Hall County has paid $75,900 to consultant Carlyle Cox since 2006, but the county has little, if anything, to show for it.
An open records request from The Times for all communications and documents between the county and Cox produced only the monthly invoices since February 2006 from Cox’s Omega Consulting — no contract, no reports, no correspondence.
And no county officials seemed to question the deal, either.
Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver admitted Monday that he has been paying Cox, a former Gainesville city manager, with county funds to act as his consultant. The county administrator and the other commissioners have said they were not aware of the arrangement.
The same invoice has been presented each month since February 2006, reading simply: “Consultation fee for wastewater management and financing services to Hall County for (month, year).”
On Wednesday, Oliver conceded that there were no written communications between him and Cox. He called the services Cox provided “informal.”
“They were not written,” Oliver said. “A lot of it was just telling me, ‘Hey, read this or read that, look at this.’ ”
According to the records obtained by The Times, both Oliver and former County Administrator Jim Shuler signed the invoices to authorize a monthly payment of $1,500. Following Shuler’s retirement in June 2008, Cox’s monthly payment increased from $1,500 to $1,800.
The payments continued after Charley Nix filled Shuler’s position. He has signed none of the invoices since he assumed the job.
According to county procedure, the administrator is supposed to sign off on expenditures.
“It was an oversight that it was just the chairman’s signature on that,” Hall County Finance Director Michaela Thompson said. “We don’t normally have commissioners signing off on invoices.”
Nix became aware of the payments in May 2009. On the invoice for that month, he wrote a note asking for more information — “Michaela, I’m not familiar w/this one. Let’s discuss at your convenience. Thx, Charley 5/18/09.”
Thompson said she told Nix it had been approved since before she became finance director.
“Charley and I talked about that and he should have signed off on that,” Thompson said. “It’s established patterns of payments and it was just paid. ... It was assumed to have been properly documented at the time it had been started.”
Former Administrator Jim Shuler didn’t know much more about Cox and Oliver’s transactions.
“Tom handled that whole deal with Carlyle,” Shuler said. “I never did meet with Carlyle ... I don’t know much about that or what he did.”
Shuler said he signed the invoices to authorize payment to Cox.
“I’m not sure if they were meeting or what they were doing. That’s the reason Tom signed it, because he was getting those services,” Shuler said. “I signed it because that’s the only way it could get paid.”
Oliver said Cox helped communicate with other organizations involved with water and sewer.
“A lot of it was correspondence with other agencies in Atlanta, ... (and) all the stuff on legislation,” Oliver said. “When you’re a neophyte in the sewer and water business, you’ve got to have people that have experience in that and understand the terrain of our community.”
Cox did not participate in meetings with other paid consultants for water and sewer projects such as the Glades Reservoir and South Hall sewer. Nor did he ever meet with county commissioners.
“He was not necessarily in the decision-making process,” Oliver said. “We’re getting advice.”
Cox referred questions to Oliver, saying he provided the services that were requested by the chairman.
“I provided information to help the county deal with the sewer issues that they were facing,” Cox said. “I was retained by the chairman and this is how I was asked to send in my statement ... I’m sure Mr. Oliver can tell you all the details of what he thought was valuable in the service that I rendered.”
Oliver said though there is not much recorded evidence of Cox’s work, it has been valuable.
“There’s just volumes of resources,” Oliver said. “Did we put everything down that he gave to us? No, we did not.”
According to the documents, Cox was paid a total of $75,900 — $16,500 in 2006; $18,000 in 2007; $19,800 in 2008; and $21,600 in 2009 and 2010. An invoice for January 2009 was not included in the documents obtained by the paper.