FIND­INGS

The Covington News - - The sec­ond front -

pros­e­cuted by the state.

One rec­om­men­da­tion by the grand jury com­mit­tee com­mit­tee was that “the board of com­mis­sion­ers re­view this pre­sent­ment for any pos­si­ble mis­con­duct or in­fringe­ments of pol­icy and pro­ce­dure.”

The grand jury’s part in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is complete.

How­ever, Com­mis­sioner Ewing said Tues­day he had not seen a copy of the find­ings and did not know the pro­ce­dure for such a re­view. County At­tor­ney Tommy Craig could not be reached for com­ment.

If of­fi­cials de­ter­mine Mor­gan did vi­o­late county pol­icy, it’s un­clear what could hap­pen. Project not bid out

The county pol­icy most likely to have been bro­ken was the pur­chas­ing pol­icy. The find­ings’ facts in­cluded:

- no part of the Cook Road resur­fac­ing project was bid out

- New­ton County wrote a check to Pittman Aug. 12, 2011 for $187,038.19 for the Cook Road project

- the county pur­chas­ing pol­icy states that for projects of $50,000 or more: “Per the county’s en­abling leg­is­la­tion, bids are re­quired.”

- the project was never ap­proved by the board of com­mis­sion­ers

How­ever, Mor­gan al­ready pub­licly apol­o­gized for her ac­tions re- gard­ing the project at the June 19 board meet­ing, stat­ing that she “should have placed this as an agenda item to re­ceive ap­proval.”

“I be­lieve we pre­pared a qual­ity road and the outcome would have been the same. I ac­knowl­edge now that I might have han­dled this bet­ter. I am sorry if I did not fol­low pro­ce­dures prop­erly or if my ac­tions caused any con­cern. I am work­ing with the public works direc­tor to es­tab­lish stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dures to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again,” Mor­gan stated pre­vi­ously.

No public ac­tion re­gard­ing the Cook Road project was taken fol­low­ing her apol­ogy, so it’s un­clear if the grand jury’s re­port will change any­thing.

Mor­gan’s com­ments came at around the same time the grand jury com­mit­tee was fin­ish­ing com­pil­ing its find­ings, as this par­tic­u­lar grand jury was in ex­is­tence from Jan­uary through June. Grand jury

The grand jury, which is com­prised of be­tween 16 and 23 peo­ple and is gen­er­ally cre­ated to serve for six months at a time, has two main func­tions:

1. to hear ev­i­dence in crim­i­nal cases to de­ter­mine whether there is prob­a­ble cause a crime was com­mit­ted

2. to inspect or in­ves­ti­gate the de­part­ments of the county, and other se­lect gov­ern­ments

“The grand jury’s pre­sent­ment is the prod­uct of the civil in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­ducted pur­suant to the grand jury’s author­ity to inspect county of­fices,” Zon ex­plained in her email. State laws bro­ken?

The ques­tion of whether state law was bro­ken is un­clear. The find­ings sum­ma­rize two state law pur­chas­ing re­quire­ments:

“1. Public Works Bid­ding, O.C.G.A. 36-91-1 et. seq. Ap­plies to the build­ing, al­ter­ing, re­pair­ing, im­prov­ing, or de­mol­ish­ing of any public struc­ture or build­ing or other public im­prove­ments of any kind to any public real prop­erty. Re­quires bids/Re­quests for Pro­pos­als (RFPs) for all projects $100,000 or more.”

“2. County Road Projects, O.C.G.A. 32-4-60 et. seq. Ap­plies to the con­struc­tion, re­con­struc­tion, or main­te­nance of all or part of a public road. Re­quires bid for all projects $20,000 or more. This statute does not ap­ply to the pur­chase of ma­te­ri­als where the county per­forms the work or to en­gi­neer­ing or other kinds of pro­fes­sional ser­vices.”

