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Ron Thigpen/Georgia Bank & Trust…What’s Going On?

Columbia County residents who receive a water bill; do you pay by check?  If you do, look at the back of a cancelled check.  In what bank was the check deposited?  We’ll tell you…it’s Georgia Bank and Trust.  Did you know that Columbia County Commissioner (Vice Chairman) Ron Thigpen is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Georgia Bank and Trust?  WHOA!  How many tens of millions of Columbia County taxpayer dollars go through Georgia Bank and Trust?  Golly gee whilikers, no conflict of interest thereRemember that Columbia County was unlawfully charging a homeowner for water utility services he never received…and charged him for 20 years, that’s 240 months…and the victim PAID FOR 20 YEARS, THAT’S 240 MONTHS for services he never could receive.  WHOA!  In short, the victim was paying for alleged services, services never received, so Columbia County deposited the monies with Georgia Bank and Trust, and the money sat there because Columbia County had nothing to pay out related to the fees charged and the victim paid..  WHOA!

Ron Thigpen’s annual compensation package is more than $560,000This same source cited last year’s package at $200,000 less.  WHOA!  WHOA!  WHOA!  If that’s the case, then Georgia Bank and Trust must be doing very well in this tough economy.  Well let’s just see what Georgia Bank and Trust’s SEC 10-K filing states…it’s 158 pages.

GB&T declared cash dividends payable to the Company of $0 in 2010 and 2009 and $1,450 in 2008. The Company suspended the payment of quarterly cash dividends on its common stock effective April 22, 2009. The Board of Directors considered the action prudent in order to maintain its capital position in the current state of the economy. The Board plans to reinstate the dividend payment at an appropriate time once economic conditions improve and stabilize.

The $1,450 represents how many thousands in dividents…so it’s 1,450 thousands…just add 3 zeros.

WHOA!  Damn!  “GB&T declared cash dividends payable to the Company of $0 in 2010 and 2009”.  NOTHING???  Well stockholders, at least Ronald L. Thigpen appears to have done did good for himself.  And let’s not forget the people who lost their jobs when Georgia Bank and Trust closed its Athens branch.  Hey, great job.  And a special recognition to Barry Paschal for refusing to report this.

Georgia Bank and Trust’s SEC 10-K states:

Risks Associated with our Business

The amount of “other real estate owned” (“OREO”) may increase significantly, resulting in additional losses, and costs and expenses that will negatively affect our operations

At December 31, 2010, we had a total of $7,751 of OREO as compared to $7,974 at December 31, 2009 and $5,734 at December 31, 2008. This increase in OREO is due, among other things, to the continued deterioration of the residential real estate market and the tightening of the credit market. 

Remember, add 3 zeros.

It appears as though Georgia Bank and Trust hasn’t done very well in the real estate market.  So what’s Commissioner Ron Thigpen and his mentor Ron Cross do?  They bring Columbia County Government into the real estate market.  WHOA!  The following quote is long, BUT VERY INFORMATIVE AND WORTH READING:

We would like to give you a potential scenario. What if you owned the property, had been fighting with the county over trivial matters and hadn’t been able to sell any property for three years. Suddenly the Commission Chairman, Ron Cross, publicly states that he thinks that Columbia County should own that property. Here’s an idea: let’s put apartments into the mix, sue the County when they won’t approve the changes and settle the suit by selling them half the property. Everybody is a winner – except the Columbia County taxpayer. Isn’t it strange that two major apartment complexes were built during the past year, without a major incident, both within 2 miles of the Marshall property. Keep your eyes on this one, and don’t be surprised who buys the property when the county decides to sell. Meanwhile, our tax dollars are tied up in commercial real estate. Also, don’t believe the propaganda that this was a good deal for the county. If it was, don’t you think a private investor would already have purchased the property?

