Wednesday, August 1, 2007

08/01 - Jekyll resident files complaint with AG

Wed, Aug 1, 2007
The Brunswick News

A Jekyll Island resident is asking the Georgia Attorney General's Office to investigate claims of wrongdoing on the Jekyll Island Authority Board of Directors.

Joe Iannicelli, an island resident and former member of the Glynn County Board of Education, alleges the Jekyll board of directors kept secret its plan to give a $10 million rent abatement to a developer.

"(Board chair Ben) Porter never announced what they were giving Trammell Crow," Iannicelli said of the developer hired to renovate the Buccaneer Hotel into a $90 million hotel/condominium complex.

"And they never reported the details, either in the committee meeting or the open meeting."

The deal was finalized at the board's July 9 meeting.

Iannicelli also said he has been unable to obtain copies of the financial projections produced by Jekyll Island Authority staff that illustrate the rent abatement package with Trammell Crow.

"They've said I can look at them," he said. "But they have refused to provide me with copies."

Iannicelli originally filed his complaint that the board violated Georgia's Open Meetings Act, which requires public business to be conducted in an open manner, with the State Ethics Commission.

The ethics commission rejected Iannicelli's complaint, saying it investigates violations solely involving elected officials, lobbyists and vendors that do business with the state.

Political appointees, such as the members of the Jekyll Island board, are not within its purview.

"They blew it (the complaint) off," Iannicelli said. "They said they had no jurisdiction."

That led him to the attorney general's office.

"They're going to have a hard time saying they don't have jurisdiction," Iannicelli said.

The deal also has caused controversy among members of the board of directors.

Board member Ed Boshears, who lives on St. Simons Island, voted for the abatement, but since has blasted it and his fellow board members by calling it a plan to eliminate affordable accommodations on Jekyll Island.

Bert Brantley, a spokesperson for Gov. Sonny Perdue, previously has said the governor favors a variety of lodging choices on the state-owned island.

Multiple attempts to contact Porter to respond to criticisms have proved unsuccessful.

Since Boshears leveled his charges, Porter addressed a letter to the community criticizing his colleague and lauding the benefits the Trammell Crow deal will bring to Georgia, Glynn County and Jekyll Island.