cor·rup·tion [kuh-ruhp-shuhn] – noun
- the act of corrupting or state of being corrupt.
- moral perversion; depravity.
- perversion of integrity.
- corrupt or dishonest proceedings.
- the state of being an accomplice; partnership or involvement in wrongdoing: complicity in a crime.
- the quality or condition of being incompetent; lack of ability.
Albany City Manager Alfred Lott seems to recognize corruption when he sees it. And sometimes, he even shies away from it.
But not Mayor Willie Adams and Commissioner Tommie Postell.
It was Lott, during a compelling public discussion nearly three years ago, naively advised the City Commission not to donate property to Cutliff Grove Baptist Church, not realizing what Postell and Adams were concocting.
It was a sight to behold.
What followed was the incompetency (or was it corruption, too?) of Lott and his staff, who appeased Adams and Postell by giving Cutliff Grove nearly about $400,000 of our money (Lott gives conflicting information here) for a so-called low-income housing project without requiring an ounce of documentation that work was being done.
Such is the perfect storm – the convergence of corruption, complicity and incompetence — that struck Albany on Tuesday: The City Commission decided to forgive Cutliff Grove for taking taxpayer funds and – now get this – decided that the church doesn’t have to pay the money back.
Only Roger Marietta dissented.
This case may not involve $6 million, the amount of public funds that Lott, Don Buie, et all were eyeing for ill-conceived purposes, but it is equally nauseating and more blatant than the matter that landed Buie in jail. (But the Cutliff Grove scenario is perhaps as in-your-face as Albany restaurateur Lajuana Woods conspiring with Buie to take $50,000 from taxpayers, and then being forgiven, rather than prosecuted.)
We’ve got a lot of digging to do on the Cutliff Grove matter. But we do know this:
Unapologetically, Lott blundered and taxpayers were swindled out of $374,000; meanwhile, neither Lott nor any of his staffers have been admonished, much less fired.
- Mysteriously, with all that has happened – including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sanctioning Cutliff Grove for its shady deal with the city, the City Commission has not required Lott to produce public records that show exactly how Cutliff Grove spent the $374,000. Seriously.
- Because of this incompetence (at best), Albany’s poorest residents may suffer even more than Joe Citizen taxpayer. Indeed, the feds are very close to pulling Albany’s funding for programs for low-income residents.
- John Rivers, the financially troubled Columbus architect who Lott tried to give $16 million in public funds to redevelop the Heritage House hotel, is a principal in the Cutliff Grove project. That can’t be good.
- Cutliff Grove’s pastor, McKinley Drake, gave Adams money to retire his campaign debt and afterward received a $100,000 loan from a public fund that also benefited Woods and a bankrupt Newton Road shopping center development.
- Cutliff is also the beneficiary of what City Attorney Nathan Davis describes as illegal donations of public funds by Adams for community service purposes.
Stay tuned. Or better yet. Get involved. So far, the district attorney seems to be sitting on his hands on this one. If the citizenry doesn’t intervene, the unadulterated fleecing of Albany’s taxpayers and criminalization of city hall will only worsen.
By Kevin Hogencamp