The Inside Story: Former commissioner wants DDA investigation after First Friday security flap

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, July 18, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Downtown Development Authority is coming under fire after the recent First Friday shooting that left six people injured. A former commissioner is now calling for an investigation of the authority.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver kicked things off at a meeting with local downtown business owners.

"I'm going to put up $5,000 of my own money," he said.

"I think the mayor is definitely sending the wrong message," said Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett. "We don't need to get donations. The taxpayers are already paying for law enforcement. Public safety is supposed to be something that is guaranteed to the citizens."

Former Commissioner Andy Cheek agrees.

"The ball has been dropped," Cheek said. "The money has been redirected to this CADI program."

CADI, or the Clean Augusta Downtown Initiative, is the enhanced safety hospitality program that downtown property owners pay extra taxes on even as the mayor collects donations for extra security.

"The money is already there and this is a deflection to avoid investigating the DDA," Cheek said. "That's exactly what is going on here."

The Downtown Development Authority took in more than $350,000 for CADI in 2008.

"They listed in their annual report that they cleaned up three spots of graffiti in a year," said Cheek, among other listings.

A safety ambassador with the CADI program told News 12 the team is made up of "goodwill ambassadors," not police.

"We don't have bulletproof vests. We don't carry weapons," said Safety Ambassador Victor Lust. "We're not equipped to be out here and try and serve and protect at that time of night."


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