STONECREST, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Atlanta's CW69 has reported over the last several weeks about financial scandal in Stonecrest involving alleged misuse of city funds. Now, the city is looking into why the mayor withdrew a large sum of money from one of their bank accounts.
Residents are shocked about the latest scandal involving Mayor Jason Lary. "It is a mess, and as far as I'm concerned, somebody needs to go to jail," said Faye Coffield, who is also a private investigator and retired Atlanta police officer.
City officials provided CW69 with Citizens Trust Bank records showing Lary withdrew close to $234,900 from the city's Stonecrest Housing Authority checking account on May 13, 2021. The following day, he deposited all of the funds back into the account in four separate transactions. This all happened while he's on medical leave and while the city is investigating alleged misuse of purchase cards. "What we voted to do is to turn that over to the DA's office for a closer look," said Mayor Pro Tem George Turner, who confirmed that as of now, city officials no longer have P-cards. Officials are also investigating how the city spent over six million dollars in Cares Act funds.
Coffield says she and others saw all of this coming. "I've lived in Chicago. I've lived in New York. I've lived in Los Angeles. I have never seen corruption like this." Another resident, Dele Lowman, is the former president of the Stonecrest Citizens Coalition. "We were shocked at the magnitude, but not surprised by the occurrence itself," Lowman said, regarding the bank withdrawal. "The residents need to take this as a wake up call. The mayor needs to step down willingly or be removed," she said.
Acting City Manager Janice Allen Jackson says Stonecrest Housing Authority Treasurer Edwina Clanton, who is also Councilman Jimmy Clanton's wife, told her about the withdrawal. Edwina Clanton declined to comment. "The council passed a resolution, an ordinance change, that says for any withdrawal over $5,000 it requires two signers," Jackson said. She added, "We're continually reviewing our practices and policies to ensure that there are other measures in place as well." Jackson says Lary is an authorized signer on the city's bank accounts, and bank policy allows any authorized signer to make withdrawals. "The city is therefore taking precautions to ensure that we have our own safeguards in place," she said. She also confirmed it's not proper procedure to have the Housing Authority account listed in the city's name, and they're working to change that. "We need a series of checks and balances. I don't think we had enough checks in place," said Turner.
Lary's attorney Dwight Thomas issued this statement, "The mayor took executive action to protect the integrity of the accounts in issue and did nothing improper nor illegal."
Thomas declined to comment on why the action was needed and why the funds were re-deposited. "Don't blow smoke at me and try to convince me I'm on fire," said Coffield, in response to the statement. "You're stealing my hard-earned tax dollars, and I don't care who it is, they need to go to jail." Lowman says she's glad city council has been transparent. "They've not tried to cover up what the situation is," she said.
CW69 first learned about the bank withdrawal back on May 18, 2021, and was asked to not release any details until officials investigated it further. We'll keep you updated on any new developments.
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