Staton denies debt to Ga. Southern, but pays part of it anyway
By JIM WALLS
June 29, 2011 — Sen. Cecil Staton‘s broadcasting company paid Georgia Southern University more than $24,000 yesterday, just hours before he denounced a report that it had breached its contract to broadcast the school’s football games.
WMAZ-TV in Macon reported Tuesday that Georgia Southern had canceled its contract with Georgia Eagle Broadcasting and wanted Staton’s company to pay roughly $52,000 that it owed the school. On his media company’s website this afternoon, Staton denied owing Georgia Southern any money:
I have had occasion this year to see the worst side of sloppy journalism and none more egregiously error-ridden and irresponsible than some reporting right here at home in central Georgia. In one instance, a reporter-anchor for the leading television station in Macon claimed that I personally owed a state institution a large sum of money. Of course I didn’t, I don’t, and I never have.
Staton qualified his denial by saying “when the report was made our records indicate no money was owed at all.”
The Macon senator couldn’t have made that statement if his company had waited just a few hours longer to whip off its payment. Records obtained by Atlanta Unfiltered show Georgia Eagle Broadcasting sent the school a check for $24,804.45 on Tuesday, the same day as WMAZ aired its report. The check, dated June 23, was sent by overnight mail in a FedEx envelope dated June 28, according to records provided by the university.
It was unclear today whether Georgia Southern considers the matter settled. In an April 18 letter terminating Georgia Eagle Broadcasting’s contract, the school estimated it was owed $52,000 as its share of advertising sales, plus $984 for travel expenses.
The radio station’s payment was accompanied by a statement that showed about $150,000 in total advertising revenue, of which the university’s share was $49,804. Another $25,000 was deducted from the payment “for affiliate work and network advertising sales … and early termination of network agreement.”
Staton, who oversees the University System’s budget as chairman of the Senate’s Higher Education budget subcommittee, declined to comment today. In an e-mail to Atlanta Unfiltered, Staton wrote:
This is a private matter between a company I happen to have an ownership interest in and Georgia Southern athletics. Our company owns all the radio stations licensed to and operated from Statesboro, Georgia, so it is not surprising that those games are on our stations. I really cannot comment on this further. I doubt it would have much interest were it not that I am a state senator. I suspect you understand the nature of the economy for media at the moment.