Amidst media pressure to provide receipts and calls from commissioners for a forensic audit, Mayor Hardie Davis has ramped up his credit card spending over the first four months of this year.
Davis has continued to spend tens of thousands of dollars on his city-issued credit card so far in 2021, far more than in previous years.
One charge that sticks out is $4,500 paid to Atlanta Premiere Productions, which specializes in sound systems. Company spokesman Chibale Wiggins said his company has never done work with the city of Augusta.
“We recently installed a church in Augusta, but we haven’t worked with the city of Augusta,” Wiggins said, although he claimed that he did not remember the name of the church or why his company charged the city any money.
Wiggins promised to look into the matter, but multiple follow-up calls have not been returned.
The mayor’s office has not provided any receipts to explain the need for sound equipment.
By far the biggest bills come from a company called LC Studios out of Florida. So far this year, the mayor has spent $16,219 on video production services. The charges did not go through standard city procurement procedures, which require any charges over $5,000 to be sent out for competitive bids.
The mayor’s chief of staff, Petula Burks, has prior relationships with the owners of LC Studios. LC Studios’ owner Cameus Chicoye is listed as an assistant vice president for a business Burks started while in Florida.
In a recent interview with WRDW, Davis states that Burks’ hiring the firm she established was not a conflict of interest.
During the interview Davis stated, “Let me be clear. We did not use a vendor who has ties to my chief of staff. That’s number one, and two, I think it’s extremely important that we articulate this properly. There was no conflict of interest. We looked at a host of people who could do business with us on a video photography standpoint. There was a quality of product that I was looking for, and they were able to meet that, but, again, characterize this as tied to my chief of staff? That is an inappropriate characterization and quite frankly inappropriate.”
Emails obtained via a freedom of information request show dozens of messages between Burks and LC Studios during her time in Florida.
The largest PayPal expenditure, $5,000, was paid to Reed For Hope, a non-profit started by Hollywood casting director Robi Reed. The non-profit’s stated mission is health and wellness, and one of its major partners is Planned Parenthood.
During the interview with WRDW, the mayor said the money paid to Reed For Hope was the speaker fees for a Reed For Hope ambassador to appear on Davis’ Move With The Mayor video.
The video, despite its Hollywood connections and price tag, has less than 500 views on Facebook.
The ambassador who spoke in the video was Eva Marcille, a model who has made minor appearances on several television programs and who owns a line of CBD-infused beauty products. Marcille is also married to Michael Sterling, a politician who unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Atlanta in 2017.
Taxpayers also foot the bill for Eva Marcille’s transportation from Atlanta to Augusta in the amount of $997.55.
Davis made his disdain for the local media clear in the WRDW video, offhandedly referring to The Augusta Press as a “trashy local blog.” However, he has used city money to pay for two subscriptions to The Augusta Press, one for himself and one for Burks.
Davis’ credit card statements show that he also uses public money to pay for subscriptions to The Augusta Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal And Constitution, The Wall Street Journal and The Business Journal, among others. Davis also uses public money to pay for his Amazon Prime streaming service.
Other charges continue to show the mayor’s card being used at Bed Bath and Beyond, JoAnne’s, Ross Dress-For-Less, Target, Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Records also show that Davis’ card continues to be used at fast food restaurants. Davis has tried to downplay those charges by stating that he was just giving “volunteers” a free lunch. However, receipts seem to tell a different story.
One particular dine-in receipt from Wendy’s identifies Maria Cook as the diner. Maria Cook is Davis’ program manager. Two other receipts shows the mayor’s staff ordered lunch for two from Red Lobster. One of those meals was delivered to the mayor’s office and the other picked up.