To the people I serve,
ALBANY — In the last several weeks it has been brought to light that I have some personal and/or business financial problems. Because I am a public official, this has been given more warrant and attention than if I were a private citizen. But, the fact remains that I am a public official, and as such I understand that everything is fair game in politics. I take full responsibility for my actions whether they are private or public.
In short, I am unaware of any citizen, especially within our community that has not been affected by this economy. The financial challenges I have are very common and very real. My business like so many others in our City, State, and Country has taken a turn for the worst during this downturn. Along with the majority of the people in our country, I struggle to make ends meet. Bills come in like clockwork but the money to pay those bills is sporadic at best. As each month goes by the gap between money brought in and the amount of the money due out seems to increase. I have to make the hard decision of what bills get paid and which ones will have to wait. It’s extremely overwhelming at times, but it is my reality and my burden to face. I do so willingly with all of the grace and guidance afforded to me.
I’ve never been one to blame other people for my problems, and I don’t intend to start now. Life is a learning laboratory for us all. No one makes all the right decisions at the right times, and the fact of the matter is, my current situation is due to business decisions I’ve made. One being, opening a restaurant I had no business starting in the first place. It was a bad decision and spending every penny I had to try and make that restaurant work was even worse. However, in life we sometimes don’t always do the right things or make the right decisions - It’s what makes us human, and I’m okay with that. But, no matter how bone headed the decision, it was always for the right reason. I want to make a better life for my family and give people hope and the courage to know that no matter where they come from or what challenges in life they face, it is always possible to start over and build something great.
In life it’s not about where you’ve been but where you’re going and we’re not judged by our situations but how we respond to them. My circumstance does not make up who I am as a human being, a man or a public servant.
In the last several months I have been working tirelessly to right the ship. Many partnerships have been formed to help grow our business and increase revenue. In the next few weeks we will make a major announcement about a new project that will not only help increase revenue for our business but also create jobs for our economy.
Make no mistake about it, I will get these issues resolved and will be better for the experience. I anticipate this journey to be eight to twelve months to fully resolve the financial issues we are currently experiencing.
I look forward to updating you on our progress and being a true example of life, hardship, sacrifice and triumph.
The following are some questions I’ve been asked about my current state of affairs.
The question has been asked whether or not I am qualified to serve:
I can assure you that my challenges are not equated with my ability to serve the people. Actually, it makes me more aware, more concerned and more vigilant about what my community is going through as a whole. My circumstance does not define me or overshadow my responsibility to my community.
I have always conducted the business of the City in a professional and honest manner and with the highest level of integrity. I am ever mindful of the tremendous responsibility I have to the citizens of this community, and I strive every day to meet that expectation.
I would suggest that not only am I qualified to be in office I may be one of the most qualified people sitting at the table. Often times knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do when making decisions. My experiences whether good or bad have proven to be useful in my decision making process as it relates to important issues facing our City.
I have been a strong voice for businesses on the Commission:
I understand the role of government is not to create jobs but to create the atmosphere for jobs to be created and for businesses to prosper.
I advocated for and was successful in getting the ordinance changed to decrease the time it took for businesses in our downtown to get store front signage approved. In the past to get signage approved it took up to 90 days. That process has been reduced down to 30. This has aided in businesses being able to open in a faster manner and start generating much needed revenue.
I supported the proposed liquor store on the corner of Oglethorpe Blvd and Radium Springs even though supporting that project caused me great personal harm. While, not the most desirable business, this new store would have created jobs to help put food on the table for families and generate much needed tax revenue for our city.
I’ve been very strong when it comes to being fiscally responsible with public funds:
If you look at the true picture of our City, the City of Albany is one of the best ran Cities in the State of Georgia, and I dare say the Country.
I’ve been a strong advocate for the responsible use of MEAG Trust Fund Rebates, which if managed properly, could be used to reduce the tax burden on our constituents.
I have presented ideas to help the City grow its revenue generation capabilities though ideas such as the Land Bank Authority, Revolving Loan Funds, the revitalization of Downtown, and the construction of a convention center, just to name a few.
Another questions asked is whether or not I plan to resign:
This is not a question for me to answer; that is up to the people I serve. However, what I can attest to is that I have not engaged in any illegal activities which would preclude me from serving in office or cause me to have to resign but I serve at the pleasure of the people of Ward 3. If the people in my ward feel as though I can no longer effectively representing their needs, concerns and issues at City Hall then I will immediately resign without hesitation As long as I continue to have the support of my constituents I will continue to serve them faithfully.
I’ve been asked if I plan to seek another term:
It is too earl y to determine if I will serve another term on the Commission. I still have roughly 16 months left on my current term. When the time is appropriate I will make a decision about my future in politics.
