September 2009: Mayor Jim Wetherington orders Internal Auditor John Redmond to conduct an extensive operational audit of Parks and Recreation.
March 2010: Redmond concludes field work on the audit and has an exit interview with Parks and Rec Director Tony Adams.
May 17: Redmond sends Wetherington a draft copy of audit. The mayor sends it to council and City Manager Isaiah Hugley. The Ledger-Enquirer obtains a copy of the audit.
May 18: The Ledger-Enquirer reports the wide-ranging internal audit raises questions about procedures and management but points to no criminal wrongdoing.
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May 25: Parks and Rec suspends a city-run recreation program that fields developmental and elite sports teams, the Ledger-Enquirer reports. East Marietta Basketball Inc., a nonprofit organization that handles Nike sponsorship money for the elite basketball team, refuses to disclose its contract with Nike. The Ledger-Enquirer requests the contract under the Georgia Open Records Act.
May 28: Wetherington orders a police investigation. The mayor calls it an administrative probe that is not criminal.
May 29: The Ledger-Enquirer reports that Parks and Rec runs a youth basketball program where more than half of the 152 players come from outside the city.
June 2: Parks and Rec Director Tony Adams hires defense attorney Stacey Jackson, who calls a news conference where he says, “Mr. Adams never had a chance to respond” to the audit. Jackson says he is representing other members of the department but does not name them.
June 6: The city attorney’s office asks the Georgia attorney general’s office for an opinion on the Nike contract the newspaper’s trying to get from East Marietta Basketball Inc. Stacey Jackson informs the newspaper he also is representing William Fox, East Marietta Basketball Inc.’s director of basketball operations, in regard to the Open Records Act request.
June 8: During a council meeting, Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin and Hugley respond to the audit findings. Adams is not at the meeting on advice of his attorney. Hugley says he would consider “the matter closed” after arranging a meeting between the auditor and Adams to work out what the city manager terms “misunderstandings.” He also says he will convene a committee to look at other programs that serve out-of-town residents, specifically city golf courses where residents from other counties come to play.
June 13: With information obtained through the open records act, the Ledger-Enquirer reports that in two years only the city’s three public safety agencies spent more on out-of-town travel than Parks and Rec’s Innovative Sports Program.
June 16: The Ledger-Enquirer reports that two Parks & Rec employees who work with the Innovative Sports Program are officers in a nonprofit corporation formed nearly two years ago. H.O.P.E.S. -- an acronym for Helping Other People Experience Sucess (“success” is misspelled in documents on file with the Georgia secretary of state) -- was incorporated on Aug. 5, 2008. Shelley Stephens, who runs the Innovative Sports track and field program, is the registered agent and chief executive officer, according to state records. Herman Porter, who works with Innovative Sports basketball program, is the chief financial officer.
June 18: Claiming Jackson is their attorney, Assistant City Attorney Jaimie DeLoach sends him an e-mail saying Parks and Rec workers are refusing to talk with investigators. Jackson and DeLoach talk, and DeLoach sends him an e-mail saying she understands he represents Adams, Porter, Stephens, Margaret Brown, Gary Freeman, Tim Marshall, Eric Allen, Jonathan Lawrence and Bryant Thomas. Jackson does not respond.
June 22: Adams and Porter hire an additional attorney, Don Jackson of Montgomery. Adams and Porter “are caught in the middle of a political witch hunt,” Don Jackson says. Porter calls for the investigation to be transferred from the police department to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or the attorney general’s office. Stacey Jackson declines to say who he is representing. Police Chief Ricky Boren says the investigation is continuing. Hugley, at the request of Wetherington, directs Parks and Rec workers to cooperate with the investigation or face disciplinary action.
June 25 : Stacey Jackson contacts the newspaper to say he represents only Adams, Porter, Stephens, Brown and East Marietta Basketball’s Fox. He says he never represented the other five Parks and Rec employees.
July 2: Through Stacey Jackson, East Marietta Basketball Inc. declines to give the Ledger-Enquirer records related to the Nike contract with the city-funded team. The nonprofit organization does not fall under the state open records law, Jackson says.
July 6: The Ledger-Enquirer reports that Fox, a director with Youth Basketball of America-Georgia, promotes two or more basketball tournaments a year in Columbus. He gets a bid fee from the Sports Council and free rent for city gyms. When Fox uses Columbus State University facilities, the city pays for rent, security, clean up and medical services.
July 7: The Georgia attorney general’s office pursues a request from the city to obtain information from a East Marietta Basketball regarding the Nike sponsorship. The attorney general’s office likely will issue an opinion on whether the nonprofit falls under the law.
July 14: The Columbus police probe of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department turns into a criminal investigation. Adams and Porter are placed on administrative leave with pay. This comes after the city attorney’s office uncovers two e-mail exchanges between Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams and executives at sports-gear giant Nike, in which the correspondents refer to a “contract.” Stacey Jackson, who represents not only Adams and some of his subordinates but also the nonprofit East Marietta Basketball, a Nike beneficiary, maintains neither the Parks and Recreation Department nor its traveling basketball team the Georgia Blazers has a contract with Nike or with East Marietta Basketball.
July 21: Columbus police have “consulted” the Muscogee district attorney about their ongoing investigation into the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, District Attorney Julia Slater says.
July 21-26: Adams and Porter take three Georgia Blazers teams to Orlando for the AAU Super Showcase event. The city does not fund the trip, which was paid for from private contributions, attorney Don Jackson says.
July 22: The Columbus city attorney’s effort to get details from Nike about the company’s sponsorship agreement with the city-funded youth basketball team is unsuccessful. Assistant City Attorney Jamie DeLoach approached Nike attorney John Metterazzo and requested a copy of the contract, which the city has been unable to obtain for nearly two months.
July 26: The city manager sends Adams and Porter letters by registered mail telling them to “refrain from coaching and participating in any city sponsored athletic event or team activity” while on administrative leave.
Aug. 24: Adams and Porter are arrested on felony charges involving what police claim is the misappropriation of more than $200,000 in city funds. They are booked into Muscogee County Jail and released on bond.
Sept. 13: Fox is arrested and charged with one felony involving what police claim is the misappropriation of more than $200,000 in city funds.
Sept. 21: Fox hires Columbus criminal defense attorney Frank Martin.
Sept. 28: City council terminates Adams because City Manager Isaiah Hugley said the former Parks and Rec director lied to him about signing contracts with Nike
Oct. 1: Attorneys for Adams, Porter and Fox seek a gag order in the Parks and Recreation case. Superior Court Judge John Allen does not grant the order and sets a preliminary hearing.
Oct. 15: Judge Allen leaves felony charges against Adams, Porter and Fox in place after a preliminary hearing. The attorneys dropped their request for a gag order.
Nov. 1: Attorney Stacey Jackson asks court to allow him to withdraw from the case.
Feb. 7: Adams, Porter and Fox are indicted by a Muscogee County Grand Jury.