Tucker moves to address unpaid bills for Fitzgerald Field

Fitzgerald Field. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — As Tucker is beginning to repair Fitzgerald Field – a neglected youth baseball and football park on Lawrenceville Highway – the city is making a small move to address unpaid bills.

Tucker Parks and Recreation has denied owing thousands of dollars to DeKalb County and small businesses as a result of acquiring Fitzgerald Field from Tucker Football League, Tucker Observer reported in February.

Now Tucker Finance Director Beverly Ragland has verified a payment to DeKalb County Finance for $4,025 on March 2 from the city’s general fund.

Kisha Davis, delinquent account manager for DeKalb County, said the payment was posted March 17. Tucker still owes $12,018 on the account.

The city took over the property in 2019 from Tucker Football League.

Fitzgerald Field is located on Lawrenceville Highway. It has been the home of Tucker Football League since the 1970s. The city acquired Fitzgerald Field with plans to renovate the property and create a sports complex. Tucker Football League, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was about $40,000 in debt when the city took over the property, according to records obtained by Tucker Observer.

A memo dated May 2019 stated, “The City of Tucker agrees to pay existing balances for water/sewer, electric, sanitation, tree service and field light repair, a one-time expense, at assumption of property.”

Three years later, the city still owed $15,826 to DeKalb County Sanitation and $6,900 to small businesses for services provided to Fitzgerald Field.

After Tucker Observer asked about an outstanding bill to DeKalb County Watershed Management, the city paid $1,843 in November 2021. The account had not been paid since March 2020.

“There was a clerical error that has now been cleared up and the [DeKalb County Watershed] bill has been paid,” said Matt Holmes, former Communications and Operations director, in November 2021.

When asked about other unpaid bills for Fitzgerald Field, the city said there were no verifiable invoices.

“The city of Tucker efficiently works with our vendors to process invoices in a timely manner. At the same time, we have a fiduciary and auditing responsibility to our taxpayers to ensure that we complete all due diligence for any accounts payable,” said Holmes. “After reviewing our internal records and reaching out to the vendors in question, the City of Tucker Parks and Recreation Department still is not in receipt of any verifiable invoices from these vendors. Nor are we aware of any verifiable unpaid invoices from the vendors in question.”

Documents show Tucker Parks and Recreation Director Rip Robertson reached out to Omar Brothers Tree Service in January, asking the small business to prove they’d never been paid by the city.

“We will pay any verified invoices due but must have some proof of non-payment. Five to six years after purported work and 3 years after the City’s acquisition, neither [Tucker Football League] nor the city have received any collection attempts from your office,” Robertson wrote to Omar Brothers.

Michael Cunjama, office manager at Omar Brothers, replied to Robertson with an invoice from 2017.

“As the years have passed by, we still have not received a single payment from these open invoices. After receiving these emails, you demand proof of the invoices not being paid which is very absurd,” Cunjama wrote. “Please submit payment for all three open invoices. [Tucker Football League] had enough time.”

Cunjama said on May 18 that he has not heard from Tucker since the email exchange, and Omar Brothers has not been paid.

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