Saturday, May 30, 2009
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CONYERS - Local businessman Garvin Haynes defended on Tuesday the sale of a house to Rockdale County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt and attacked the Rockdale Citizen for its coverage of the transaction.Speaking during public comment time of the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners meeting, Haynes accused the Citizen of incorrectly reporting in a story published May 30 details of the transaction in which Haynes' company, Haynes Homes LLC, sold a house in Mountain Valley Estates in December to Nesbitt.Haynes said that the $160,000 reported to be the cost of the house was actually the assessed value of the property. Also, Haynes said Nesbitt and his wife, Robernett, were responsible for the total cost of the house and not the remaining principal left on the original mortgage, reported at $75,818.15.According to the 2008 Rockdale County tax bill, the assessed value of the home on Pine Knoll Lane is $69,520 and the market value as of Nov. 15, 2008, was $173,800. The house sale was financed by Haynes through a wrap-around mortgage agreement with the $160,000 being due by Dec. 1, 2011, according to the deed to secure debt between Haynes and the Nesbitts.Haynes took issue with the Citizen reporting that Nesbitt nominated Haynes to the county's Water and Sewage Authority. In fact, Commissioner JaNice Van Ness is the one who nominated Haynes to the authority, which was approved with a 3-0 vote.In addition to serving on the Water and Sewage Authority, Haynes also sits on the county's Board of Elections and Voter Registration as the Democratic representative and on the current SPLOST Oversight Committee for transportation and parks. Haynes also serves on an ad hoc committee formed in April by Rockdale Commission Chairman Richard Oden to study the county's ethics ordinance.Haynes further accused the Citizen on Tuesday of attacking him and Nesbitt by reporting the mortgage transaction at all and referenced comments in the May 30 story from Bill Bozarth, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, who stated that he found no conflict of interest with the transaction. Common Cause Georgia is an advocacy group for ethics in local and state government that advised the county as it crafted its local ethics ordinance. Haynes, along with local businessman David Shipp, led the effort in 2007 to create a county ethics ordinance.Concerns over that ordinance, which was passed at the end of 2008, prompted the formation of a BOC-appointed committee - comprised of Shipp, Haynes, Elizabeth Turner, Sherri Washington, Jacqueline Belcher and Mike Kessler - to revise the local law.During the public comment time Tuesday, Haynes lashed out at the Citizen and this reporter, stating he believed there is a bias against Nesbitt.He said though the Citizen covered Nesbitt's financial problems during last year's campaign, there was no similar coverage of an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into an alleged illegal campaign contribution to former county commissioner Jason Hill from a local developer.According to the Rockdale County District Attorney's Office in response to an Open Records, Haynes filed the complaint against Hill in late 2007 with Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington, who turned the investigation over to the GBI.At the time, the Citizen worked on a tip provided by Haynes and contacted the GBI to request confirmation of an investigation against Hill. GBI spokesman John Bankhead declined comment at that time, citing GBI policy against discussing any ongoing investigations. Bankhead confirmed Tuesday the GBI looked into the matter and closed the case with no charges filed.Haynes also referenced e-mail correspondence between Rockdale County spokeswoman Julie Mills and a Citizen reporter as proof of inappropriate communications concerning Hill.Mills said later she was not aware of the specific e-mail Haynes referenced. She said Haynes has regularly used the state's Open Records laws to obtain copies of thousands of e-mails from her office.Haynes refused to clarify his comments to the Citizen when approached after the BOC meeting. He said he would return to the Board of Commissioners to further discuss his grievances with the newspaper."I'm not done," Haynes said. "I'm only halfway through. I'll be back next week to finish my statement."Jay Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.