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County finances bring citizens to boiling point

Commissioner calls citizens concerns ‘foolishness’

— Clayton County Board of Commissioners Vice-Chairman Wole Ralph dismissed a group of citizens criticisms over the county’s financial spending habits Tuesday night as “foolishness” as pressure over finances reached a boiling point.

A citizens government watchdog group is demanding county officials reveal the identity of a mysterious entity listed in financial records only as “Various.” This entity, or entities, was paid $2.24 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars from August 2011, to October 2011. The funds come from the SPLOST approved by voters in 2004.

Ralph attacked the group’s concerns when a request to the board to have county Finance Director Angela Jackson read a list of what credit rating agencies and auditors have said about the county before each financial report she gives in the future. The commission agreed by consensus to have Jackson read the statement.

“I think it’s important that we have Mrs. Jackson read that at every meeting because I would hate for citizens to come and be misled by the foolishness I heard a few seconds ago,” said Ralph to his fellow commissioners.

The pressure over how the county is spending tax dollars has been building since last month, when the citizens watchdog group began raising questions about finances at county commission meetings.

The group, led by Morrow resident Carl Swensson, has used public comment periods at commission meetings to push officials on financial record keeping, expose some of its findings and to issue open records requests for additional documents.

The pressure has also been building, in part, because of ongoing Clayton County District Attorney’s office investigations targeting Jackson, Ralph, County Manager Wade Starr and Commissioners Sonna Singleton and Gail Hambrick.

This week, Swensson criticized the county’s finance department over the “Various” issue. While several expenses list the companies to whom moneys were paid, “Various” shows up again, and again, throughout the reports. He said he discovered the existence of “Various” after he received SPLOST expense reports through an open records request.

“So the finance department wants to waste our time and money? Got it,” said Swensson. “But the commission must surely know we have no intention of giving up. We will know who’s been cashing our checks and there’d best not be any co-mingling of funds.”

He formally filed a request for detailed records which show where the monies paid to “Various” actually went.

County officials, meanwhile, retorted that they have not misspent county finances. Jackson argued several credit rating agencies have congratulated them for their accounting. She said Moody’s Investor Services has given the county a “Aa2” credit rating, and praised it for its location and “adequate reserves.” She said Standard and Poor’s reported the county has a surplus.

“This most recent surplus is driven by conservative budgeting practices, with the county recognizing a savings in almost every expenditure category,” said Jackson.

Although Jackson touted the county’s “Aa2” credit rating from Moody’s, it is actually not the highest rating the company gives out. Moody’s “Aaa” rating is the top level rating that governments aspire to acquire.

Comments

SgtFranklinRock 2 years, 1 month ago

So foolish was the Citizen Oversight Committee's allegations that Wole Ralph VOTED to hire a Financial Advisor to compel Moody's NOT to downgrade the County's Bond Rating which Moody's did anyway. http://www.11alive.com/weather/story.aspx?storyid=129088 . Singleton and Hambrick also voted for this "CYA" move (go figure). It seems from the minutes of 14 April 2009, that Finance Director Angela Jackson was the only individual to have ratings information. "Motion by Commissioner Hambrick, second by Commissioner Singleton, to approve Resolution No. 2009-70 – Authorizing the County to enter into a Professional Services Agreement with Headlands Capital Corporation, to provide financial advisory services for Clayton County. The motion carried 3-2 with Chairman Bell and Commissioner Edmondson voting in opposition." It seems Mr. Ralph has amnesia. www.claytonadvocate.com

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nefarious 2 years, 1 month ago

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm .......just who is Various ???????????? I'm gonna stay tuned on this ! If Various is on the up & up, just tell us who Various is and what $$$$$ did Various get and what for?? !! Is Various like the elusive Howard Hughes living a life of mystery and intrigue? If there is so much $$$$ in surplus HOW BOUT A PROPERTY TAX BREAK.

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

.....Wole Ralph's lopsided nonsense is the reason that Wole Ralph wasn't re-elected.

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

....."Records Showed that Clayton officials were warned of overspending in 2007"

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Robert 2 years, 1 month ago

“Various.” This entity, or entities, was paid $2.24 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars."

This is NOT being the "transparent" government that they advertise themselves to be.

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

...."‘foolishness" ?

...If Clayton County was to have a Fools Parade, Ralph and his "Gang of Three" would probably be leading this Parade, with bells, whistles, and twirling batons.

.......Another question that you should be asking yourself :

......Has our County Government became a Self Employed Entity on our Tax Trough ?

......Our County District Attorney, Tracy Lawson, is probably the only hope remaining for us in Clayton County.

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