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Cherokee Cleared In Ball Ground Recycling Failure

Cherokee commissioners did not break any laws when it agreed to back up to $18 million in bonds to relocate a recycling facility in 2006.

Credit: Patch file
Credit: Patch file

Cherokee County commissioners did not break the law when they created a development authority to back bonds to relocate a now defunct recycling facility. 

That's according to Shannon Wallace, the district attorney for the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit. Wallace on Monday released the long awaited forensic audit of the failed Ball Ground Recycling veture. The 7,000+ page report "does not reveal any evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the Board of Commissioners."

"I have reviewed the entire audit and agree with this conclusion," she added.

The audit, which was performed by McClendon & Associates, has now been released to the county commission to review. However, the Cherokee Sheriff's Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to investigate the project.

Both Commissioners Harry Johnston and Brian Poole said they didn't think the county having its name cleared will do much to reassure those who have been heavily critical of the deal and the burden its placed on taxpayers.

"I think it will reassure the reasonable folks who may have had doubts about us," Johnston added. "But, there's a faction that's determined to be our enemy, and will never be satisfied under any circumstances."

The commission in 2006 created the Resource Recovery Development Authority and backed up to $18 million in bonds, which were used to relocate Ball Ground Recycling to land along Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground.

The agreement stipulated Ball Ground Recycling operator Jimmy Bobo was to make payments of the bond into an escrow account, but the county learned in late 2011 Bobo hadn't been making the payments.

That forced the county to pick up the tab, which it will still be responsible for if it does not find a new operator for the site. Cherokee County has been actively recruiting and talking with possible companies to take over operations. 

Ball Ground Recycling in late May filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the company was subsequently forced to remove itself from the property.

The company was eventually dismissed from bankruptcy court, giving the county the green light to go after the company and Bobo to recover money from the failed deal. 

The forensic audit was approved in late 2012 at the request of a previous grand jury that launched an investigation into the failed venture. 

Frank Jones April 30, 2014 at 10:11 AM
What makes me an expert? I've read the public documents and I've been in business for over 20 years. I've negotiated business deals and obtained financing in the private sector. The documents approved by the Cherokee County Commissioners were full of holes and wouldn't have been agreed to in private sector negotiations. Harry Johnson, as a CPA, should have known better. Once approved, the implementation and oversight was abysmal (think Buzz Ahrens and Jerry Cooper). Once again, in a private sector deal, there would have been more due diligence to ensure that the lender (i.e. Cherokee County) was well-protected. In this case Buzz Ahrens should have known better as a seasoned businessman and should have changed the deal prior to approving an increase in the bond amount. And for what it's worth, I hate the Tea-Party zealots so we may be stuck between a rock and a hard place with this election.
Lone Stranger April 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM
Frank has his facts straight and this makes Change for Canton mad because he has no facts, no reasonable argument, and is just a shill for his criminal "guvment" employee friends.
Allah Tabul April 30, 2014 at 11:28 AM
Mr. Jones is correct in his depictions of both Johnson and Ahrens. It is not surprising that the obviously-corrupt Buzz Ahrens is a political darling of the School District and its superintendent, himself a man thoroughly corrupt but smart enough to not yet get caught. Mr. Jones is sadly correct though, that Ahrens opponent is likely not any better. It is pathetic that craziness and corruption is the best that can be done in our county's search for political candidates. How has it come to this?
Randytx April 30, 2014 at 01:44 PM
They may not be criminal, but they approved things that private practice would have never committed to: no skin-in-the-game by the Bobos. A bond issue for a stump grinding business? If it was so lucrative, the Bobos would have been able to secure a bank or syndicate loan, but, nooooo, was easier to convince so good 'ol boys that had millions of taxpayer dollars (not their personal funds but OPM) at their disposal. Today , Bobos are free thanks to their LLC, commissioners shrug their shoulders taking no blame, and each and every county taxpayer is paying for this stump grinding mess.
Joe Johnson April 30, 2014 at 05:34 PM
The Commission should have fired Jerry Cooper when this mess came to light. So now our decision as voters is Option A: Fire Ahrens and Johnston because of their bad decisions of trusting Cooper to set this up and not firing him for screwing it up; or Option (B) Hire the sleazy dirt slinging Archer and whatever teaparty nutcase is running against Johnston. Yes Buzz & Harry screwed up big but consider the alternative. Not an easy decision. It would be nice if Harry & Buzz would commit to fire the incompetent Cooper.

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