It has been more than a year since Georgia Southern University and Georgia Eagle Media first butted heads over a monetary dispute, and the issue remains unresolved.
Georgia Eagle Media Inc., based in Warner Robins, is co-owned by the family of state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon. Georgia Southern officials claim they turned the $53,000 bill over to a collection agency, but Georgia Eagle Media’s lawyer says the issue might end up in court.
“Georgia Eagle Media, Inc. is currently in a contract dispute with Georgia Southern Athletics regarding the broadcasting of athletic events on radio,” attorney Wendell Horne wrote in a statement released Thursday to the Statesboro Herald. “The contract dispute is between Georgia Eagle Media, Inc., and Georgia Southern Athletics and is not connected personally or individually with Cecil Staton. The contract was awarded through a sealed competitive bid process as required by law. Staton has no personal or individual obligation relative to this contractual dispute.”
The total amount due to Georgia Southern by Georgia Eagle Media is $53,239.55, university spokesman Christian Flathman said.
“Following unsuccessful attempts by the university to collect payment, the matter was submitted to a collections agency in November 2011,” Flathman said. “ To date, the amount has not yet been collected.”
Georgia Southern canceled its contract with Georgia Eagle Media on July 1, 2011, because of non-payment, he said.
“Georgia Eagle Media was originally selected through a competitive bidding process in 2006 as the broadcast rights holder for Georgia Southern Athletics and broadcasted football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball games,” Flathman said. “The University made the decision to establish an in-house radio network to manage its radio broadcasts. The in-house radio network, which began operation in July 2011, is part of a larger university initiative that focuses on multimedia content and production for not only athletics, but other university events and news.”
While Horne stated the matter does not directly involve Staton, who is the majority whip of the Georgia Senate, he is listed as president and CEO of the company, according to Macon television station WMAZ.
WMAZ obtained letters through open records requests to Georgia Southern that showed Staton never directly acknowledged the debt. In those letters and emails, Staton argued that Georgia Eagle Media “was facing a bad economy and asked the university to extend the contract with the company.”
Letters and emails show that Georgia Southern's athletic director and Georgia Eagle Media couldn't reach an agreement, according to a WMAZ source.
GSU officials told the station that Georgia Eagle Media submitted a partial payment of $24,804, but the payment was rejected. Flathman said after that last communication with Georgia Eagle Media, the university turned the debt over to a collections agency.
If the collection agency does not succeed in securing the funds, “per University (System) of Georgia Board of Regents' policy, the university's next step is to submit to the State Accounting Office for approval to reserve the debt," he told WMAZ.
One option would be that the university could write off the debt as noncollectible. Flathman said no date has been set for court action.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.