In her ini­tial re­ply to Com­mis­sioner Ewing’s claims of wrong­do­ing, Mor­gan said there were spe­cial cir­cum­stances that caused her to not fol­low pol­icy. She is quoted in the New­ton Cit­i­zen’s April 11, 2012 on­line ar­ti­cle as say­ing Pittman was a “sin­gle source provider” for an as­phalt prod­uct blend known most pop­u­larly by the brand name Perma Flex. The ra­tio­nale given was that no bids could be taken if only one source could pro­vide the work.

Per­maFlex, or sim­i­lar prod­uct blends, is used to cre­ate a layer in-be­tween the orig­i­nal road and a new resur­faced layer. Oth­er­wise, ex­ist­ing cracks in a road can more eas­ily be­gin to dam­age the newly re­paired road.

How­ever, the grand jury’s find­ings state: “‘Perma Flex’ is not a ‘sin­gle source’ prod­uct or ap­pli­ca­tion tech­nique. ‘Perma Flex’ has been used ex­ten­sively in Georgia since 1996. ‘Perma Flex’ is avail­able from many con­trac­tors in the At­lanta area and is not a sin­gle source prod­uct.”

In its con­clu­sion, the find­ings state “The Grand Jury has no way of know­ing whether the cit­i­zens of New­ton County re­ceived value in the ser­vices pro­vided by Pittman Con­struc­tion with re­spect to the OGI (open graded in­ter­layer – the generic name for a Perma Flex-like blend) layer ap­plied to Cook Road since there is no way to de­ter­mine if the county re­ceived fair mar­ket value for the project. Com­pet­i­tive bids were not taken and a bud­get was not es­tab­lished, and there­fore the fi­nal cost can not be eval­u­ated. Ad­di­tion­ally, be­cause there was no qual­ity con­trol or prod­uct test­ing per­formed, the qual­ity of the fi­nal road can not be es­tab­lished.” Rec­om­men­da­tions

Based upon the find­ings, the grand jury rec­om­mended:

1. Manda­tory poli­cies and pro­ce­dures be es­tab­lished within the DPW (depart­ment of public works) for bud­gets, cost con­trol, ver­i­fi­ca­tions and ap­provals of billing, tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions and reg­u­lar cost re­ports and progress re­ports on all projects will be sub­mit­ted to the board of com­mis­sion­ers for re­view.

2. The board of com­mis­sion­ers re­view the pre­sent­ment for any pos­si­ble mis­con­duct or in­fringe­ments of pol­icy and pro­ce­dure.

3. The fol­low­ing grand jury re­view the Neigh­bor­hood Sta­bi­liza­tion Project for cur­rent sta­tus and com­pli­ance with ap­pli­ca­ble codes, reg­u­la­tions and poli­cies.

4. The board of com­mis­sion­ers con­sider putting the depart­ment of public works un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the county man­ager.

Re­lat­ing to the last part, public works is the only depart­ment which re­mains un­der the con­trol of the elected chair­man – as called for by the county char­ter – since the board voted last fall to switch to a county man­ager form of gov­ern­ment.

When asked by email about that rec­om­men­da­tion, Mor­gan said “I do not be­lieve that it is in the best in­ter­ests of the cit­i­zens of the county.”

Re­lated to point 1, she said “We try to the best of our abil­ity to fol­low county guide­lines and pro­ce­dures.”

Mor­gan will not serve as chair­man next year since she lost to her Demo­cratic chal­lenger Mar­cus Jor­dan in the July pri­mary elec­tion.

The grand jury in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­mit­tee was com­prised of Wil­liam Perug­ino, Ricky Brad­ford, Eve Chaple, Jeremy Whit­field and Ron­nie Dims­dale, who later re­signed be­cause he ran for a county com­mis­sion seat. Perug­ino said Tues­day that he could not of­fer com­ment as he was bound by the oath that grand ju­rors take when con­duct­ing their work.

The full find­ings of the com­mit­tee can be found in the le­gals sec­tion of this pa­per.

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