Arlington leaders deny allegation that they misspent funds -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Arlington leaders deny allegation that they misspent funds

Arlington city leaders are speaking out on allegations that money from a summer feeding program went into their pockets.

Friday they told us they believed they could work for the program as city officials and they were never paid any overages.

An audit of the Bright from the Start summer feeding program found more than $26,000 in unallowable labor costs just for this year.

City leaders overseeing this program say the city's audit never found any discrepancies in the program. They believe the complaint that led to the state audit was made by another councilman with political motives, as four members of council are up for re-election.

The Bright from the Start summer feeding program in Arlington just finished its sixth year at the park near the Calhoun County Elementary School and city leaders say city audits never found any problem with the quarter of a million dollar program.

"We have our own auditor that does the city audit and we haven't had any concerns about any funds until all of a sudden," said former Arlington City Mayor Jerome Brackins..

In fact, they showed us records that the state approved payments to city officials now called into question. A complaint from a city council member sparked a state audit that found $26,094 in unallowable labor costs for just last year. Auditors say there were missing time sheets, missing required signatures, over-payments to employees, cost in excess of the approved budget, and unidentified employees. The identified employees, including the mayor, now say they were never told they couldn't accept money from the program.

"The city attorney should have advised us based on what we were doing wrong. If he knew that the city officials could not have received funds he should have let us be aware of that at that time," said current Arlington Mayor Marvin King.

We got a copy of the city code and in the code of ethics it says, "neither the mayor nor any member of the city council or any city official shall be interested in directly or indirectly in any contract made with the city." City leaders also disagree with the audit that claims those that were paid received over-payments.

"There was no overage paid, what happened when I became the Mayor we had a binder and it stipulated everybody's pay in there for the purpose of the clerk taking care of those payroll checks when we had to write them out," said Brackins.

They claim the program was running fine under director Dicy Burkes and she was authorized by council to hire and fire who she needed. They disagree with claims that adults were also being fed or that leftovers were taken home.

"I'm pretty sure only the children got fed," said King.

They call the claims political at a time just months before a crucial election. The state however is recommending that remaining meal and financial records be requested and evaluated to determine all pending unallowable costs.

It's still undetermined if the city or individuals might be required to pay back these unallowable costs. City leaders say, the program always had money left over at the end of the program that was paid back to the state.

The GBI is now reviewing the audit to determine if they need to launch a full investigation.

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