City Manager Isaiah Hugley, Adams suggested breaking the team away from city funding and seeking private investment to continue the teams.

June 21- Attorney Stacey Jackson is now representing a total of nine parks employees. All of them except Adams work in the Recreational Services Division, which manages the city's recreation centers and operates the Innovative Sports Program.

Five of the nine full-time employees in Recreational Services — Margaret Brown, Shelley Stephens, Herman Porter, Gary Freeman and Tim Marshall — are being represented by Jackson.

June 22 - News leader 9 reports that Tony Adams and Herman Porter have hired a second attorney, Don Jackson of The Sports Group in Montgomery, AL.

July 3- A $500,000 pilot program to help at-risk youths was placed on hold by Mayor Jim Wetherington amid the Columbus Parks and Recreation audit and police investigation.

July 13 - Assistant city attorney Jaimie DeLoach said a city computer e-mail search for keywords "Nike" and "contract" produced an e-mail from August 16, 2006 from former Nike basketball marketing manager Don Crenshaw.

Attorney Stacey Jackson, who represents both Adams and Porter, claims that there was never a contract between the parks and recreation department and Nike.

July 14 - Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams and Program Specialist Herman Porter were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the results of the investigation. Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin took over the day-to-day operations of the department.

July 15 - The investigation officially became "criminal" in nature.

July 30 - Herman Porter and Tony Adams had their coaching privileges revoked by the city manager's office.

August 24 - Tony Adams and Herman Porter were arrested and face felony charges stemming from the police probe. They are suspended without pay.

August 24 - Stacey Jackson tells News Leader 9 he no longer represents Tony Adams.

Internet Producer Fadell Pitts contributed to this report.

 ©2010 WTVM. All rights reserved.

Previous stories
  • Parks and Rec Director Tony Adams hires second attorney
  • Parks director and employee on leave pending criminal probe
  • City revokes park director's coaching privileges
  • Mayor Wetherington grilled over battalion chief's allegations
  • City manager to recommend changes to Columbus Parks Dept.
  • Parks director seeks attorney following city audit 
  • Columbus mayor orders probe into parks department
  • Parks pilot program on hold amid department audit


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