Stonecrest mayor: ‘Time is limited’, city council punishing him by stiffing vendors

210415-Stonecrest-Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary holds a press conference at city hall on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

caption arrowCaption
210415-Stonecrest-Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary holds a press conference at city hall on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Mayor Jason Lary, who faces 3 federal charges, claims other city leaders are refusing to pay his valid expenses

A metro Atlanta mayor poised to plead guilty to felony fraud charges in January said other city leaders are withholding payment from local businesses in an attempt to punish him.

Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary, the city’s founding mayor, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday morning that the City Council is refusing to pay invoices incurred by his office. The bills, which total nearly $12,500, are for radio and television promotions from October and November.

Lary, 59, faces three felony charges after the FBI accused him of concocting a kickback scheme to steal more than $650,000 in federal pandemic relief funds. He’s pleaded not guilty, but a change in plea hearing is scheduled for early January.

Lary admitted his time as mayor is nearing its end.

“I’m just getting handled. That’s all this is,” Lary said. “And they (the City Council) know my time is limited as to how long I’ll be around, and that’s it. I’m just being mistreated.”

He would not elaborate on the status of his felony case and when asked to expand upon his comment about his time being limited, he said “I’ll just leave it at that.”

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Despite the fraud accusations, Lary said city leaders’ alleged refusal to pay vendors is part of an ongoing vendetta they have against him.

The AJC reached out to city councilmembers and other city leaders for comment regarding Lary’s accusations. No response was given before publication.

Lary said the unpaid invoices threaten his office’s ability to hold, advertise and promote upcoming events, including the annual Stonecrest Clause Christmas Toy Drive. Lary provided a series of invoices and emails to the AJC where he vents his frustration to city leaders and begs them to pay.

“All invoices are attached (AGAIN) for these black businesses not to be treated harshly because you all have a problem with me,” Lary said in an email. “The city will need them again, I promise you.”

The unpaid invoices

According to Lary’s emails, the unpaid invoices stem from the mayor’s free college scholarship fair and the mayor’s Black Friday promotion for the New Black Wall Street Market. The invoices include services such as radio promotions and television advertisements.

The majority of the unpaid bills are owed to Maximum Video Productions and radio stations under the Radio One Atlanta and Urban One brands, which include Praise 102.5, Hot 107.9 and Classix ATL 102.9. The AJC reached out to these companies for comment and has not heard back.

Stonecrest mayor's unpaid invoices
Mayor Jason Lary provided invoices for nearly $12,500 in services, which he claims other city leaders are refusing to pay.
SOURCE: Stonecrest officials' emails

Lary is unable to pay these invoices himself, since the council revoked his check-writing privileges and his city-issued purchasing card after various incidents.

Lary said the City Council will not discuss these pending invoices during public meetings. In the provided email exchange, Lary and Councilman Jimmy Clanton, who recently lost his reelection bid, asked to add a discussion item to the agenda for Monday’s work session, but the request was denied by Mayor Pro Tem George Turner.

“I talked to two other council members who expressed similar concerns ... and yes in light of the recent developments we are forced to spend extra time scrutinizing all invoices,” Turner’s email said. “This is why we held these invoices for council and legal review. They will be addressed appropriately in time.”

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In a responding email, Lary took offense at the mention of extra scrutiny being applied to costs incurred by him and his office.

“What EXTRA scrutiny???? These vendors have delivered their services to the city,” Lary’s email said. “... you all take nonsense one step further and vote to block the payments of the vendors that have delivered on their promises. And you think this is good business????? UNPROFESSIONAL and PETTY.”

Running out of Time

Lary has refused to resign after the federal fraud charges were announced. He would not comment to the AJC about his legal troubles, which include charges of wire fraud; conspiracy to commit federal program theft; and federal program theft.

Prosecutors said Lary defrauded businesses and churches that received financial assistance from the city, adding that Lary used the allegedly stolen funds to cover his own tax liabilities and pay off a lakehouse mortgage.

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He said his pending court case is irrelevant when it comes to paying vendors for services they provided. He added that the council hasn’t paid his monthly car reimbursement of $650 since August, when he returned to his mayoral duties after taking a prolonged medical leave.

“It’s all a vendetta. It’s all get-back. It’s terrible,” Lary said in a phone interview. “I tried to handle this in grace, and they won’t let me. I can’t speak on these other subjects (the federal charges), but I can speak on these two subjects (the unpaid invoices and car reimbursements).”

Federal court records show Lary is set to appear in court Jan. 5 to change his plea. It’s likely that he will plead guilty as part of a plea deal, according to prior statements made by his attorney, Dwight Thomas, in court.

“He accepts full responsibility,” Thomas said in court Nov. 10, when Lary was first arraigned. “And there won’t be a jury trial.”

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