Augusta mayor gets good report after requesting credit card review

The city’s internal auditor asked little about Mayor Hardie Davis ‘credit card spending in Davis’ report for them, but the report raised more questions for some members of the Augusta government.

Davis called for an “audit” on June 14 after what he called “unsubstantiated allegations” that he misused the city’s credit card issued to him when he took office. 2015.

Now in his seventh year in office, Davis has increasingly relied on plastic for his purchases over the past two years, including monthly bills over $ 10,000 in March, April and May and an April statement. of $ 17,459. The fees range from recurring charges for various Internet services to individual payments to consultants for thousands of dollars.

What is presented Tuesday to the Augusta Commission is not, however, an audit capable of giving an opinion on the expenditure, according to the report itself.

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“We were not engaged and did not perform an audit,” said the report, signed by Serotta Maddocks Evans & Co., CPA, “the purpose of which is to express an opinion.”

The firm’s chief audit executive, John Snider, is to present the report at the regular Augusta Commission meeting on Tuesday at Davis’ request. A company representative did not return a message for comment.

The report includes a handful of recommendations, one of which has already been addressed by the committee – adopt a credit card policy. Georgian law requires one for all cards issued on or after January 1, 2016, and city officials said they interpreted it to exempt Davis’ card.

In one instance, Davis’ spending with a third party vendor exceeded the $ 10,000 threshold requiring competitive bids for the total of $ 24,969 spent with LC Studios LLC. Despite Augusta’s local supplier preference policy, LC Studios is located “in Florida,” he said.

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Accountants used a method called Benford’s analysis to determine which expenses to review.

When the first digit of the dollar amount occurred more or less frequently than expected, expenses beginning with that number “were sampled,” he said.

Of Davis’ hundreds of deals, the company used a sample of 47 people from the mayor’s office, according to the report. While not part of Davis’ call for an audit, the firm also looked at its My Brother’s Keeper spending, using a sample of 33 transactions. In 2017, The Chronicle reported that Davis was using funds from the youth program to pay Republican strategist Ryan Mahoney.

Looking at the expenses, the auditors said they found an agreement, invoice or contract, as well as an “official city use” associated with payment “for all transactions.” The only exceptions were a plane ticket, a hotel stay and a purchase of electronic devices, for which Davis’s office generated documentation, according to the report.

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The company verified that Human Resources was paying Davis staff their stated salaries and withholding the appropriate amounts. He created pie charts describing how he used the card, based on the expense category. Spending on “economic development – public relations” – which was typically with LC Studios and other consultants, accounted for almost half of its spending in 2020, he said.

Davis stayed under his total budget of $ 491,780 during the year, he said. Davis’ highest-paid employee, Chief of Staff Marcus Campbell, resigned in early 2020 and was not replaced until around September by new Chief of Staff Petula Burks.

Despite the seemingly positive report, the din of calls for a “forensic audit” from the city government continued on Monday. Several commissioners have called for an audit of all city departments – a costly undertaking – after the onset of heavy credit card use by Davis. They reiterated the call after Commissioner Sammie Sias was indicted by the federal government last month for activities related to public spending at a city-owned community center.

As to why the commission did not institute the credit card policy required by state law when the law changed in 2016, Commissioner John Clarke, who took office in 2018, said He did not know it.

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“We are not lawyers. We get our legal advice from our attorney in town, ”Clarke said. “I don’t know if this was submitted to the commission. “

While Attorney General Wayne Brown has been on city staff since 2008, he only became the city’s senior prosecutor in 2019.

Clarke said he’s curious about “the reaction” his colleagues will have to the report, but believes the forensic audit, which looks for wrongdoing, is needed. Commissioners who opposed the request for an audit, citing a lack of suspicious activity among department heads, declined to comment on the report on Monday.

“A forensic audit of the city’s finances would clear up a lot of questions,” Clarke said.

Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight said she trusts Serotta Maddocks Evans, but is skeptical of the report and remains in favor of a forensic audit.

“It was what I expected, and really to me, it doesn’t sound like an audit,” McKnight said. “After looking at this, we need a forensic audit. We must regain the confidence of our fellow citizens.


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