DeKalb agrees to pay back $750,000 to feds

DeKalb County must pay back $750,000 that should have been spent on training and apprenticeships for unemployed residents but instead was used to subsidize county employees’ pay, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

“Rather than using the funds to provide training for its citizens who needed it the most, DeKalb County used those funds to subsidize its own payroll,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak of the Northern District of Georgia said Tuesday.

“Public servants who have the fiduciary responsibility of managing federal grant programs should never forget that taxpayers trust them to use grant funds properly. We will aggressively pursue all available remedies against individuals or entities that violate that trust.”

The reimbursement is part of a civil settlement the U.S. attorney’s office reached with the county.

The money was misspent between 2013 and 2016, Pak said. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2017 that the county's ethics officer uncovered the allegations.

Cheryl Stone, then-director of WorkSource DeKalb, called the allegations “patently false.”

County CEO Michael Thurmond, elected in 2016, began a review of the agency and dismissed her and other staff. He appointed a new director in April 2018.

Information from Pak’s office says the monies were used to increase the salaries of employees working for fire and rescue, the district attorney’s office and the chamber of commerce, as well as the board of commissioners’ clerk and others.

WorkSource DeKalb is one of 19 workforce development agencies covering the state. The state gets the federal grants, which it disperses to to the local agencies to provide job training and apprenticeships.