On Tuesday, a newly impaneled grand jury — which is serving the September term of the Cherokee Superior Court — released a presentment calling for a second investigation of the controversial business agreement between the county and a local company, which involves a bankruptcy and $18 million of debt that the taxpayers now owe.
In June, the previous May term grand jury launched an initial investigation into the matter and later issued 13 recommendations regarding how to move forward.
In making the presentment to the court, the grand jury said eight or more of its members voted to investigate and further inquire into the “Resource Recovery Development Authority of Cherokee County, its books, sites and property in order to clarify the details that led up to the county having to assume the repayment of the bonds that funded Ball Ground Recycling LLC.”
The 23 grand jury members also created a committee that will focus on the information gathering and report its findings back to the full grand jury. Members of the committee are: Jon Flaig, Peter Dean, Val Frazier, James Rigsby, Gerald Wright and Charlene Preetorius.
The presentment was issued by the grand jury on Monday and signed on Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Judge Ellen McElyea.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said he believes the grand jury will undergo a completely new investigation.
“It quickly became clear to us in our meeting with the new grand jury yesterday that they want to do more than just follow up on the previous grand jury’s findings,” Johnston said Tuesday. “They want to start again from the beginning. We certainly understand their desire to review the matter for themselves. They have every right and even the obligation to do so if they feel it’s appropriate. We will fully support their efforts, while we also continue to pursue the previous grand jury’s recommendations.”
Commissioner Karen Bosch said: “I appreciate the work the grand jury is doing and I am happy to work with them in any manner necessary since we are working toward the same goals.”
Commissioner Jim Hubbard said grand jury members appeared “stirred up” about the whole matter during Monday’s meeting and might be able to find additional information the commission does not have access to.
“I consider this a continuation of the previous grand jury investigation,” he said. “We have been asking for help for over a year. They somewhat confirmed what we have been saying, that some of the documentation is not in our files, and may have to come from Ball Ground Recycling or from one of the affiliated companies. We don’t have the authority to demand those records and are asking for their help.”
Other commissioners had not responded to requests for comment by press time.
Typically, grand juries meet on the second Monday and Tuesday of every month. However, the new grand jury — which was first impaneled on Sept. 10 and 11 — met for a third time this week in the interim of its normal schedule, said Patty Baker, clerk of the court.
In 2006, the county created the RRDA, composed of the five county commissioners. The bonds were used to relocate Jimmy Bobo’s recycling company from its former location on Blalock Road near Holly Springs to its site on Highway 5 just south of Ball Ground.
Bobo was under a lease agreement with the authority to pay $100,000 a month in bond payments up to $18.1 million borrowed by the authority to purchase land and equipment for the operation, which the authority owns under the agreement.
Commissioners learned last year from the Bank of New York that Bobo had not been making regular payments into an escrow account.
In May, Ball Ground Recycling filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Bobo was forced to vacate the property. The Blalock Road site is now the site of the Badger Creek Soccer Park, which is county-owned and operated by the Cherokee Soccer Association under an agreement with the county.
The county has filed a motion for discovery in bankruptcy court, which asks Bobo to produce documents relating to the construction, financing and development of Ball Ground Recycling. Bobo is scheduled to give a deposition in the matter today at his attorney’s Atlanta office.
On Sept. 18, commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in favor of most of the May term grand jury’s recommendations, including support of a full and complete forensic audit and investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies.