Tuesday did not go well for the city of Statesboro.
The same day an FBI agent took two boxes of evidence out of City Hall pertaining to alcohol license applications, Mayor Jan Moore issued a report that found more than 75 alleged violations of the city's alcohol ordinance that should have gone before City Council did not get anywhere near the hearing stage.
What the FBI is looking to find in those boxes and what or who is the target of its overall investigation is a guessing game right now. But it's safe to say the FBI just didn't decide Tuesday morning it had nothing better to do that day. Obviously, an FBI investigation into possible irregularities and potential illegalities into issues involving the city's alcohol license application procedures has been going on for some time. It also makes us wonder what else the FBI may be looking into at City Hall.
Mayor Moore's startling findings that essentially mean there was no enforcement of certain compliance parts of Statesboro's alcohol ordinance for the two-year period between July 2011 and August 2013 is a huge hit to the credibility of city government. It certainly gives the perception of little or no respect for the rule of law.
And the city is waiting on a report from Vidalia attorney Tom A. Peterson IV, who is investigating whether former City Manager Frank Parker and members of Statesboro City Council sometimes met privately in violation of the Open Meetings Act. The council fired Parker after the allegations were made public at a June 24 called meeting.
Peterson's investigation started July 7 and was expected to be finished within 30 days. The mayor and council, however, still don't have his report and there's no clear timetable when Peterson will deliver one.
Again, all we can do is speculate on what Peterson has uncovered, but if he found no Open Meetings Act violations, it certainly seems odd his investigation is about to enter its sixth month. Frankly, it's not unreasonable to wonder if Peterson has found something worse.
But speculation is all we have right now and pointing blame, at this point, would be irresponsible. Eventually, the FBI will release its investigation findings and Peterson will release his report. There will be plenty of time for blame then. But, more importantly, there then must be action on whatever the findings are to restore credibility at almost every level of city government.
Yes, Tuesday was a bad day for the city of Statesboro. Actually, it's been a bad year. And when the dust settles from the FBI and Peterson investigations, it might get worse.
But, after the reports are released and the ramifications are all known, city leaders will have an opportunity to begin regaining the trust of city residents. If City Council members and city leaders don't make changing how business is done at City Hall a top priority, then the credibility crisis only will worsen.
In bad situations, sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom before you can start climbing back up. We hope the bottom is near.