The Clayton County Board of Commissioners will hold a special called meeting today, Wednesday, August 31 at 12 noon.
Originally, the meeting was called to discuss and vote on a possible appeal of a sales ratio study by state tax regulators.
However, two more items related to federal emergency housing fund distribution have been added to the agenda within the past 24 hours.
District 3 Commissioner Felicia Franklin on Tuesday added a request “for a federal and state audit investigation into all funds spent by the Africa’s Children’s Fund on behalf of Clayton and the ERAP program, with respect to the 9 million dollars of federal funds awarded.”
Early today, the county notified The Clayton Crescent that a third agenda item had been added.
That item, also requested by Franklin, “is for board discussion and vote on whether the contract with Africa’s Children’s Fund is Ultra Vires based on the conflict of interest.”
ACF is the latest target in a series of mass e-mailings by Franklin, who in recent weeks has forwarded incomplete or inaccurate allegations of wrongdoing to numerous local, county, state, and federal officials, as well as to members of the local news media.
The mission of the nonprofit, which was recognized by the Internal Revenue Service in 1996, is “to provide assistance and services to children and families in need in the United States of America, Africa and the Caribbean to improve the quality of their lives.”
In December 2020, the BOC approved $1 million in federal CARES funding to help Clayton County residents facing eviction. ACF was awarded a contract in February 2021 to manage distribution of those funds at a cost of $74,250. In June 2021, the county was awarded another $4 million in ERA2 funds. The following month, the BOC amended ACF’s contract to manage those funds at a cost of $400,000.
The county did an internal audit in November 2021.
In January of this year, an eviction diversion grant was submitted, seeking more funding.
In June, Clayton County Magistrate Judge Keisha Wright-Hill backed ACF’s request for additional funding. ACF has its own program office on Mt. Zion Road, but also has several staff members who work out of Wright-Hill’s office in the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, according to ACF’s Victor Mbaba.
The BOC voted at its June 21 meeting to award nearly $3 million in emergency COVID funding from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to both ACF and Hearts to Nourish Hope:
On July 19 of this year, the BOC reallocated $1.29 million in ERA1 funds, at an administrative cost of $405,000. Those reallocated federal funds must be spent by December.
On August 23, Franklin accused BOC Chairman Jeff Turner of “steering spending of federal funds” and called for a federal RICO investigation in a mass e-mail:
It was the latest salvo in a series of recent public e-mail chains from Franklin that have been based on alleged citizen complaints, from pseudonymous sources using untraceable Gmail addresses, which were amplified without additional vetting or fact-checking. The emails often include “demands” for Open Records Requests, which any citizen can file through the portal link from the county’s homepage.
This latest complaint, emailed August 22, alleged that Turner had failed to recuse himself from a vote to award ACF $9 million on July 17 and that Turner was a member of ACF’s board of advisors:
Mbaba answered the e-mail chain, saying that Turner’s name had been included on the website in error:
Turner confirmed that he also was named as an honorary co-chair of a November 2021 ACF gala, along with his wife, Trumpet Foundation President and civil rights leader Xernona Clayton, and Lumen Technologies’ French McKnight and his wife.
“I am not now nor have I ever been an advisor or board member for the ACF,” Turner told The Clayton Crescent. “They asked me to be a co-chair for their gala because they help Clayton County residents.”
Turner told The Clayton Crescent that he did not recuse himself from voting for ACF to receive funding because he was not in any business relationship with the group. He pointed out that all commissioners had relationships with various organizations, specifically citing Franklin’s support of the Boys and Girls Club and her membership on The ATL’s board.
Another anonymous emailer in the chain repeated the first’s claim that ACF had an office in “a run-down trailer park.” The Clayton Crescent visited the Riverdale Mobile Home Park and asked the manager whether ACF had an office there. She said ACF did not, but that it had helped ten residents stay in their homes last year. She added that the park has to enter its business address in the county’s system to receive any funds for past-due rent.
This latest call for an investigation comes amid rising political tensions in the county as suspended Sheriff Victor Hill’s federal trial on alleged abuse under color of law approaches. Multiple sources have told The Clayton Crescent that Hill allegedly is orchestrating a power grab, with an eye towards becoming director of public safety and placing the Clayton County Police Department under or absorbing it into the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.
Hill’s trial is set for October 12 at 9 a.m. in the U.S. Northern District Court of Georgia.
Hill’s longtime friend, political fixer, and former CCSO Chief of Staff Mitzi Bickers faces sentencing on 9 federal corruption charges stemming from contract-steering at Atlanta City Hall. Hill hired Bickers after she resigned from her city position because she had omitted her lucrative political consulting business from mandatory income reporting.
According to a court filing, the government last week returned Bickers’ 1964 Cadillac DeVille, one of several items seized when federal agents raided her Lake Spivey home. The trial revealed that Bickers paid for the home in cash she had received as part of the contracts scheme. The Bay Drive McMansion is the subject of a forfeiture tug-of-war between Anytime Bonding and federal officials.
More to come.