UPDATE 8/31 6:20 a.m.: ADDS new agenda item on ACF contract

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners will hold a special called meeting Wednesday, August 31, at 112 Smith Street, Jonesboro.

Originally, the meeting’s stated purpose was “to vote on approval to file an appeal to the Clayton County 2021 Sales Ration Study performed by Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts.”

Late Tuesday, an updated notice added a second item: “to discuss and vote on Africa’s Children’s Fund audit investigation.”

Early Wednesday, the agenda was published with a third item, ”for board discussion and vote on whether the contract with Africa’s Children’s Fund is Ultra Vires based on the conflict of interest.”

A public comment session will follow today’s actions by the BOC.

Recent wrangling behind the scenes over charities the county had chosen to distribute federal COVID-19 housing relief funds has sparked public audit requests. First, the county conducted an internal audit of Hearts to Nourish Hope. Then, Commissioner Felicia Franklin called for an audit of Africa’s Children’s Fund after mass e-mailing an allegation

The Clayton Crescent has spoken with both Deborah Anglin at HTNH and Victor Mbaba at Africa’s Children’s Fund and will have a more extensive story about these audits.

Mbaba said, “I can account for every penny” of ERAP funds and provided The Clayton Crescent with a copy of the most recent disbursement report at our request:

Anglin said the county wanted her to use a different software to track client disbursements.

Both said they were told about a few alleged complaints but that some clients did not understand the disbursement process or the application process. Both also pointed to an overwhelming number of clients that their organizations had helped.

According to Mbaba, the ERAP funds that Africa’s Children’s Fund disburses go through Municipal Court and are only for people who already have an eviction. When the parties come to court, if the landlord is willing to accept payment in lieu of eviction, ACF staff in the judge’s office will cut a check to the landlord. The money does not go directly to tenants.

Anglin said that the internal audit of HTNH implied wrongdoing but never produced direct evidence of it. In a July 25 letter to Chairman Jeff Turner, Anglin wrote, “While Hearts welcomes any opportunity for authorities to examine its efficacy—particularly within the context of the law and ethics—in administering grant funding to those in need, Hearts is also extremely disappointed with the County, their recent audit, and various actions pertinent to their contractual obligation with Hearts and with the ERA program.”

Anglin aslo pointed out that Georgia State University’s Sociology Department had done an independent survey of over 2,200 clients that “was completely ignored.’

The Clayton Crescent will have a more in-depth report before tomorrow’s meeting.

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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