Columbus police consult district attorney in Parks and Recreation investigation

Columbus police have “consulted” the Muscogee County district attorney about their ongoing investigation into the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, District Attorney Julia Slater said late Monday.

Her office is not part of the investigation, Slater said, but she and Chief Assistant District Attorney Alonza Whitaker have met with the police.

“Alonza Whitaker and I have been consulted,” she said. “But we do that from time to time with any investigation.”

The discussion involved “statutes and legal issues,” Slater said.

Police have been investigating Parks and Recreation since May 28. Mayor Jim Wetherington ordered the probe after an internal audit raised questions about money handling and operations within the department.

At Wetherington’s direction, Parks and Recreation Director Tony Adams and recreational program specialist Herman Porter were placed on paid administrative leave last week. That came after the city attorney’s office confirmed that what began as an administrative investigation is now a criminal investigation. No charges have been filed.

Police Chief Ricky Boren confirmed his department talked with the district attorney’s office. “The investigation is ongoing,” Boren said.

Asked if any agencies other than the district attorney’s office had been consulted, Boren said, “No comment.”

Don Jackson, a Montgomery, Ala., attorney representing Adams and Porter, has repeatedly called for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation or some other outside agency to handle the matter because of the potential conflict of interest with Wetherington, a former Columbus police chief.

A number of members of the Parks and Recreation Department have been interviewed, Jackson said. Deputy City Manager Lisa Goodwin, Adams’ supervisor, was interviewed less than two weeks ago, Jackson said.

Some of the police questions have been about a personal bank account belonging to Porter, Jackson said. The police have “illegally obtained” those records, Jackson asserted.

Slater would not disclose details of the investigation.

“If Chief Boren wants to disclose details, he can,” she said. “It’s the police department’s investigation.”Boren has declined to discuss details.

Adams is head coach and Porter is the team manager of a city-funded AAU basketball team that is sponsored by Nike. The Georgia Blazers, which has several top college prospects, has played in Nike events in Virginia, Texas and California this year. The program that funds the team was suspended in May after the audit was made public.

Wetherington declined to comment.

“I don’t want to say anything at this time,” he said. “I want to see what this investigation turns up.”