Audit: Hundreds of millions of taxpayer money unaccounted for - CBS46 News

Audit: Hundreds of millions of taxpayer money unaccounted for

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EAST POINT, GA (CBS46) -

The mayor of East Point attributed $200 million of taxpayer money that's unaccounted for to "criminal activity" Tuesday.

"Some elected officials aided and abetted the former city manager and staff members who used city funds for their own personal appeal in a manner I consider illegal and criminal," said Earnestine Pittman in a phone interview with CBS Atlanta News.

Residents learned at Monday night's city council meeting that $200 million of taxpayer money was not properly documented as it was spent.

An external audit by Mark Felton of Felton Financial Forensics stated that thousands of documents to show a paper trail of purchases are also missing, and in some cases where the money was spent, when it was spent, and who spent it, are also missing from city records.

"$6.9 million in payments were entered in a journal entry," Felton said. "No detail, no information in terms of date, no information in terms of why."

According to Felton, there were a number of areas in the city's financial records that raised red flags. Felton went on to say that a number of city invoices payments are missing from 2000 to 2012. Over 40 percent of the payments made cannot be properly documented. Of the city's total expenditures in that time, $500 million, nearly $200 million was not properly documented. During Felton's synopsis, he also stated that all accounts payable documents from 2010 to 2012 are missing altogether.

In some cases, Felton said payments were made to vendors in ways that violated Georgia Law.

The city council plans to discuss how they can move forward from the audits to prove whether money was stolen, or if whoever kept records did a poor job.

Felton said the task to go back over the past decade and collect a paper trail to prove how the money was spent would be a Herculean effort.

"I want them to start from the beginning and cover a lot of territory," Jean Wilson said.

Wilson said she has lived in East Point for 40 years. Over the past several years Wilson said she and other people have asked the city to perform this audit.

"At one time, we were asking questions about this money about why we are so deep in debt. A lot of things that did not match up," Wilson said.

Wilson said she doesn't want to make accusations about whether or not some of the money was stolen, but finds it hard to believe that some sort of criminal element wasn't involved.

"The devil got caught," Wilson said. "Somebody had their hands in the cookie jar."

The reports, according to the city attorney, will be available in 10 days.

We asked Lawson what the findings mean for the city and taxpayers.

"I can't tell you anything," Lawson said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the city released the following statement:

"The City of East Point takes the findings from the audit very seriously as this is a very serious matter. We are deeply concerned regarding the findings of the City audit and are in the process of investigating reported information. Upon further review, any persons found guilty of wrongdoing will be prosecuted to the highest letter of the law. Once again our number one priority is to maintain the public's trust in our financial management of the City."

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