In the early 1990s, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exposed details of some sweetheart deals for Georgia lawmakers: dating back to the 1980s, prominent state officials had obtained from Georgia Power lots on north Georgia lakes for leases of as little as $350 a year.
Fannin Focus and its intrepid reporter-publisher, Mark Thomason, now reports that an obscure official from Lake Blue Ridge in Fannin County may have the sweetest deal of all.
Since 1986, the Focus reports, Fannin County’s recreation director has lived in a lakefront home on Lake Blue Ridge completely rent free. The county leases the home from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which maintains the dam on the lake, for $1, and for the past 30 years has allowed the recreation director and his family to live in it for free.
The Focus reports that the county also paid Bernie Hodskins’ utilities. Hodskins told the paper the house was part of his employment contract. But the contract backing up that claim has yet to surface and, when asked, Hodskins said he’d never received an IRS form from the county quantifying the monetary value of the rental subsidy Hodskins has been receiving.
There’s more. The Focus reports that for years Hodskins had control over a bank account used to collect recreation department funds, including gate receipts from local sporting events.
In 2011, the county computerized the books to track cash receipts to the account (none existed before). After that change, recreation department receipts jumped by nearly $50,000 per year, compared to prior years.
The Fannin Focus also found that Hodskins wrote himself “bonus” checks from the account, paid family members and used it to pay local vendors.
County officials are investigating, and the Fannin Focus is continuing to dig through the recreation department’s records.