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Cherokee Commission Receives Nine RFPs On Forensic Audit

County staff will narrow down proposals for the county commission to possibly consider during the Nov. 20 meeting.

Nine firms have submitted their proposals to conduct a forensic audit into the finanicials of Ball Ground Recycling.

Both the Cherokee County Commission and Resource Recovery Development Authority, made up of the five commissioners, held a called meeting Thursday to hear an update on the search for requests for proposals.

County Manager Jerry Cooper said the proposals include “a broad range of pricing, experience and qualifications.”

He noted he and District Attorney Garry Moss, along with some members of the grand jury, will review the proposals and narrow the nine down to a short list. 

Cooper noted he hopes he will be ready to make a proposal to the county commission during its Nov. 20 meeting. 

County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens also said he's been reviewing the proposals and added none were from Cherokee County. The county last month took the first step with requesting proposals and stated they wouldn't accept proposals from firms in Cherokee County or any firms that had any dealings with Ball Ground Recycling owner Jimmy Bobo or any of his other companies.

"We’re...dealing with a lot of dfferent elements out of those nine," he added, referring to the proposals.

County Commissioner Harry Johnston said the different variations in costs could be a result of the firms not knowing as much about the Ball Ground Recycling case, noting "they don’t know how much it will take" to get this investigation going.

He did note that he hoped that when a firm is selected, they would be able to work in conjunction with the district attorney's office and provide regular feedback about the process.

In the end, he noted the process is all about clearing the county's name, adding the county hasn't done anything except "get into a bad deal.” 

The commissioners also adjourned into executive session to discuss details of the company's bankruptcy case. Before adjourning into executive session, County Attorney Angela Davis said the deposition of Bobo has started, but was halted due to missing documents. Davis said there may be a motion before the court to compel Bobo to produce missing documents essential to jump start the deposition. 

The commission in 2006 created the Resource Recovery Development Authority and backed up to $18 million in bonds, which were used to relocate the former Cherokee Recycling to land along Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground.

The agreement stipulated Ball Ground Recycling owner Jimmy Bobo was to make payments of the bond into an escrow account, but the county learned last year Bobo hadn't been making the payments. That forced the county to pick up the tab, which it will still be responsible for if it does not find a new operator for the site.

Ball Ground Recycling in late May filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the company was subsequently forced to remove itself from the property. The county, along with the RRDA, have been in bankruptcy court trying to remove the automatic stay imposed by the bankruptcy filing.

The Cherokee County grand jury in June decided to launch an investigation into the deal and earlier this month issued 13 recommendations for the county in the aftermath of the deal gone sour.

The most notable recommendations include calling for a forensic audit into the financial dealings of Ball Ground Recycling; replacing the members of the Resource Recovery Development Authority with non-elected officials; placing on the ballot any future partnership between the county and private entity which would call for issuing bonds; and for the county to exhaust all avenues to recoup money owed to taxpayers in the failed business.

It also recommended the county look into recovering the cost of removing debris from the Blalock Road site. 

The grand jury earlier this month also decided to “investigate and further inquire into the Resource Recovery Development Authority of Cherokee County, its books, sites, and property in order to clarify the details that led up to the County having to assume the re-payment of the bonds that funded Ball Ground Recycling, LLC.”

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