Authorities in Cherokee reached out to the FBI, asking the agency to consider whether any federal laws were broken in the county’s dealings with the defunct recycling operation, according to Sheriff’s Office Capt. Bert Love.
Love said the Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney Shannon Wallace’s office met with FBI agents Jan. 31, after allegations of federal violations were made a few days earlier during a forum conducted by resident group Citizen Oversight and Education.
“With the Sheriff’s Office, I don’t know the ins and outs of federal law. I know the ins and outs of state law,” Love said. “Whether there are federal violations, I can’t say. That would be up to a federal law enforcement agency.”
Wallace said Tuesday she requested the meeting, but declined to go into further detail.
So far, the county has not heard back from the FBI on how or if it is probing the deal, said Love, who is the Sheriff’s Office lead on the investigation being conducted in conjunction with Wallace’s office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Special Agent Stephen Emmett, Atlanta Media Coordinator for the FBI, said he couldn’t confirm or deny what the agency was investigating.
“Per policy, I cannot discuss whether we have ongoing investigations into certain matters,” he said Tuesday.
Love said the FBI was given an investigation summary and a copy of a forensic audit conducted into the county’s dealings with recycling operation formerly run by resident Jimmy Bobo. In 2006, the Board of Commissioners created the Resource Recovery Development Authority to back Bobo’s $18.1 million in debt to move the business to its final location on Blalock Road.
The District Attorney’s office received the lengthy audit in September after a third-party accounting firm completed it at a cost of about $500,000 to county taxpayers, who have also been paying $100,000 a month in lease payments on the facility since it closed.
Wallace has consistently declined to release it to the public, because it is part of an active investigation. Resident Clark Blackwell, who served on a grand jury that probed the deal, said during the forum Jan. 27 that the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act could have been violated in the deal between the county and Bobo’s business. Blackwell could not be reached for further comment immediately Tuesday.
County officials, such as Commissioner Harry Johnston, have consistently and strongly denied that any laws were broken whatsoever on the county’s end of the deal.
“None of the grand jury findings suggested that we did anything illegal or unethical,” Johnston, who was in office in 2006, wrote in an email declining to attend the January forum. Johnston added he could “guarantee” that the forensic audit and the law enforcement investigation won’t suggest “anything worse on our part than an honest bad choice.”
As for the local investigation, Love said it’s still ongoing and he could give no update.