STONECREST, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — A third party audit looked into $200,000 in purchase card transactions for the City of Stonecrest, and the findings are concerning.
“I am absolutely shocked of the findings of the audit,” said State Senator Emanuel Jones (D) District 10. “I had suspected some time ago that there was some abuses of the P-cards, but nothing to the extent that the auditor found.”READ MORE: Red Tide Current Status In Southwest Florida
The audit shows 63% of the purchase card transactions did not have a clearly stated purpose, 54% of the transactions had no receipts to substantiate the purchases and 96% of the transactions did not have the city manager’s approval.
City officials and employees with Jacobs Engineering, which provides administrative staff for the city, are accused of misusing the funds. “The city hired this company, which is a multibillion dollar international company to run this city efficiently and effectively. They failed in that responsibility,” said Jones. He says Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary is to blame, and he’s calling for Lary’s resignation and a federal investigation. Jones sponsored Senate Bill 21 to address Lary’s alleged abuse of power. “What you’re seeing now is a result of that bill having been signed and this new governance put in place, which allows the city council to perform these kinds of forensic audits,” Jones said. Lary has previously said Jones has a personal vendetta against him. Jones denied that claim, saying, “My concern is good governance and making sure that the tax dollars are spent and used in its intended purpose.”
State legislators passed a law back in 2016 making purchase card abuse a felony. “Those responsible should be held accountable, and I would certainly hope that law enforcement would do that,” said Jones.
“It is the responsibility of everyone in leadership to make sure that funds are spent appropriately,” said Acting Stonecrest City Manager Janice Allen Jackson. She explained most of the purchase activity happened after the last city manager left, so there was no oversight. “All of those procurement cards that were issued to people who should not have had them, they have been collected, and most of those employees are no longer on staff,” Jackson said.READ MORE: Columbus Couple Charged With Wire Fraud And Theft Of Government Property
Jacobs Engineering issued this statement:
Jacobs is committed to conducting business with integrity and according to the highest ethical standards. We maintain strict Codes of Conduct and have a robust compliance program to hold all employees and contractors accountable.
The City of Stonecrest contractors and employees involved demonstrated complete disregard for Jacobs’ Codes of Conduct, compliance programs and protocols, and they have been terminated.
P-cards were issued to both City Officials and Jacobs‘ employees. Jacobs is continuing to cooperate with the City of Stonecrest and has reached an agreement in principle with the City to reimburse the City of Stonecrest for the portion of expenses attributable to Jacobs‘ former employees.
District 3 City Council Member Jazzmin Cobble says the majority of city council has expressed concerns to Jacobs Engineering over the relationship between their staff and the mayor. She says putting a corrective action plan in place to restore trust is now what’s important.MORE NEWS: Valdosta Man Convicted With Federal Firearm Charge
City Council is expected to present a corrective action plan at the next meeting on May 24, 2021.