Georgia Southern University on Wednesday rejected what it called a partial payment from state Sen. Cecil Staton of Macon, whose media company owes the university more than $50,000, according to the university.
The state-run university's spokesman Christian Flathman said the school received by mail Tuesday a $24,804 check from Staton. According to Flathman, Staton said this was the money owed the university as part of his company's agreement to produce radio broadcasts of Georgia Southern athletics.
But Flathman said school officials rejected the payment and sent the check back to Staton. Flathman said as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Staton still owes the university more than $50,000.
He said the university disagrees with Staton on how much money the senator's company owes Georgia Southern. As a result, the university ended its relationship with Georgia Eagle Media, effective July 1.
13WMAZ first reported the story on Tuesday, based on documents it obtained from the university under an open-records request. The documents showed that the university was requesting $52,000 it said was owed for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. You can read the documents by clicking here.
Flathman's comments on Wednesday came a short while after Staton, who hasn't responded to WMAZ's attempts to reach him for comment, issued a statement through his online newspaper, The Warner Robins Patriot.
Staton's article was titled "MY OPINION: Irresponsible Journalism."
Among other things, Staton said "...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."
He said "our records indicate no money was owed at all."
In a response to our request for additional comment on Staton's statement, Flathman e-mailed 13WMAZ that Georgia Southern is returning the check it received Tuesday "to avoid any confusion that the amount paid satisfies the contract. Georgia Southern continues to communicate with Georgia Eagle Media to seek full payment. "
13WMAZ obtained incorporation data on Georgia Eagle Media, Inc., from the Georgia Secretary of State's office.
Those records show that Georgia Media Eagle was originally incorporated as Georgia Eagle Broadcasting, Inc.
Cecil Staton is the registered agent and chief executive officer of Georgia Eagle, the corporation records show. They also show that his wife, Catherine Davidson Staton, is the chief financial officer.
Staton's article in The Warner Robins Patriot says 13WMAZ's reporter "did not bother to verify her story by speaking with Georgia Eagle to check her information."
13WMAZ tried on Tuesday to reach Senator Staton at his Macon and Atlanta offices for his comment before publishing its story. Reporter Lorra Lynch Jones also came to see him at his publishing company on Peake Road in Macon. His assistant said he was not available for comment and traveling to Columbus.
University spokesman Christian Flathman's complete e-mail response follows:
"Georgia Southern University received a package on June 28, 2011 from Georgia Eagle Media. The package included a payment for $24,804.45 for the 2010-2011 year. Georgia Eagle Media actually owes Georgia Southern University a total of approximately $50,000 for the 2010-2011 year.
"Georgia Southern is returning the check to avoid any confusion that the amount paid satisfies the contract. Georgia Southern continues to communicate with Georgia Eagle Media to seek full payment."