Clayton County leaders seek audit of housing authority contracts

Clayton Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said county government staff should return to work May 4.
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Clayton Commission Chairman Jeff Turner said county government staff should return to work May 4.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The Clayton Board of Commissioners is investigating whether the former head of the county’s housing authority improperly directed funds for a renovation project to a company he owns.

The commission, in a 5-1 vote on Tuesday, agreed to audit permits and expenses the officials allege may have benefitted Michael Bryant in the renovation last year of the housing authority’s offices in Forest Park.

The board’s decision is the latest salvo in a fight with Bryant that began in September when the former housing leader was accused of funneling as much as $32,000 to Bryant’s Construction Group through a different entity — Two Brothers Carpentry.

Two Brothers had been approved by the housing authority board to renovate the housing authority offices, but the county attorney alleged that invoices from Two Brothers were actually paid to Bryant’s Construction. Permits by the city of Forest Park for the renovations also were issued to Bryant’s Construction, the commission alleged.

Bryant, who was removed as chairman of the housing authority by the commission Nov. 2, has denied the charges and said what money he did receive — about $700 — was reimbursement for a building permit he paid for out of pocket for the renovation work.

“It was not a profit,” he told the board at a September meeting on the accusations. “It was for reimbursement.”

Bryant said Wednesday he welcomed the audit, adding that he had nothing to hide. He said he was angry that his name was being besmirched.

“If they try to insert that I’m a criminal or that I’ve taken anything from the housing authority, then we’re going to have a different kind of conversation,” he said.

The commission said the audit will determine if Bryant’s Construction performed work on the renovation instead of the approved vendor and signed a check for reimbursement of work performed by another company. It also wants to find out if Bryant committed misconduct in office or violated county codes.

Commission Chairman Jeff Turner, who voted against the measure, said he preferred the matter be handled by an independent auditing firm to ensure the investigation is transparent. He said because the findings could potentially result in a criminal complaint, the audit needs to be free of any accusations of bias.

“I’m not opposed to the audit, but there have been some serious allegations that go beyond just the scope of the rehabilitation” of the housing authority building, he said. “I would like to see, actually, the scope enlarged as well as outside entity to conduct an external audit.”

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