The Floyd County Board of Education unanimously approved a settlement with Johnson Controls Inc. on Thursday which will pay the system $2.3 million and provide services and equipment for two years after coming out of a closed session.
“This agreement is a major step towards closing a difficult chapter for the school district,” said Superintendent John Jackson in a news release. “The school district appreciates Johnson Controls’ assistance and cooperation throughout this matter.”
The board also decided on having an absolute auction — which means all items will sell with no set reserve price — for the seized and forfeited items from the RICO case involving the system’s former maintenance director Derry Richardson.
The case involved an alleged scheme carried out by Richardson and at least 12 others resulting in the loss of $6.3 million.
Richardson had worked for Johnson Controls before taking the position with Floyd County Schools; however, the company is not a party in the RICO lawsuit.
The state attempted to add Johnson Controls as a party to an ongoing civil RICO case against several defendants, including Richardson. Floyd County Superior Court Judge Tami Colston denied that request stating a court-imposed deadline to add parties had already passed.
A Floyd County police investigative summary for that case stated Johnson Controls received and paid for fake invoices from Steve Bevill, who has not been criminally charged.
Bevill worked as a subcontractor for Johnson Controls to do work for the Floyd County Board of Education, the police summary states. Richardson allegedly negotiated those contracts and insisted that Johnson Controls hire Bevill to perform part or all of the work on a given project.
During a court hearing, lawyers for Johnson Controls said the company has been cooperating with investigators since December 2015 and met with police and provided over 25,000 pages of documents.
Also, as part of the agreement, Johnson Controls will consult with system officials and “review the operation and maintenance of the HVAC systems at three school facilities” chosen by the system, along with making recommendations for upgrades.
Additionally for two years from when the agreement is in place, the company will provide 16 hours of “on-site technical support per month for HVAC and security systems collectively, at no charge.”
The system also will receive an annual $25,000 allowance for repair parts and an additional $25,000 to cover costs of Johnson Controls workers making the repairs. The system will also get the same price for “parts and systems” that the company gets through the General Services Administration for two years.
Board Chairman Chip Hood, who joined the board in January 2015, as allegations of the decade-long thefts surfaced, said it was a great day to be a part of Floyd County Schools.
“This is personal for me,” said Brian Bojo, a Coosa High graduate and the court-appointed receiver, who controls and manages the seized assets. “This is not just a job.”
Bojo and Lou Dempsey, president of Dempsey Auction Co., updated the board on the final preparations for auctioning off the seized and forfeited items in the RICO case that will help the system recoup their losses.
“Our hope is we can be part of the healing process,” Bojo said.
A two-story home at 241 Riverbluff Drive in Summerville that Richardson police say built with illicit funds is the big-ticket item for the auction. Other items include over 50 guns, vehicles, Bobcats, tractors and utility vehicles.
“This is the Super Bowl of auctions for us,” Dempsey said, adding that over 1,000 people are expected. “I feel like everything will sell.”
The list of items is still being finalized and is expected to be completed by Nov. 13. The auction will be held at the Coosa Valley Fairgrounds at 1400 Martin Luther King Blvd. on Nov. 18, starting at 11 a.m. From Nov. 15-17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., items will available for people to look over. Guns being auctioned off will only be at the fairgrounds for inspection on Nov. 17, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dempsey encouraged the board to go with an absolute auction — items are sold regardless of price to the highest bidder — in place of setting minimum prices for certain items because it would bring more money in and instill excitement. Once the auction gets going, the market will drive the prices up and ensure items aren’t being bought undervalue, he told board members.
Board member Melinda Strickland said an absolute auction shows the community the board wants as much of the taxpayers’ dollars back as they can get.