Fulton County Election Officials Did Not Properly Handle Finances, Grant Requirements, New Audit Says

Fulton County Response
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Fulton County election officials mismanaged money, mismanaged documents, and failed to comply with various grant requirements, according to a recent audit.

The Georgia Star News requested a copy of the audit straight from county officials. The communications staff for the Fulton County Government, though, did not respond before Wednesday’s stated deadline. Staff at the Atlanta-based WSB-TV posted the audit on their website this week.

“There were errors reflected in the departmental accounting records, invoices that preceded purchase orders, untimely payment of invoices, insufficient supporting documentation, overpayment for services, and delayed responses to our requests. Additionally, we were diverted to other departments to fulfill our request for copies of certain financial transactions,” according to the Office of the County Auditor.

“We were informed by management that many of these transactions were not handled under their purview. Lack of financial accountability and oversight leads to inadequate financial reporting that ultimately will not give a true and fair view of the departmental operations. This also increases the risk of financial mismanagement.”

Auditors said they could not locate missing inventory and that someone may have sent them to the wrong department for storage, thus increasing the risk of theft. They also said elections officials did not maintain records for professional services, including overtime, totaling more than $1.9 million.

County elections officials also failed to abide by grant requirements, the audit said.

“On September 1, 2020 Fulton County was awarded an $85,000 grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the sole purpose of purchasing (25) absentee ballot drop boxes and accompanying video surveillance cameras. The grant specified that any unused funds were to be returned to the SPLC by December 31, 2020. During our review, we identified that (21) ballot drop boxes were purchased on September 10, 2020 for a total cost of $40,614,” auditors wrote.

“We also noted that as of the date of our review, the remaining $44,386 had not been returned to the SPLC and the funds remain in the Registration and Election Department’s budget. We were informed by management that they have been in contact with the County’s Grants Division regarding the return of these funds; however, as of the report date, the funds have not been returned. Failure to return grant funds by the agreed upon deadline may lead to misuse of funds, restriction of future funding, as well as inaccurate recordkeeping and financial reporting.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Fulton County Courthouse” by Ganeshk CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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