Mo’ Monkey Business? : The Madison County Jail

monkeyWe reported a while back about some, um, “creative” maneuvering by the Madison County board of commissioners.  (Robert’s Rules of Order?  We don’t need no stinkin’ Robert’s Rules of Order!)

A Haymaker fan from that neck of the woods clued us in on some interesting work by a local watchdog web site out there. The story involves the construction of the county jail, some sketchy documentation on paying the contractor, and former county attorney (and state board of elections chairman) Larry Leake.  Pull up a chair and set a spell.  This is a good one: 

My effort to get a copy of the contract between the county and the contractor was futile because the county didn’t have it. It seemed logical that if the county didn’t have a copy, the (then) county attorney, Mr. Leake would. Indeed the only copy was at his office. [Citing] the Freedom of Information Act, I was given a copy of it.

The contract between Madison County and H&M constructors had, on page two, ARTICLE 3. “DATE OF COMMENCEMENT AND SUBSTANTIAL COMPLETION”

Subsection 3.1 States “The date of commencement of the Work shall be the date of the Agreement unless a different date is stated below or provision is made for the date to be fixed in a notice to proceed issued by the owner.” That date was 8 March 2010.

Subsection 3.3 states “The contractor shall achieve substantial Completion of the entire Work not later than 540 (calendar) days from the date of commencement, or as follows.” On the following page: “Liquidated damages shall be assessed at $1,000 per calendar day for non-compliance with the contract time.” […] 

This was a rather unique contract with a rather unique page-numbering system:

[…] It was more than surprising when I saw that there were 2 page twos. The second one has “VOID” written in capital letters over subsections 3.1 and 3.3. Obviously, either Mr. Leake or someone in his office had attempted to alter the contract. The word VOID was not signed or initialed by anyone nor is there a date. Such would only benefit the contractor and, as it turned out, cost the county.[…] 

It sounds like the enforcement of this contract was as fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants as the county commissioners meetings:

The new jail and offices were dedicated on March 17, 2012 or 736 days after the contract was signed, and 190 after the required completion date. The math is easy. Multiply 190 days at $1,000 per day. Madison County never collected the $190,000 we were owed.

[…T]he contracted price of the jail was $7,388,000. According to the attached accounting document, H&M Constructors was actually paid $8,116,858 or over $728,000 MORE than the contracted amount.[…]mo

Well, who was in charge here? :

At a monthly meeting of the County Commissioners, I asked the three members who were in office at the time the construction of the jail was completed if they had voted to approve paying H&M more than the contracted price. They answered that they had not.

This begs the questions: who authorized the additional payment, and why did Mrs. Reinhard make the payment if it was over the contracted amount? There was only stunned silence amongst the commissioners.

At that point I asked for and demanded that they immediately authorize a complete investigation of all the business surrounding the jail by a qualified, disinterested third party. The matter was tabled and not brought up again since.

In theory, all these financial documents have been audited and given the official seal of approval. I have asked two very competent and unbiased accounts to review the accounting documents. Both responded identically saying, “I have no idea what this is, but it isn’t any accounting that I am familiar with. Nothing makes any sense here.”

With that statement in mind I offer you one last accounting document. Once again let’s review. There was slightly over one million dollars collected from a special .02 tax. We don’t know who spent it or on what, but there was one million dollars. Then we borrowed $9,600,000. This is now easy math; there was a total of, not more than, $10,600,000. Can anyone possibly explain how the number $21,627,060.24 has anything to do with the jail?

Maybe Larry Leake can:

Looking at the limited information that is available it is reasonable to conclude that the “Criminal Justice Advisor Committee” really consisted of: Attorney Leake , (then) Sheriff Ledford and Hall Moore. Due to the absence of any minutes, and the non specific accounting documents, the question of where the million dollars was spent by the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee remains a disturbing mystery.

Ledford and Moore offered the position of Project Manager to their good friend Charles Tolley who then dictated the terms and conditions of his services. No one objected to Mr. Tolley not having any construction based experience or the required insurance policies. Mr. Tolley in turn worked to insure that his good friends at H&M Constructors were given the contract to build the new jail.momoney

Based on extraordinarily incorrect guesstimate by the architects, Cope Associates, John Ledford reduced the number of beds in the jail by 50%. Even after the original bids were opened, the idea of constructing the facility with the original 128 beds was never again addressed. That Cope Associates was paid $877,000 on the basis of a building costing $13 million dollars and not $517,000 that was based on the actual $7,388,000 was in conflict with of the terms of the contract should be a concern. A difference of $360,000.

Paying an architect more than what the contract specifies without any sort of formal vote or documentation.  What could go wrong here? :

Clearly, there was an attempt to alter the contract with H&M, which was solely in the possession of Mr. Leake. The construction ran over the contracted deadline by 190 days and the county should have received payment for that delay. Rather than receive a payment, the county overpaid H&M by over $700,000 and no-one in authority knows anything about it.


For the record, Leake was ousted as county attorney in December 2012.