Augusta commissioner admits 'conversation' with TEE Center bribery scandal suspect, moves to block forensic audit

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Commissioners approved a forensic audit to try and get to the bottom of the TEE Center Parking Deck controversy, but Augusta's finance chairman is now trying to block it.

The city of Augusta just used $12 million of your tax money to build a parking deck on property they don't own, and the story doesn't end there. It turns out there are liens on the property.

"I think people are just muddying the water with a forensic audit," said Commissioner Jerry Brigham.

Brigham wants to pump the brakes on a forensic audit of the controversial TEE Center parking deck.

"I don't see the need for a forensic audit," he said. "I think it's a waste of taxpayers' money."

No one currently knows how much it would cost. The request for proposals just went out with a March 16 deadline.

"If we are going to do a forensic audit on this, let's do a forensic audit on Laney Walker," Brigham suggested.

"Is that not tit for tat?" we asked.

"No," Brigham replied. "That's what I'm trying to say. I don't want either one."

Brigham has a history with the controversial TEE Center deck.

"Are you trying to tell me I'm being arrested or something?" Brigham asked back in 2009.

That was his question after News 12 revealed Brigham appointed David Fry to the public facilities board. Fry was later arrested. He is accused of trying to bribe two Augusta commissioners to vote in favor of the parking deck.

"I did not think that this was nothing more than talk," said Brigham, who admitted he was aware of Fry's intentions. "I've had a conversation with Mr. Fry."

Fast forward to today, and we are back to our original question.

"You're trying to block that forensic audit. Is there something to hide?" we asked the finance chairman.

"No," Brigham replied. "Why waste $30,000 on something where there is nothing to it?"

But in the same breath, Brigham also suggests money is not the real concern.

"I am not going to vote to contract with a forensic audit firm," Brigham declared. "If that is the will of the commission, then we'll do it."

Commissioners are expected to vote on that TEE Center parking agreement next Tuesday. We asked Brigham if he should recuse himself because of a conflict of interest.

"If I should recuse myself?" Brigham asked. "Then everybody else involved should recuse themselves."