For more than an hour, Cliffard Whitby and Romain Dallemand sat in a south Georgia Denny's, drank coffee, argued about money, swapped expletives and debated legal strategies.
But Dallemand kept returning to his money problems and his troubles since resigning as Bibb County's school superintendent.
"S--t happened," he said. "I fell on my sword, as you used to say. My career is f----d."
Dallemand said he had trouble finding work and even lost his commercial driver’s license.
"You want know what I'm doing now?" he asked Whitby. "Driving Uber. Driving f---ing Uber."
Whitby didn't realize that Dallemand had turned and become an FBI informant who recording their talk.
Federal prosecutors played the tape last week during Whitby's federal fraud trial, just before Dallemand testified.
They say the two also talked about their alleged conspiracy to defraud the Bibb County school district of millions and split the money. 13WMAZ obtained a copy of the video, which runs more than two hours long, through federal court.
Whitby's lawyers say the recording is so poor that it's unclear what the two men were talking about or whether it was illegal.
Whitby is a developer and, at the time, was also chairman of Macon-Bibb County's Industrial Authority. He resigned after being indicted in the bribery case.
Dallemand was Bibb County's superintendent from 2011 to 2013, but when he made the recording, he was out of the job for more than four years.
Whitby is accused of paying him more than $461,000 in bribes in what prosecutors call a "six-year conspiracy."
In exchange, Dallemand allegedly agreed to provide school district support for the Promise Neighborhood, a federally funded community-development project headed up by Whitby.
Prosecutors say Whitby agreed to kick back 10 percent of what he made from the deal.
Dallemand, who now lives in Florida, has already pleaded guilty to federal tax charges for taking those bribes and agreed to cooperate with the FBI.
According to court records, the video and sound recording was made in March 2017 at a restaurant off I-75 near the Georgia-Florida border.
Neither man's face appears on the video --- but their feet and legs are visible as they walk to and from the Denny's.
Court records say federal prosecutors say they don't want to reveal the type of recording device that Dallemand used, because it's still being used in other FBI investigations.
'It was a risk worth taking'
Much of the restaurant video is inaudible, as the two talk amid clattering dishes, clanging silverware and background chatter.
Court documents say Whitby wrote numbers on the placemat and often pointed to them as he spoke, but the tape shows them arguing about whether Dallemand got the money that he was promised.
"When you made me the offer," he tells Whitby, "for 10 percent, and I agreed, I was thinking, 10 percent of $1 million, 100 for 10 years. And so it was a risk, but it was one that I was willing to take."
Whitby says the money he agreed to pay isn't there -- because Bibb County ended support of Promise Neighborhood after Dallemand resigned.
Their original deal was supposed to play out over 10 years -- "but they killed that," he says.
Dallemand continued pleading.
"I sacrificed a lot, OK?... I have responsibilities all around. Nobody has sacrificed more to make this deal happen."
And he returns again to his career troubles.
"Since I have been 20 years old, I had a commercial driver’s license, a CDL license, you have to renew it every two years. I lost it because of my blood pressure."
Whitby: 'We got to get past this b------t'
Dallemand says his job troubles in Bibb "started with the Promise Neighborhood."
Thumping the table, Whitby says, "This here -- this here -- has not caused any of that."
But Dallemand refers to an $8.5 million windfall for Whitby -- an apparent reference to Bibb County schools buying the Promise Neighborhood Center building back from Whitby's company.
"When I read about $8.5 million, and I remembered that our agreement was 10 percent.... That's when I lost it," he said.
Whitby was unsympathetic: "We got to get past this b---s---."
Thumping the table again, he tells Dallemand, "It couldn't come out of this. And it couldn't come out of this."
Dallemand moves on to discussing Harold Knowles, the Tallahassee lawyer accused of handling the bribe money.
"I met with Harold," he said. "I called Harold in 2015. At that time, I received a three-day eviction notice...I said to Harold, 'I'm going to get thrown out of my house, my family will be in the streets.' You know what he told me? He said, 'Romain, the money is not what you thought it was.' He said, 'I have to pay taxes, I have to hire people to do the work, I cannot help you.’”
"Here's what I'm thinking we should do," said Dallemand. "Because if I call him, he won't answer. I'm thinking you call him."
"I can't," said Whitby. He tells Dallemand several times that he can't get involved.
'I want to start over'
At the time, Dallemand was fighting a civil lawsuit, federal tax troubles and battling with Bibb County schools over whether he violated his contract.
He told Whitby that the school district's strategy was to "drag it out and drag it and drag it and make me run out of money."
Dallemand argues that his legal problems have eaten up his earnings from the scheme. He had to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to the arbitrators handing his contract dispute with Bibb County Schools, in addition to his attorneys.
"I spent more than $100,000 in legal fees," he said. "You remember you gave me two checks -- one for 140, one for 141. My plan was to build a nice little apartment in Haiti... a nice little business, a small restaurant.
"Listen, I want to get the hell out of this country," he said. "I want to start over."
"Cliffard, I've been a loyal friend from day one, and visa-versa...because you're the only one I can pick up the phone and call who answers. You're the only one when I need something who steps up to the plate. But you have to admit that I earned it, OK? It's not a gift."
Whitby agrees, but tells him, "You also have to agree that what we put in place collapsed as well..."
He blames another company -- "Those m----f---ers you brought into the deal" -- for soaking up part of the profits.
"They got millions," he said.
'Don't let them break your spirit'
Later, he lectured Dallemand about the civil lawsuit pending against the two of them, and several other defendants, accusing them of defrauding the school district of millions.
Whitby argues that Dallemand needs to fight the complaints against him more aggressively.
"This civil suit has got to get thrown out," he says. "Because they cannot prove what they're saying. If you think something's criminal, that’s for the Department of Justice to say, not some damn civil suit."
Before the two parted, Whitby asked Dallemand to be patient about his money and said he would try to work something out for him.
"Don't let them break your spirit," he says.
Federal prosecutors in Florida have delayed sentencing for Dallemand's tax-fraud case until he testifies against his alleged Bibb County co-conspirators. He is now scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 11, 2019 in Fort Myers.