The mayor of Atlanta and even Madea got busted wasting taxpayer money

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.

An Ongoing Pattern with the Georgia Public Schools: The Early County Board of Education misused thousands of dollars of COVID-19 relief money.

This is according to a new report from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts (DOAA). 

School system officials accepted more than $3 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds.

Certain recipients for the school system — but not as official employees. At a cost to taxpayers of more than $30,000, these people received ESSER’s “retention” bonuses, even though they were not legally entitled to them. 

(Quite Literally) A Carefree Night of Dancing: To put on the 2022 Senior Ball, Mayor Andre Dickens’ staff members bypassed not only the Atlanta City Council, but city ordinances as well.

The event cost taxpayers at least $120,000.

This is according to a report from the City of Atlanta’s Office of the Inspector General.  

The report said the city’s Accounts Payable, Travel and Hotel Policy prohibited expenditures for this event, which included city-funded hotel stays for employees, Dickens and members of Dickens’ family.

Dickens’ staff never sought the Atlanta City Council’s approval to fund the 2022 Senior Ball. The ball was not an official city event.

The Senior Ball celebrates Atlanta’s senior citizens and is often held at one of Atlanta’s finest hotels. 

Madea Stiffs the Taxpayers: An Atlanta-based company took advantage of a $9.5 million corporate jet, paid for by DeKalb County taxpayers.

As reported by WSB-TV, the jet is owned not by a large corporation but instead by the Decide DeKalb Development Authority. 

“The plane is actually used by a lighting company called Acuity Brands. It’s part of a multi-million-dollar package that was used to convince Acuity to expand a DeKalb facility,” the station reported.

“But our Channel 2 Investigation found that the DeKalb County Development Authority does not regularly and consistently track whether the companies that receive the tax breaks follow through on their part of the deal.”

There are now more than 1,300 development authorities throughout Georgia. Board members — who are unelected — have the power to offer millions of dollars in tax breaks to companies.

“Cobb County has a similar plane deal with Georgia entertainment mogul Tyler Perry,” according to WSB-TV.

“In 2017, the Development Authority of Cobb County granted a $1.8 million tax break and refinanced Perry’s $35 million jet to lure it to Cobb County’s McCollum field.” 

Double Trouble: The Jeff Davis County Board of Education was supposed to pay nearly $64,000 for certain telecommunications equipment for students.

District officials received the equipment but then learned they paid for it twice.

This is according to an audit that the DOAA published last month.

The money was part of a nearly $4.5 million COVID-19 relief package to assist students who lacked internet services.

Part of that $4.5 million came from the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) while the rest came from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

“It was noted that expenditures for electronic devices totaling $63,399 were approved through the budget process and recorded under the ESSER program. Upon further review, it was noted that reimbursement was requested and received through the ECF program during fiscal year 2022 and the ESSER program after year-end,” according to the audit.

“Additionally, a refund of such funding had not been processed for either of the programs until the issue was pointed out by auditors. Therefore, duplicate federal funding was received for the same expenditure.” 

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