Giant Bibb County flag project on hold in midst of audit

jkovac@macon.comApril 1, 2014 

It was an all-American idea, patriotic to the hilt: Erect a giant flagpole -- maybe the tallest free-standing one in the country -- to fly an enormous-as-all-get-out Old Glory.

The plan, unveiled last fall at a groundbreaking attended by local leaders, Macon’s mayor among them, was to put a 60-by-30-foot flag on a 228-foot-tall pole along Interstate 475 at Thomaston Road.

The undertaking, as announced at that late-October gathering, would cost about $40,000 and be paid for by an American Legion post that sits a half-mile or so west of the freeway.

But in recent weeks, the project has come unfurled.

The commander of American Legion Post 3, Kenneth Maye, who had publicly trumpeted the flagpole project, resigned in early March.

Since then, Legion officials have scoured their coffers trying to figure out what might have become of any money earmarked for the flag effort.

The post has been conducting an internal audit.

Meanwhile, Bibb County sheriff’s investigators are examining the post’s financial records for possible wrongdoing.

Legion officials say Maye promised more to the flag project than he should have.

“The executive board of this post did not give any approval for the post to do the flag,” John Griffin, the American Legion’s regional director, said Monday.

“We do not have any funds that we can put to the flagpole. I can tell you that right now because we don’t have any funds. We had funds from our trust. We had funds that come in from the gaming machines (in the Legion’s lounge), from the redemptions machines, I should say. ... But we don’t have any funds right now. OK, we will have funds coming in, but we don’t have any right now.”

Maye, 59, who lives in Crawford County, could not be reached for comment.

Maye was pictured over the weekend in a Macon Regional CrimeStoppers ad as being wanted for deposit-account fraud, but a warrant on that charge was recently voided.

An investigator said the charge stemmed from the purchase of a refrigerator for the American Legion, a purchase made with a Legion check that didn’t clear the bank.

Speaking of the proposed giant flag last fall, Maye said at the time, “I hope it brings back patriotism and pride in America. Some of these kids don’t even know what the flag stands for.”

The flag project is the brainchild of former Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen, who says a gigantic flag along the interstate -- along with interchanges along it named in honor of war veterans -- will lend the area “pro-military” appeal.

Allen says he will soldier on and find money to fund the project.

“I’m pro-American Legion ... and I will do everything humanly possible to raise this money,” Allen said. “It may be next year now.”

John Zuker, Post 3’s interim commander, said it is not clear how much money may be unaccounted for.

“We’ve got a pretty tough situation right now that we don’t need to talk about,” Zuker said. “We just need to find out how much it is and where (it is). ... I think we’ll know. It’ll just take us a little while.”

Zuker said, “We hate to have a situation in the community where we have a veterans organization that gets a black mark.”

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