The district attorney’s decision came in the wake of three grand jury presentments filed Tuesday, recommending the case be closed.
“Over many months, my staff and I have dedicated hundreds of hours to the investigation and review of this matter. As both a taxpayer and the District Attorney, I felt it was my obligation to explore every avenue known to me to determine if there were any indictable criminal offenses that occurred in Cherokee County arising from the Ball Ground Recycling deal,” Wallace said in a release.
Wallace said there was not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against any individual involved with the Ball Ground Recycling project.
“Upon the recommendation of the May 2014 grand jury and for all of the foregoing reasons, this matter is now closed in this office. The recommendation of the grand jury, imploring the Board of Commissioners to mitigate our economic losses, now resonates as the common sense approach to moving forward,” Wallace said.
In 2007, the county backed $18.1 million in bonds to relocate the recycling business off county-owned property on Blaylock Road near Holly Springs to a site off Highway 5 near Ball Ground. The county continues to own the shuttered recycling plant.
Operator Jimmy Bobo later declared bankruptcy, leaving the county to foot the bill of $100,000 per month in debt service payments on the remaining $16 million loan.
“This is a sad chapter in the history of Cherokee County because of the serious financial impact that this failed and poorly executed project has had on our community,” Wallace said in the release.
Wallace said other agencies involved in the investigation agreed it was time to close the matter.
“We have now reached the end of this effort, and based on the results of an extremely methodical and sifting investigation conducted by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, there is absolute consensus between these law enforcement agencies, the May 2014 grand jury and the Office of the District Attorney, that there are no viable criminal charges to be lodged in this matter, and it would be highly irresponsible to utilize further resources to continue to pursue what is certain to be a fruitless prosecution,” her statement said.
On April 28, Wallace’s office released the forensic audit, which cost the county $500,000, on the Ball Ground Recycling project to the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners. Wallace said at the time of its release the audit showed no illegal activity on the part of the commission.
“Rest assured that this office and law enforcement utilized the forensic audit, independent investigation and the advice of the Attorney General’s Office and federal authorities in reviewing the evidentiary and legal issues in its consideration of this matter, as well as specific questions raised by the audit. Ultim-ately, there was simply not sufficient evidence to support criminal charges against any individual associated with this matter,” Wallace said Wednesday. “We respect the recommendations of the grand jury and appreciate all of their hard work this term.”
But Wallace said the determination as to criminal charges in no way speaks to the pending civil case. The civil suit filed by Cherokee County against Jimmy and David Bobo and their companies is still pending in Cherokee County Superior Court, according to court records.
“This office is not a party to that legal proceeding, since my role as District Attorney is limited to the prosecution of felony criminal offenses,” Wallace said.
Since the plant stopped operations in 2012, the county has received two letters of interest in the facility. The Resource Recovery Development Authority recommended the commissioners first to accept the $4.2 million offer from Sugar Hill-based Cowart Mulch Products in February, but later rejected the revised 25-year lease purchase.
The RRDA and Board of Commis-sioners are now working on a $7 million offer from Peach State Organics.
In response to the district attorney’s decision to close the case, Independent candidate for County Commission chair Carolyn Cosby announced she would hold a press conference in front of Wallace’s office today at 1 p.m. to call for the investigation to continue.
“We believe that another DA from a neighboring county should be called in to conduct the investigation,” Cosby said in the release.
“We need outside help. Wallace and the Sheriff’s Office have shown they are too tied into the county personalities to be properly objective.”