A ritzy Mercedes, a busted mayor, and the worst Chief Financial Officer you ever saw made April a month for waste, fraud and abuse

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.

Keeping Up with the Jones’: Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labatt used taxpayer money to buy a Mercedes-Benz that cost $200,000.

As reported by FOX 5 Atlanta, Labatt purchased the vehicle during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The sheriff says the Mercedes-Benz vehicle serves as a mobile command center during high-profile situations. However, some residents and even commissioners don’t approve of taxpayer money being shelled out for the controversial vehicle,” the station reported. 

“Sheriff Labat is a constitutional officer and can legally buy equipment that he thinks he needs to run the department, without getting permission from commissioners. That’s what happened in 2021.”

FOX 5 reported that the van was purchased without any bids.

Past is Prologue: Pineview Mayor Brandon Holt was removed from office last month after officials indicted him for allegedly stealing taxpayer money from the city.

As reported by WSB Radio, authorities arrested Holt in January and charged him with 75 counts of theft by taking. 

Holt allegedly took more than $64,000 in city funds and put the money into his personal bank account.

“The investigation into Holt began in October 2023, shortly after he was shot in a drive-by in LaGrange,” the station reported. 

“Wilcox County Sheriff Steve Mauldin and District Attorney Brad Rigby asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to start looking into misappropriated funds.”

The Macon-based WMAZ reported that two years ago Holt allegedly stole more than $22,000 from a private company.

A Chief Financial Officer Who Doesn’t Behave Like A Chief Financial Officer: The City of Atlanta’s former Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Jimmie “Jim” A. Beard, pleaded guilty last month to theft of government funds, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

This is according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Beard ordered two custom-built machine guns using a $2,641.90 check from the city, telling the manufacturer that the machine guns were for the Atlanta Police Department (“APD”) – even though he personally possessed the guns until about March 2017, when he abandoned the firearms at APD’s Executive Protection Office at City Hall,” the statement said.

Beard also used his city credit card to pay more than $1,200 for a hotel room in Chicago for a three-night stay. 

“Beard told the City that the hotel room was for a “Swap Advisory Engagement,’” U.S. Attorney’s wrote. 

“In reality Beard was not in Chicago that weekend but booked the hotel for his stepdaughter to attend the Lollapalooza music festival.”

In another instance, Beard used his city credit card to pay $648.20 for airfare for New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival. 

“However, Beard had no City business in New Orleans during that weekend and traveled with a personal companion,” the statement said.

“Additionally, he later represented to the IRS that this trip was for his personal consulting business and was not reimbursed by the City, claiming the charge as a business deduction to reduce the amount of personal taxes he owed.”

Beard also used his city credit card to pay $951.20 for airfare to Washington, D.C. and $24.32 for a taxi for a meeting with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB). 

“Even though Beard charged the travel to the City, Beard asked the MSRB to reimburse him personally for these costs and submitted copies of his receipts to the MSRB,” the statement said.

“As a result, the MSRB issued a check to Beard in the amount of $1,276.52, which Beard kept and deposited into his personal bank account.”

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