Narcotics audit reveals unit's inefficiencies

By Justin Boron

Management for the Clayton County Drug Task Force is weak and provides insufficient protection for county assets and seized evidence, according to an accounting firm responsible for the recent audit of the narcotics unit.

A copy of the October audit report obtained by the News Daily reveals misuse of funds and poor accounting procedure complicated by outdated computers and software.

These defificiencies resulted in $292.50 in missing funds and $3,678 in funds withdrawn from the account without reason, according to the audit prepared by KPMG LLP.

The audit, which cost the county $29,812, led to the resignation of the unit's special agent in charge Clarence Cox after the "misdirected funds" were discovered in mid-October.

When auditors discovered receipts for the seven withdrawals made by Cox, county officials confronted him, and he subsequently returned the money, said county commission Chairman Crandle Bray.

County Police Chief Darrell Partain said in his last conversation with Cox, the former narcotics supervisor said he needed the money for training seminars and legislative updates.

In October, Cox said he resigned because he feared he might be demoted. He now assists disaster victims by doing contract work for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said Kay Adamson, a human resources clerk for GEMA.

Repeated attempts to reach Cox were unsuccessful.

Partain said Cox's withdrawals constituted an illegitimate use of the money and were turned over to the Clayton County grand jury.

"That was not the intention of that fund," he said.

But County District Attorney Bob Keller said no criminal charges have been filed in the matter.

In the wake of Cox's resignation, his replacement, Vance Donald, and other county officials said some of the audit's reccomendations have already been implemented.

"Since I've taken over we've already updated the (evidence software)," Donald said.

But much of the audit's impact will be left for two incoming elected officials who share responsibility for the Drug Task Force with the county Police Department.

Sheriff-elect Victor Hill and District Attorney-elect Jewell Scott will inherit a narcotics unit that has become entangled in the controversial web of reforms proposed for it.

On the heels of the audit, Sheriff Stanley Tuggle and Partain - who is chairman of the Drug Task Force advisory board - asked for the unit to be transferred to police control, which Partain said would streamline oversight.

"When you work under the auspices of three different departments, there are no stringent guidlines," he said. "It gives (members of the Drug Task Force) a little too much freedom to make their own decisions."

The proposal inflamed Hill and spawned a set of racially divisive clashes between current county commission members and incoming elected officials.

Last Tuesday, amid Hill's threats of litigation, the county commission was deadlocked on a vote to transfer the unit to police supervision.

It did approve a transfer of the crime scene investigation unit from the Sheriff's power to county police control. But the crime scene unit was unrelated to the recent audit.

Bray, who voted against the narcotics unit transfer, suggested keeping the shared oversight in the units' advisory board.

But he said the county commission should approve the boards' chairman, which would give the commission ultimate supervision over the unit.

"I could fix this real quick," he said, but added he would leave the item for the incoming leadership.

Partain expressed his disapproval of Bray's proposal because he said the unit should remain in law enforcement control.