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Cherokee Grand Jury: Delay Release Of Ball Ground Recycling Audit

The grand jury recommends delaying the release of the audit of the failed recycling venture until law enforcement agencies complete their review.

Credit: Patch
Credit: Patch
A Cherokee County grand jury has asked Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit District Attorney Shannon Wallace to delay releasing the forensic audit on the failed Ball Ground Recycling venture.

The grand jury put forth the recommendation as part of its presentments for the January 2014 term. 

The grand jury is recommending the delay until "local, state and federal law enforcement authorities authorize said release."

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

The commission in 2006 created the Resource Recovery Development Authority and backed up to $18 million in bonds, which were used to relocate the former Cherokee Recycling — now 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. 

The grand jury's recommendation is not sitting well with at least one resident. 

Instead of criticizing the grand jury's recommendation, Ball Ground resident Carolyn Cosby accused Wallace of "engaging in a cover-up and playing politics to protect the political campaigns of Buzz Ahrens and Harry Johnston running for re-election despite their key roles in the financial scandal."

Both County Chairman Ahrens and District 1 Commissioner Harry Johnston are facing Republican primary challenges from residents Jackie Archer and Steve West, respectively.

"Every signal coming from the DA’s office confirms she is not engaging in a serious investigation," Cosby added.

Cosby went on to accuse Wallace of not taking the investigations seriously, and her decision to abide by the grand jury's recommendation will give "Johnston and Ahrens the biggest campaign contribution they could get."

Wallace isn't letting those charges by Cosby go unchecked.  

Not only are Cosby's allegations of her office "unfounded and reckless," the district attorney said the timing of the audit's release is driven by its review by law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local level. 

She noted that previous grand juries have recommended her office delay the release of the audit until she receives authorization from law enforcement. 

Wallace also added she eagerly awaits that authorization so "these issues can be put to rest."

"As I have stated many times, premature release of this audit could jeopardize any criminal investigation," she said. "The citizens of this county did not elect me to cower to any political pressure in carrying out my duties as the district attorney.  There is a difference between doing what is easy and doing what is right. This office will always do what is right."

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