Cancelled checks show how the Cherokee County solicitor’s office used fees collected from defendants to pay for birthday cakes, lunches and flowers.

‘Reeks of a slush fund’: Solicitor’s checking account raises questions

The Cherokee County Solicitor General’s office has been diverting defense fees for years into a special checking account to buy cakes, office chairs, iPads and more, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Bank records show thousands spent by the elected prosecutor on meals in restaurants, trips to the grocery store and flowers, as well as discount store memberships and office products. The unusual account was started by former Solicitor David Cannon, now a Superior Court judge, and continued by his successor, Jessica Moss.

The AJC was tipped off to the spending by local attorney Channing Ruskell, a former solicitor who is running against Cannon for a seat on the Superior Court bench.

Bob Jackson, a certified fraud investigator and accounting professor at Georgia Southern University, said the existence of such an account “sets people up for questions that may be very uncomfortable.” Lowell Mooney, the chair of the state organization of accountants, said such a set up “reeks of a slush fund.”

The fees used to fund the account are reimbursements to the taxpayer for the expense of providing certain documents to the defense. It’s not excess cash, Jackson said.

“The money is coming from what they are supposed to be doing. Why isn’t it budgeted? Why isn’t it flowing through the system?” he said.

Both Cannon and Moss justify the account as a way to purchase items for the office not included in their annual county budget.

Find out what Cherokee officials say about this curious arrangement on the AJC Watchdog column at myAJC.com.

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