Remember the Commission’s last minute .25 mill tax reduction just days before the primary? Did you know that this reduction came from the Maintenance and Operation Budget for the County? This means the County has less money to spend each day for County operations. Knowing this, they also indicated County employees would get a raise at the end of the year. Meanwhile, our debt doesn’t appear to be shrinking.

Seems our Commission is only interested in increasing our debt, and wasted little time is issuing $60,770,000.00 (yes, that’s over $60 million) in water and sewer bonds. Granted the funds to pay off this debt won’t come from property taxes, because the people paying for it are only the ones who use the water and sewerage in Columbia County. Don’t property owners use the water and sewer? Aren’t rate increases necessary to pay for these bonds?

We don’t believe most people realize it, but guess whose law firm is once again Co-Bond Counsel for the issuance of the latest bonds? None other than our own County Attorney Doug Batchelor.

Oh, and let’s don’t overlook the bank that will handle the Bond Revenue Fund. Augusta’s own Georgia Bank and Trust. It looks like Georgia Bank and Trust’s rating mysteriously went from a D to a C- after the bond announcement. (All financial professionals advise doing business only with a bank with a rating of B+ or higher.) Surely our money is safe, though, because we remember that Columbia County’s District 1 Commissioner and Commission Vice-Chairman, Mr. Ron Thigpen, is the Chief Operating Officer, and also a significant stockholder, for Georgia Bank and Trust. What a relief it must be to know another $60,000,000.00 will run through your bank. We wonder if Ron Cross owns stock in Georgia Bank and Trust. A betting man would say he does. In the interest of fair play, let’s find out how many County Commissioners own stock in that bank. Enough for a quorum?

We consider this a severe conflict of interest. Our County Commission looks at it as business as usual.

Have you noticed the recent special highly intensified tactical advertising campaign for Georgia Bank and Trust? A strange bit of irony and an entire galaxy of hypocrisy can be found in their latest advertising slogan: “Doing the right thing”. We believe this is a typical knee jerk reaction for a troubled business. Your deposits might be insured by the Federal Government, as the recent government bailouts continue to help banks, but stockholder investments disappear immediately if a business fails. Stockholders will usually do anything they can to protect “their” investments.

Our local newspaper editor, Barry Paschal, recently questioned the need for so many County personnel to go on a bond related trip to New York City. Seems he was concerned about the need to spend roughly $12,000.00 for the trip. One might wonder why he is not concerned about the $60,000,000.00, how it will be spent and why a handful of people always seem to benefit from our multitude of bonds. Several of them will apparently see their coffers increased by well more than $12,000.00. One also might wonder why he didn’t question the fact that they flew out of Columbia instead of Augusta. One might continue to wonder why neither the Columbia County News Times nor the Augusta Chronicle made a front page news story of the fact that Georgia Bank and Trust was recently forced to close its Athens, Georgia branch. With so much of our taxes and fees deposited in that bank we certainly consider this to be newsworthy.

We wonder why the people complaining about this website are so opposed to hearing the truth.

Reminds us of the Liberals complaining about the Tea Party.

How many WHOA!s does that get?  And let’s not forget to congratulate County Attorney Doug Batchelor on his recent raise and other little what we view as strange coincidences.

This is getting lengthy so we may need to turn this into a 3-parter at least.  There’s a lot to take in and put together and we want to show you everything but do it so you won’t get brain cramps.  Please check back or SIGN UP FOR OUR AUTOMATIC EMAIL ALERTS WHEN WE POST A NEW THREAD for more on Ron Cross, Ron Thigpen, Doug Batchelor, Georgia Bank and Trust, and Morris Communications/Barry Paschal for setting aside journalistic integrity (in our opinion) by refusing to report such newsworthy (in our opinion) information.  Just look at what’s been published…and what’s not.

PS: Any lawyers out there?  If so, suppose that you/I pay for a magazine subscription and the magazine’s company pledges to report information to the subscribers that affects them.  Let’s also suppose that the magazine has such information but refuses to publish it.  What legal recourse do consumers have?  What recourse do its advertisers have?

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