The SunTrust office building is now home to the bank’s main branch offices, Jacobs Defense Contracting and the U.S. Secret Service.
ALBANY An Albany City Commissioner is requesting city officials shine the light on proposed real estate transaction involving the Albany Water, Gas and Light Commission that he says may have been done to skirt scrutiny from the city commission.
Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell said Tuesday that he would like a discussion to be put on the city commission's next agenda to determine why WG&L General Manager Lemuel Edwards and board member Andrew Reid authorized up to $4 million to be spent on a acquiring a piece of downtown property to relocate the utility's headquarters, when then Albany Mayor Willie Adams wasn't present.
"I want to know why they waited to sign off on this when Mayor Adams wasn't there," Postell said. "I think they're deliberately trying to keep us in the dark, and I won't stand for it."
Real estate transactions involving local governments are exempt from public disclosure and discussion under Georgia's Open Records and Open Meetings Acts until after closing or once the deal falls through, City Attorney Nathan Davis said, which is why the city denied the Herald's request for the document that Reid and Edwards reportedly signed.
Edwards said Thursday that the commission has been kept abreast of the discussions, which were first made public by the Albany Herald in January.
And while Edwards said that Adams, who retired as mayor in December, Thursday that he would honor a commitment made with bank officials to keep the terms of the deal confidential, but denied any intent to keep the commission in the dark.
"I wouldn't want to do it, because we've promised the bank that we would keep the negotiations confidential until the deal was done," Edwards said. "But we went to the commission, in executive session, and told them what was going on and what we wanted to do. I don't know where he's coming from on this."
"And besides, if a deal is reached, it can't be completed until the city commission votes on it," Edwards said.
Suntrust Bank Building
Edwards said that Adams "knew fully," about the resolution but that if the board had waited on Adams' return to sign the document, it would have risked violating a deadline that could've thrown the deal into jeopardy.
It was an executive session in January between the city commission and the executive staff of WG&L, that tipped off a Herald reporter that WG&L was in talks to acquire real estate. Two independent, yet anonymous sources confirmed the next day that WG&L was eying the Suntrust Office building at 400 West Broad Avenue as its new headquarters.
According to the resolution that was signed by Edwards and Reid on October 4, 2011, WG&L has offered to purchase the building for $4,075,000 and was seeking "that the matter be placed upon th agenda for the earliest possible City Commission meeting in order that final approval of the proposed sale may be obtained on or before November 18, 2011."
The matter hasn't been formally presented the city commission in open session for consideration and there has been no word that the deal is off, which would trigger the Herald's open records request, so presumably, the closing deadline has been extended.
As for the property itself, tax records show that it sold for $3.1 million in 2008, but is currently assessed at $2.9 million — more than $1,109,800 less than WG&L's proposed purchase price.