County hay purchases from farm tied to Prince are questioned

Questions about Grady County’s purchase of hay from a farm with connections to Grady County Commission Chairman Ray Prince were raised during Tuesday morning’s county commission meeting.
Calling the discovery “troubling,” former commissioner Charles Renaud questioned what he described as approximately $5,000 in purchases from C&R Farms during 2017.
Public records indicate that Grady County paid C&R Farms $680 in 2006 and $3,548 in 2017 for bales of hay used in road department construction projects. According to Grady County Accounting Manager Donna Johnson, the 2016 purchases were made in April, May and December while the 2017 purchases were all made in the month of July.
Johnson said the purchases were approved by former county administrator Carlos Tobar and were within the administrator’s spending authority.
However, Renaud noted Tuesday that the county’s financial policies prohibit any county employee being involved in expenditures “directly or indirectly.” The policy goes on to state, “This includes any transaction with sale to, work for, or contract of the County or any department of government or service involving the expenditure of public funds.”
“Have the financial polices of the county been changed?” Renaud asked.
“Not that I know of,” replied Chairman Prince Tuesday morning.
When Renaud pointed out the purchases from C&R Farms, which stands for Cole (Prince) and Ray (Prince) Farms, the chairman said that he had retired from the day-to-day operations of the farm and sold it to his son Cole.
Renaud said the transaction were “outside the lines” and he questioned if the other board members had known about the expenditures at the time and if so why they had permitted the purchases to take place.
The former county commissioner claimed the purchases also violated state law.
Following the meeting Chairman Prince elaborated on the hay purchases. He told The Messenger that Tuesday was the first he had heard of the county purchasing hay from his son.
“This is hay that he can’t do anything else with. It either has been rained on or isn’t any good for anything else so it’s sold basically at cost to get it out of the way,” Chairman Prince said.
The commission chairman said there is apparently a lack of suppliers for what he calls “junk” hay but is more commonly referred to as “erosion” hay. “He (his son Cole) is getting calls from Grady EMC and Southern Contractors to buy hay. There is just not a lot of places to get it,” Chairman Prince said.
“If he did something wrong he can pay the county back or we can just give them the hay,” Prince said.
Although Prince said he was unaware of the hay purchases until this week, he served as vice chairman of the board in 2017 and for the majority of the year served as chairman following the illness and subsequent resignation of veteran commissioner Elwyn Childs. The commission chairman and vice chairman sign off on the county’s accounts payable and their signatures are on all county expense checks.

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