The essence of the mat­ter

The Covington News - - OPINION - Dear editor, Steve Brown

I take no plea­sure in writ­ing this. It does not come from a place of cel­e­brat­ing an at­tack, but rather from the sad but nec­es­sary place of re­al­iz­ing that things have gone too far and must now change.

An ar­ti­cle in the Cov­ing­ton News by Meris Lutz on Mon­day, July 7, quoted County At­tor­ney Tommy Craig as say­ing he was “not fa­mil­iar with the in­ter­nal struc­ture” of Green Hill and was un­aware of Baker’s role in the com­pany. ( Jim Baker is CEO of East Ge­or­gia Land (EGL) and Baker & Las­siter, Inc. EGL wants to build an un­wanted pri­vate land­fill here and is su­ing the county.)

Tee Stri­b­ling, another prin­ci­ple in Green Hill P3, said both the BOC and the county at­tor­ney were aware of the “gen­eral struc­ture” of Green Hill and that mem­bers of East Ge­or­gia were also mem­bers of Green Hill, in another Meris Lutz ar­ti­cle of July 9. What a tan­gled web we weave....

Mr. Craig worked be­hind the scenes for months to put to­gether the re­jected Green Hill P3 deal which would have not only turned New­ton County into a re­gional garbage dump, but would have placed huge fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity for re­lated le­gal and reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance is­sues into the hands of the fledg­ling Green Hill com­pany. Claim­ing to not be fa­mil­iar with the part­ner­ships in­volved in Green Hill in­di­cates a com­plete lack of due dili­gence of vet­ting their make up as sub­stan­ti­a­tion of their suit­abil­ity as a part­ner of the county in these hugely se­ri­ous mat­ters. It also in­di­cates a com­plete lack of work­ing knowl­edge of a com­pany with which a deal worth 100's of mil­lions of dol­lars was be­ing forged. All of which amounted to putting the county at mas­sive risk based on an un­known.

Mr. Craig has a history of in­volve­ment in nu­mer­ous pre­vi­ous real es­tate deals con­cern­ing ei­ther prin­ci­ples or land that are part of the acreage on which East Ge­or­gia wishes to host a pri­vate land­fill. Baker & Las­siter, Inc. was formed in 1989, be­fore Mr. Craig rep­re­sented Las­siter Prop­er­ties in a land dis­pute in 1994. He also dealt ex­ten­sively with Las­siter Prop­er­ties over the course of years to pur­chase land for the Bear Creek Reser­voir and the county land­fill. This tan­gle of cor­po­rate re­la­tions and land ac­qui­si­tion schemes un­der­lie the to­tally un­ac­cept­able Green Hill deal and the re­sult­ing law­suit from one of its part­ners. If Mr. Craig, de­spite his ear­lier deal­ings with some of the prin­ci­ples, was truly "not fa­mil­iar" with any of this, he missed, to use a fa­vorite word of at­tor­neys, the essence of the mat­ter.

One has to won­der if this is a pat­tern. His out­ra­geous mil­lion-dol­lar a year pay misses the essence of public fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity in a county as ec- onom­i­cally stressed as New­ton. The nearly two decade long, $20,000,000 Bear Creek Reser­voir fi­asco missed the essence of prop­erly meet­ing Corps of Engi­neers re­quire­ments, not to men­tion miss­ing the essence of the true state of both our pop­u­la­tion growth and ad­e­quate wa­ter sup­ply. Ap­prov­ing, if only tac­itly, the ab­surd re­sults of the hatchet job that has been done to our form of county gov­ern­ment over the course of a few sit­ting boards, missed the essence of work­a­bil­ity, if not le­gal­ity, in our gov­ern­ment struc­ture. Keep­ing what should be public records of le­gal ser­vices and billings for the county in his of­fice misses the essence of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity. First agree­ing, then chang­ing his mind in the shower to dis­agree and sup­port the re­ver­sal of strip­ping JC Hen­der­son of his du­ties for ac­cept­ing an un­eth­i­cal loan from the county, and ac­com­plish­ing that by the legally ques­tion­able tac­tic of merely purg­ing the of­fi­cial min­utes af­ter the fact, vi­o­lates the essence of sound coun­sel.

In essence, the long serv­ing Mr. Craig, with this latest in­cred­i­ble claim of be­ing ig­no­rant of the par­ties with whom he at­tempted to turn New­ton County into a re­gional dump, ap­pears to have lost his vi­a­bil­ity as county at­tor­ney and should re­sign. That would be the essence of civic duty.

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