The Albany Hilton Garden Inn is the latest organization to file a legal action against a sitting Albany city commissioner or his business contending he walked out on thousands of dollars in money owed for an event held at the downtown location.
Filed Wednesday in the Magistrate Court of Dougherty County, the lawsuit contends that Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike, under the auspices of the Albany Area Black Expo, walked out on more than $11,000 in catering and event rental bills owed to the Hilton.
The legal action contends that Pike signed a contract on March 9 with the Hilton to furnish meeting rooms and food for the expo worth a total of $11,253.33.
"To date he has failed to pay. Numerous attempts have been made to contact him and all messages have gone unanswered," the documents states.
According to the Albany Area Black Expo website, the event was a five-day conference of networking opportunities, seminars and clinics that was sponsored by Procter & Gamble, MillerCoors, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, AT&T and the Hilton.
In a statement that has been put online in its entirety, Pike writes that, as a public official and businessman he hasn't been immune from the economic recession that has troubled most small business owners and that he accepts full responsibility for his actions.
"In the last several weeks it has been brought to light that I have some personal and/or business financial problems. Because I am a public official, this has been given more warrant and attention than if I were a private citizen. But, the fact remains that I am a public official, and as such I understand that everything is fair game in politics. I take full responsibility for my actions whether they are private or public," Pike writes.
"The question has been asked whether or not I am qualified to serve. I can assure you that my challenges are not equated with my ability to serve the people. Actually, it makes me more aware, more concerned and more vigilant about what my community is going through as a whole. My circumstance does not define me or overshadow my responsibility to my community."
A review of public documents, including Pike's City Commissioner Expense Account shows no obvious irregularities and there are no signs that Pike has co-mingled any of his taxpayer funded accounts with his personal financial accounts.
The filing by the Hilton is the latest in a series of legal actions taken against Pike or his company, according to court documents, and isn't the only time concerns surrounding the financial management of the Black Business Expo under Pike's leadership have been questioned.
In a file obtained by the Herald under the Georgia Open Records Act from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, an investigation of Pike and financial issues surrounding the 2011 Black Business Expo was launched in September 2011 following a request from Albany Bank and Trust and the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.
According to those records, the sheriff's office asked the GBI to investigate in order to avoid a possible conflict of interest after officials with AB&T approached the sheriff's office about a $8,348 claim against Pike and Urban Pulse media.
On August 24, 2011, nearly a month after GBI agents had began compiling bank records, e-mails and correspondence from bank officials on their efforts to collect the overdrawn amounts, an official with AB&T told agents that they had received a cashiers check drawn on another local bank that rendered the account paid in full and that they wished to drop the investigation.
On August 25, 2011, GBI records show that the investigation was closed, with a copy of the report sent to the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.
Court documents show that Pike continues to have financial troubles.
On May 21, Tristate Office Products Co., Inc., doing business as Premier Business Solutions located on Dawson Road, filed a claim in Dougherty County Magistrate Court for an unpaid balance on the rental of a copier for his business for $4,280.88.
Magistrate Robert Revell issued a default judgment against Urban Pulse and Pike July 11 for the full amount plus interest and court costs.
In February, Judge Baxter Howell issued a writ of possession effectively evicting Pike for failure to pay rent on his office at 242 Broad Avenue; a legal action brought by the Albany Downtown Group, Inc.
In January, a claim was filed by Pike's commercial landlord, Phil Cannon & Associates for $8,060 Cannon contended was owed to him by Pike following a verbal agreement in February 2011 in which an $8,000 loan was made to Pike with agreement for repayment once Pike's 2010 Income Tax refund came in.
In June 2011, Cannon contends that Pike offered to make installment payments of $500 per month to satisfy the debt, which he made for July and August 2011.
On March 15, Howell entered a default judgment against Pike for $8,060 plus court costs and interest.
Despite the financial troubles, Pike says that he feels he can still effectively serve the people of his ward, which includes the downtown district where his former office was located.
"Another questions asked is whether or not I plan to resign," Pike writes. "This is not a question for me to answer; that is up to the people I serve. However, what I can attest to is that I have not engaged in any illegal activities which would preclude me from serving in office or cause me to have to resign but I serve at the pleasure of the people of Ward 3.
"If the people in my ward feel as though I can no longer effectively representing their needs, concerns and issues at City Hall then I will immediately resign without hesitation As long as I continue to have the support of my constituents I will continue to serve them faithfully.
That being said, Pike, who still has at least another 16 months left on his term, said he has not yet decided whether he will seek another term in office.