Turner’s Firm Billed Richland Co. $23K for Week’s Work

December 7, 2015

Investigative Reports

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Tuesday update: Richland County Administrator Tony McDonald wrote The Nerve to say his office went back and did locate the invoice from AT Consulting. He apologized for any confusion and added that the invoice was denied “because there was no contract at the time between AT Consilting and the County, nor was one entered into following the invoice,” McDonald wrote. “No funds, therefore, have ever been paid to this firm by Richland County.”

 

A consulting firm run by former Ft. Jackson commander and failed Dept. of Employment and Workforce director Abraham Turner billed Richland County nearly $24,000 for seven days of work – including $7,140 for Turner himself – performed immediately after the October flooding, The Nerve has learned.

The invoice, obtained by The Nerve, shows a submission date of Oct. 23 and is addressed directly to county administrator Tony McDonald. It itemizes the fees owed to Turner’s firm, AT Consulting Group LLC, “for the services provided starting 15 October to 21 October.”

Included among the fees totaling $23,909.25 are $928 for “Travel, Billeting, Supplies,” $4,200 for a deputy director, $4,320 for three “operations officers,” $2,000 for “Warehouse Staff (Logistics)(2),” and $5,321.25 for 26 “Administrative Specialists Staff.”

The bottom of the bill reads “Check can be made out to AT Consulting Group LLC or if you desire to cut separate checks for each person involved, I can make their information available for you.”

The invoice also states that the rates of pay, including $85 per hour for Turner and $50 for his deputy director, are based “on the initial Statement of work submitted to you totaling approximately 556K for six months.”

In October, a behind-closed-doors move by Richland County council members Kelvin Washington and Norm Jackson to approve a $1 million contract with AT Consulting Group LLC to do nothing but “coordinate” and “distribute” donated items failed to pass when details of it became public.

In November, in response to the negative publicity generated by disclosure of that deal and details surrounding some council members’ – including Washington and Jackson – commercial flights and extended stays in Nashville for a trip to learn about flood mitigation resulted in a motion by Jackson on Nov. 17 seeking to give council members the power to fire county employees caught distributing information to the press outside of proper Freedom of Information Act channels – channels that denied the existence of the Oct. 23 bill The Nerve obtained.

When The Nerve first learned of the existence of the Oct. 23 invoice, a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act to Richland County’s ombudsman’s office. On Friday, Dec. 4, the manager of that office, Kelly Cunningham, replied that “No invoices (from AT Consulting Group LLC) have ever been received or paid.”

Back on Oct. 28, five days after the Oct. 23 invoice was filed, a request under the Freedom of Information Act was filed seeking any contracts or proposals received by Richland County from AT Consulting Group LLC. At that time, Cunningham wrote that such documents were exempt from FOIA requests.

“Please be advised that certain documents responsive to your request, documents of and documents incidental to proposed contractual agreements, are exempt from disclosure pursuant to S.C. Code Section 30-4-40(a)(5). The exempt documents are proposed contracts relating to AT Consulting Group, LLC. Those documents will not be produced.

“Richland County has no further information regarding this matter.”

A call to Turner’s cell phone and message to his email inquiring about the invoice were not returned.

Turner’s two-year term as Gov. Nikki Haley’s choice to run the Department of Employment and Workforce ended with his February 2013 resignation a day after fielding tough questions from legislators about why his agency closed services in 17 rural counties while giving raises totaling nearly $440,000 to dozens of employees. Those questions followed a 100-page audit from the Legislative Audit Council that was highly critical of the agency.

AT Consulting Group LLC lists its business address on the S.C. Secretary of State’s website as 2601 Read Street, which is the address for Benedict College’s Business Development Center.

Reach Aiken at ron@thenerve.org or call 803-254-4411. Follow him on Twitter @RonAiken and @thenervesc.