CANTON — After months of work and a potential $400,000 cost to taxpayers, the forensic audit into Cherokee County’s costly dealings with Jimmy Bobo is now in the hands of Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit District Attorney Shannon Wallace.
Wallace said Friday her office received the “extremely lengthy” report, which was previously required to be delivered to the office Sept. 12, from the audit firm McClendon and Associates that afternoon.
With the report in hand, Wallace and forensic experts from law enforcement will begin their investigation to determine if any criminal activity took place in the Resource Recovery Development Authority’s deal to help relocate Bobo’s recycling business, Ball Ground Recycling, Wallace explained last week.
Rhonda McClendon of McClendon and Associates declined to speculate Friday on whether any criminal charges could result from her work.
“I couldn’t begin to predict that,” she said.
Commissioner Harry Johnston was a member of the RRDA when it was created to back $18 million in bond debt to move Bobo’s facility in 2006.
When Bobo stopped making payments last year, Cherokee taxpayers were left paying $100,000 a month in lease payments on the facility.
Although Johnston was on the RRDA when the deal was struck, he said Friday he isn’t worried about what the investigation of the audit might bring to light.
“I’m not concerned about any findings related to actions of the Board of Commissioners,” he said.
“From the time problems surfaced, I’ve acknowledged that we didn’t adequately foresee the risk involved … and that we should have assigned a designated county representative to more closely watch out for the county’s interests during the construction process.”
Johnston said, however, that does not mean the RRDA did anything illegal in 2006.
“I know for sure we didn’t do anything illegal or unethical,” Johnston said. “We acted only in what we believed to be the county’s best interest. The audit findings will bear that out.”
Commissioner Brian Poole is also hoping for answers.
“Along with all of the other citizens of Cherokee County, I am delighted that we finally have an open window to see how this happened and what caused this mess,” Poole said Friday. “Looking the other way is not enough.”
With the results of the audit in Wallace’s hands, Poole said Cherokee County may soon be able to put the costly Bobo situation in the past.
“We can now move forward to find those responsible, hold them accountable, and hopefully prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again in Cherokee County,” he said.
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens agrees the county might be nearing answers.
“We are certainly — or will be — closer to understanding some of the dynamics surrounding the evolution of the project origin, project build out, and eventual decline in business to point of bankruptcy,” Ahrens said Friday.
“My hope and expectation is that this professional firm, who has significant expertise in these matters, will deliver a report that is thorough in scope and very detailed in content.”
McClendon said the report is certainly thorough, and more evidence could still be added.
“I’ve completed everything, except I’m reserving the right to add an addendum (with more documents),” she said. “I would hate to have something come in and not be able to include it.”
The need for the possible addition of extra records is because some parties not with the county or the Bobos could still be providing documents which might be relevant, McClendon said.