STONECREST, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — An internal investigation found the City of Stonecrest failed to properly manage $6.2 million in COVID-19 relief funds.
“Our city attorney who prepared the CARES Act report has developed a series of recommendations that the council has adopted,” said Acting City Manager Janice Allen Jackson. One of City Attorney Winston Denmark’s recommendations includes getting law enforcement involved. “The mayor should resign before law enforcement takes him out,” said State Senator Emanuel Jones (D-District 10), regarding Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary.READ MORE: Red Tide Current Status In Southwest Florida
The report also revealed possible kickback and marketing schemes potentially involving Municipal Resource Partners, a business created last year during the pandemic. Jones calls it a sham organization. “It never really had a board. It really never functioned as a non-profit,” he said.READ MORE: Columbus Couple Charged With Wire Fraud And Theft Of Government Property
The documents show Stonecrest contracted with MRP to oversee the Cares Act funding and to select the businesses. They also show about 138 organizations received funding, but some of them never applied for it. Several of them were asked to pay a percentage for marketing services they never received. “[It] can be interpreted as a bribe,” said Jones. “It is things that we noticed initially and some of the concerns that we heard from the citizens in the community as well as business owners in the community.”
Jacobs Engineering, which provides administrative staff for the city, indicated it fired employees who have violated its code of conduct. “These are public dollars and this is the public trust. They have that responsibility to let us know, those of us that represent Stonecrest, those of us that live in Stonecrest,” Jones said. “It’s my role at this point just to make sure that we are doing what we’re supposed to do for the people that pay us to do it,” said Jackson.MORE NEWS: Valdosta Man Convicted With Federal Firearm Charge
During this investigation, a third party audit found city officials and employees misused purchase card transactions. Lary previously referred us to his attorney for comment, and today, his attorney indicated he was unavailable. Both the FBI and Department of Justice declined to comment on whether they have launched investigations. City council is expected to discuss the next steps at their next meeting on May 24, 2021.