WRITER’S NOTE: The following is a monthly compilation of alleged or documented stories about waste, fraud, or abuse of taxpayer money or taxpayer-funded resources throughout Georgia. Material was gathered using government documents, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s original reporting and/or previously published news articles.
The Food Here is Expensive: Members of the Atlanta Public School District held a State of the District presentation that cost taxpayers more than $95,000, according to WSB-TV.
“It was a $130 lunch plate featuring pan roasted salmon and decadent flourless chocolate cake for 300 people at the Illuminairum, a high-end entertainment venue, along the Atlanta Beltline paid for with government money,” the station reported in February.
WSB-TV said food at the event cost $39,000.
“APS paid $4,700 on shiny, sparkly jackets for students to wear and spent thousands more on table centerpieces and flowers,” WSB-TV said.
By comparison, according to the station, the school district spent $56,000 on its 2022 State of the District event.
Government Accounting…From the People Who Brought You Sesame Street: State auditors recently faulted employees with the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission (GPTC), otherwise known as Georgia Public Broadcasting, for their management of public assets.
Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts officials this month said GPTC staff did not, as required, perform a complete physical inventory of capital assets. Auditors also tried to inspect 36 GPTC assets — property and equipment — with a total value of more than $23 million, but four of those assets, totaling nearly $3 million, were missing, according to an audit.
Farewell Tour: Just before their terms ended, former Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and former Senate President Pro Temp Butch Miller led a 14-person delegation to Germany and England that cost taxpayers more than $100,000.
This is according to a report that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) published last month.
According to the paper, the two men traveled overseas for an economic development trip. They did so after the November 2022 elections, after voters had already chosen their replacements.
“There were pricey flights, nights at the Clermont Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road, thousands of dollars spent on ground transportation in Germany and receptions and meals with dignitaries,” the paper reported.
“Legislative lawyers rejected requests from the AJC to disclose how much state money was spent on the trip, citing the fact that the General Assembly exempted itself from the Open Records Act that other government officials must follow.”
As the AJC went on to say, Duncan did not seek reelection. Miller, meanwhile, lost a Republican primary for lieutenant governor.
The People Who Teach Your Child Math Can’t Manage Taxpayer Money: According to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, the Dooly County Board of Education overpaid two teachers and cost taxpayers an additional $37,000.
In a report published this month, auditors faulted school district officials for this mistake and how they manage taxpayer money overall.
School district officials, for instance, did not exercise proper record keeping or bank reconciliation skills.
“The school district did not have adequate procedures in place to ensure proper separation of duties or to ensure employee compensation expenditures were properly documented, calculated and approved before disbursement,” according to the audit.
Someone Didn’t Watch The Shawshank Redemption: Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) officials arrested former Georgia Department of Corrections Warden Brian Dennis Adams in February.
Adams is the former Warden at Smith State Prison in Glennville.
GBI officials said in a statement that they charged Adams with Conspiracy to Violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, Bribery, False Statements and Violation of Oath by Public Officer.
The GBI provided no additional information about Adams.
In May of last year, however, the Georgia Attorney General’s Office requested that the GBI investigate corruption at Smith State Prison based on evidence discovered while conducting a murder investigation.
Would You Pay This Much to Visit Atlanta?: Taxpayers paid nearly $8,000 so that Augusta Commission members could travel to Atlanta and fraternize with other elected officials.
According to the Augusta Press, the trip occurred Jan. 10.
“The amount includes $2,625 for registration for the chamber event. Hotel stays at the Omni CNN Center came to $4,145. Each room night was $249 plus $47 in taxes,” the website reported.
“Additional expenses included parking. It was $60 for the city van plus $60 each for commissioners Sean Frantom, Tony Lewis, Alvin Mason and Stacy Pulliam; $55 for General Counsel Wayne Brown, $60 for interim Administrator Takiyah Douse and $120 for Johnson. The only commissioner to not participate was Wayne Guilfoyle. Brown warned the commissioners at dinner they were not to conduct city business.”
A Watershed Moment?: Last month a federal court sentenced former City of Atlanta Commissioner of Watershed Management Jo Ann Macrina to four years and six months in prison.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, Macrina accepted bribes from an Atlanta contractor in exchange for steering city business worth millions of dollars to the contractor’s company.
Macrina served as the Commissioner of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management from 2011 through May 2016. During Macrina’s tenure, the City of Atlanta awarded millions of dollars in contracts to an Atlanta-based architectural, design and construction management and services firm.
“Macrina took multiple steps to steer lucrative contracts toward the firm’s joint venture. Those actions included casting aside prior final scores ranking potential vendors where the joint venture ranked near the bottom, replacing two evaluators who previously represented the Department of Watershed Management with herself and Macrina’s employee and scoring the joint venture higher than all other evaluators during a reevaluation,” federal officials said.
“In exchange for providing the firm’s executive vice president with access to confidential information and preferential treatment on City of Atlanta projects, Macrina was offered a job and accepted things of value. For instance, Macrina accepted $10,000 in cash, a diamond ring, a room at a luxury hotel in Dubai and landscaping work at her home from the firm’s executive vice president either directly or through another employee of the firm. Shortly after Macrina’s employment with the City of Atlanta ended, she began working for the firm.” Between June 2016 and September 2016, the firm and its executive vice president paid Macrina $30,000 in four separate payments.
Those Hotel Bills Are Really Piling Up: Georgia taxpayers paid $28 million last year to the Department of Children and Family Services to place foster children in hotels, sometimes for months at a time, according to a February report from WSB-TV.
“At $1,500 a night, it costs more money to place a foster child in a hotel than it does for the average person to book a night at the Four Seasons,” the station reported.
Not a Conspiracy Theory: Grand jurors in February indicted four Douglas County officials on criminal charges, per an announcement from Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.
The indictment relates to a contract awarded to S&A Express for professional janitorial services for the Douglas County Annex Building.
The indicted include Douglas County Chairwoman Romona Jackson Jones, Douglas County Commissioner Henry Mitchell, Douglas County Tax Commissioner Greg Baker and former Purchasing Director Bill Peacock. Grand jurors also indicted a fifth person — who is not a county official — Anthony Knight. Knight owns S&A Express.
According to the indictment, the accused met and conspired to award a professional janitorial services contract to Knight’s company.
“The accused caused a First Request for Proposal [RFP] to be withdrawn after S&A Express failed to bid on the contract within the bidding window, thus causing a second RFP to be issued,” the indictment said.
The indictment went on to say that the four county officials requested that “S&A Express be walked through the bidding process.” The accused also accepted S&A’s contract bid after the bidding window closed on the second RFP.
“The accused took sealed bids, opened and reviewed the bids and added the bid of S&A Express in an amount that was exactly the same as the lowest bid,” according to the indictment.
“The accused, after reviewing the bids, caused S&A Express’ bid to be exactly the same as the lowest bid.”
The officials contracted with S&A Express before county commissioners formally adopted the contract.
All five people were indicted on charges of conspiracy in restraint of free and open competition in transactions.
Grand jurors also indicted Jones on charges of making false statements to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.