Parks director and employee on leave pending criminal probe

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) – Fox 54 has confirmed Parks and Recreation director Tony Adams and another employee are now on administrative leave with pay after a police probe into the city's parks department.

Now the investigation is a criminal matter.

The audit of Columbus' Parks and Rec Department has been a controversial topic since the beginning. It began with allegations of possible misuse of funds by Parks and Rec Director Tony Adams.  In late May, Columbus Police got involved in the investigation.

Columbus city attorney Clifton Fay says the city will not talk about the probe, but confirms a criminal investigation is underway.

An internal investigation was launched about a month ago after a 27-page audit revealed questions about how $150,000 was spent.  Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington told News Leader Nine that Chief Boren called him Tuesday to say he had new information and thought the investigation should be considered criminal.

Defense attorney, Stacey Jackson, said Adams and Innovative Sports director Herman Porter, were given a letter Wednesday afternoon from city manager Isaiah Hugley.  He spoke exclusively to WXTX, and had this to say, "From day one, the contract is between Nike and East Marietta, that is it, period."  When asked why there is correspondence between Tony Adams emailing the Nike representative about contracts, he said this, "Well, he is the coach of the Georgia Blazers and we have not hid that.  Everyone knows that.  The city of Columbus, Parks and Rec division, there is no contract between Nike and the City, period."

In a letter to the Attorney General, Stacy Jackson says East Marietta Basketball is a private entity that receives grant funds from Nike. Then, East Marietta Basketball donated some of those funds to the Georgia Blazers for travel expenses.  Jackson wrote, "No money was ever paid directly to any city employee nor on behalf of any city employee."

Mayor Wetherington said no one is being accused of anything, "When Tony says there is not contract, the city manager says there is not contract, and then it appears there is. The emails indicate that there is a contract from Nike to Tony Adams.  That is very disturbing."

The email correspondence is from August 2006 between Nike representatives, Tony Adams, and Herman Porter.  Adams writes, "I was in discussion with Don about the Georgia Blazers contract renewal.  I would like to discuss with you asap."  Nike representatives also explain how the end of a contract year works.

What will Adams, Porter, and their representation do now? "We will just wait and see what the Police department claims to have uncovered. We are still kind of sitting in the dark because they are not providing any info to us," said Jackson.

Jackson said neither the city or police department has requested an interview with Adams or Porter.  For now, he is representing both of them.

The Mayor said there is no time frame for concluding the investigation.  WXTX is following the story and will continue to bring you the very latest.

©2010 WXTX. All rights reserved.