The lawyer representing fired Columbus Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams has another client going to trial next week on a double homicide.
But Superior Court Judge John Allen was not sympathetic this morning when attorney Shevon Sutcliffe Thomas said the murder trial will make it difficult for him to have motions in Adams’ case filed by noon Thursday, when Allen has set the next hearing in the ongoing Parks and Rec scandal.
“I’m going to get this case out of the way,” Allen said adamantly, telling lawyers for three defendants in the Parks and Rec investigation that he expects to set a trial date Thursday, too.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker added that the prosecution will accept no plea deals in the case after noon Thursday.
Never miss a local story.
Besides Adams, the defendants arraigned before Allen today were city recreation specialist Herman Porter and East Marietta Basketball Inc. director William Fox.
Their charges involve allegations they funneled public money into private accounts and misrepresented themselves in contracts with sports-gear giant Nike Inc. to get funds and equipment for an elite Parks and Rec-run basketball team called the Georgia Blazers.
Columbus attorney Frank Martin, who represents Fox, today said he has filed motions seeking to suppress evidence related to bank accounts, evidence he says police obtained with neither a warrant nor a subpoena, violating his client’s constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
Martin also filed a motion challenging the prosecution’s claim that the statute of limitations on the charges against Fox hasn’t run out because his alleged offenses only recently were discovered. Martin argues the city’s finance department should have known if Fox was operating in an illicit manner, yet it never questioned him or asked to see his records, which he made no attempt to conceal.
Martin noted that the city finance department during part of that time was in disarray, resulting in a sheriff’s investigation of its operations, and in its director’s resignation.
Porter’s attorney, Atlanta lawyer Manny Arora, described today’s arraignment as “routine” and said he expects to file motions next week.
Thomas, who from the prosecution just got a computer disc today with evidence related to more recent charges against Adams, was unsure what to expect next.
He believes jury selection to begin Monday in the double-murder trial of another client, James Brock, charged in the fatal October 2009 shootings of Tyesha McNair and Terence Clark at an apartment on Crystal Court in Columbus. If that case still is being tried Thursday, he will have to ask one judge or the other to excuse him, either to be in Allen’s court on behalf of Adams or in Judge Bobby Peters’ court on behalf of Brock.
When Adams and Porter were arrested Aug. 24, Police Chief Ricky Boren said that to a private CB&T account they had funneled more than $200,000 that should have gone to the city. The police investigation’s primary focus was the Georgia Blazers, which through East Marietta Basketball got money and equipment from sports-gear giant Nike Inc.
The city fired Adams, 48, on Sept. 28. Porter, 42, has been on administrative leave without pay since his arrest.
Here’s a rundown of the indictments in the Parks and Rec case:
Count 1, conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision, charges that between April 18, 2005, and May 31, 2010, Adams and Porter conspired to steal from the city by opening a CB&T account in the name of the “Columbus Blazer Athletic Program,” into which city funds were to be deposited.
Count 2, first-degree forgery, alleges that Adams and Porter opened that account using the city’s tax-exempt identification number, as if they had authorization to do that when in fact they did not.
Count 3, first-degree forgery, says Adams and Porter falsely claimed to represent a fictitious corporation called the “Columbus Blazer Athletic Program” to open the account.
Count 4, theft by taking, says that over those five years from April 2005 to May 2010, Adams and Porter took basketball tournament funds that should have gone into city coffers.
Count 5, conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision, charges that Adams, Porter and Fox over those five years engaged in a “kickback scheme,” in which Adams and Porter arranged for the city to host basketball tournaments that Fox sanctioned as president of “Youth Basketball Organization of America-Georgia” and as director of East Marietta Basketball. For those games, the city of Columbus with Adams’ authorization reimbursed Fox for referee fees, which Fox then kicked back to Adams and Porter, who deposited the funds to a CB&T account.
Count 6, conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision, says that over the same fives years Adams, Porter and Fox misrepresented the relationship between East Marietta Basketball and the city-owned Georgia Blazers in order to secure Nike contracts providing money and sports gear over which Adams and Porter gained control in their city jobs. Those contracts claimed that East Marietta Basketball was playing games as the Georgia Blazers, that Adams was the director of East Marietta Basketball, and that East Marietta Basketball’s address was 107 41st St., which is Columbus’ Comer Gym, the Parks and Rec headquarters. They used East Marietta’s tax-exempt ID number for those agreements, the indictment states.
Count 7, theft by taking, alleges that between June 16, 2007, and May 30, 2008, Adams, Porter and Fox took checks or money orders written to the “Columbus Blazers,” “Georgia Blazers,” “Columbus Parks and Rec” or “Columbus Parks and Recreation,” and that Fox then deposited those funds to East Marietta Basketball, when the money should have gone to the city.
The bank account over which Adams and Porter had control was closed May 21, 2010, just days after an audit raising questions about Parks and Rec operations was made public. That audit noted that the Blazers, an elite traveling basketball team in the parks and rec department's Innovative Sports Program, had so few local players that it primarily served out-of-town youth.
Wetherington ordered the Parks and Rec audit in September 2009, as the city prepared to put money from a 2008 Local Option Sales Tax into crime-prevention programs that would have been run through Parks and Rec.
Internal auditor John Redmond met with Adams in March last year to discuss the audit findings, which in mid-May were sent to then-Mayor Jim Wetherington. On May 17, the Ledger-Enquirer got a draft copy of the audit and reported serious questions about operations and finances in the department, which had a $10 million annual budget and about 300 employees.