By Tom Knighton
I guess it was all just too much. Seven hours into jury deliberations, former Albany City Commissioner Don Buie changes his plea to guilty in what has been described as a “teary-eyed” confession to Judge Denise Marshall. As a result he gets a year in jail, has to pay $5,000 in restitution, can’t work for a government entity again, and is banished from Dougherty County.
It’s not close to enough, but it beats what looked like was going to happen.
The deal was apparently offered in response to the jury being deadlocked several hours earlier, with the district attorney’s office fearing a mistrial. Buie took the offer, and told the judge that he used his position to funnel money to Shanon Buie and Nicole Brown. His attorney, Johnny Graham, said that he knew this wasn’t “proper”. And yet, he did it.
Poor supervision at all levels has to hold the ultimate blame for what Buie did. Let’s face it, this wasn’t some brilliant scam that we could excuse local officials from catching due to the complex nature and perfect forgeries of invoices that made everything look legitimate. Oh no. This was a guy just asking for checks … and getting them.
First and foremost, if any Albany city commissioner wants to pretend to give a flip about preventing this kind of thing again, then City Manager Al Lott needs to be relocated. I’m thinking somewhere the hell away from here. We have enough problems in this town without having to worry about whether Lott is keeping a better handle on his subordinates than he has in the past. Frankly, I don’t see it happening. He’s more concerned if someone is answering “interrogatories” from the press than if his people are … oh, I don’t know … stealing from the city?
Next, ADICA needs to go. While some may still argue that downtown needs all this taxpayer money, the damage is done with ADICA. While I’ve applauded acting CEO James Taylor’s efforts, it’s still damaged goods and no one is going to trust ADICA no matter who’s in charge. If, and I’m still not convinced, but if downtown needs an authority to manage redevelopment, then start fresh.
Also, kill the $6 million bond. After all of this, we’re still stuck having to trust officials with our money? These same officials who didn’t bother to look at invoices (some of which didn’t exist) under Buie? Sorry, that’s just not going to cut it. If the bond is defaulted on, the taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill…but we aren’t even told what the heck it’s going to be spent for. Remember, it’s all a secret.
The Buie trial is over. The effects of Hurricane Don still linger.