Missing MARTA money and crooked officers of the law headline this month’s 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.

Student Aid Staff Could Use Some Aid Themselves: The Waycross-based Coastal Pines Technical College disbursed aid money to students who did not qualify, according to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. 

Auditors said the school lacks a written awarding and disbursement policy. Five students did not learn of their disbursements within the appropriate time frame. School staff awarded one student based upon the incorrect cost of attendance budget. 

Another student, meanwhile, did not meet Academic Progress (SAP) standards, which resulted in over-disbursements totaling more than $1,500. 

Later on, auditors analyzed the total student aid amount of $4.6 million. They projected likely questioned costs of approximately $89,608.

More Ambiguity Regarding Taxpayer Assets (or MARTA for Short): MARTA leaders lost more than $50 million from the More MARTA program. 

Atlanta News First cited the words of Douglas Nagy, MARTA’s former deputy commissioner for Strategy and Planning.

Nagy reportedly based this claim on financial records he received from MARTA during his former role as deputy commissioner for Strategy and Planning with Atlanta’s Department of Transportation,” the station reported.

Nagy, Atlanta News First went on to say, “showed detailed reports of MARTA’s financials from 2020 to 2023. He pointed to $57.3 million in funding from the More MARTA program that was allocated for bus enhancements.”

“Nagy showed further MARTA records that show those enhancements didn’t happen,” the station reported. 

If You Want to Test a Man’s Character Then Give Him Power: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said a Woodstock Police officer illegally obtained personal information on two people, once last year and again in September of this year.

GBI officials said they charged the man, Robert William Brown, 27, with three counts of computer invasion of privacy, making false statements to law enforcement, and violation of oath by a public officer.

During the investigation, Brown also lied to the GBI, according to an agency statement. 

The Woodstock Police Department no longer employs Brown.

“Brown was booked into the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center,” the GBI said.

“Once the investigation is complete, it will be given to the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.” 

Could Cheech and Chong Teach for This Public School System?: Members of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) read what Savannah Now called a “sobering audit report” regarding human resources practices.

“Random drug testing procedures fell short of the Drug-free Workplace policy regulation, particularly when reviewing a sample of bus monitors,” the paper reported. 

“CDL Bus Drivers were found to be tested within compliance of the regulation, but auditors found that ‘employees are not tested when they are absent more than 30 days.’”

Additionally, SCCPSS members learned staff members do not fill out conflict-of-interest forms annually.

“A random sampling of 30 employees showed that 80% had filled out the form upon being hired as required by the current policy but not in conjunction with contract renewals,” according to Savannah Now. 

Don’t Forget to Save Your Receipts: Staff at the Camilla-based Southwest Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) may have lost thousands of taxpayer dollars on improper credit card charges.

This is according to an audit that the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts published last month. 

“A review of 21 individually significant disbursements, totaling $252,364.21 revealed that 12 miscellaneous credit card charges of $13,636.55 did not have original invoices/receipts, purchase approvals or receipt of goods documentation,” auditors wrote.  

“Included in these credit card charges were $2,345.23 paid for food purchases not related to overnight travel, $184.43 paid for employee meals related to overnight travel and $22.20 in vending machine charges.” 

Meanwhile, a review of six disbursements, totaling $29,154.14, revealed four charges for consultants that did not include documentation to support the charged rate. 

“Auditors were able to obtain this documentation from another source for three of these consultants but were unable to obtain adequate documentation to support one consultant charge for $3,750.00,” according to the audit. 

“This resulted in a projected error of $56,649.00.” 

This Sounds Like Something from The Shawshank Redemption: A correctional officer at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta pleaded guilty last month to stealing money from an inmate’s CashApp account.

That man, Andy Steven Johnson, 42, of Peachtree City, also pleaded guilty to using a business that did not exist to fraudulently apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

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

Johnson seized a contraband mobile phone from an inmate. Instead of processing the phone pursuant to policy, he opened CashApp on the phone and transferred $300 to his own CashApp account. He later transferred those funds into his personal checking account.

“Johnson submitted an online application for a PPP loan for a business named Performance Customs. Johnson claimed on the application that the business had operated since January 1, 2020; produced an annual revenue of $76,000 and paid an average monthly payroll of $6,333; and would use the PPP loan proceeds to pay wages, rent or mortgage interest, and utilities for the business,” according to U.S. Attorney’s.  

“Based on that application, Johnson was approved for a forgivable loan of $15,832. In reality, Performance Customs did not exist, and Johnson had completely fabricated the information on the application.”

Johnson’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 7. 

And This Sounds Like Something from a Sitcom About Jail Inmates: Fulton County commissioners want an audit of what is known as the Inmate Welfare Fund.

This, after a list of expenditures included promotional events, giveaways, photo booths, jugglers, and more than $1 million for Fulton Sheriff’s office vehicles.

“The fund is supposed to be used for items like clothing and toiletries for inmates. The funds mainly come from the jail commissary and jail phone calls,” according to RoughDraft Atlanta.

“The controversy is the latest centered around the jail, which has problems with overcrowding, 10 inmate deaths so far in 2023, and deteriorating conditions at the Rice Street facility.”

The website reported that the fund grew to $12.93 million in 2021. Expenditures increased to $3.05 million. The fund balance will drop in 2023 as expenditures jump to $9.18 million. 

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