Two Fulton County employees fired in aftermath of Wolf Creek audit

Fulton County terminated two Wolf Creek employees last week, following a scathing audit. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC File Photo

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Fulton County terminated two Wolf Creek employees last week, following a scathing audit. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM AJC File Photo

Following a "damning" audit of Wolf Creek Amphitheater last fall, Fulton County has terminated two of the venue's three employees.

Lisa Rushin and Sandy Poag, who ran the venue, were accused of repeatedly violating county policy and fired Friday. The audit, released in November, found more than two dozen violations.

“It was poorly managed against any rational standard,” Fulton County Manager Dick Anderson said last year.

The violations included cash management issues, preferential treatment for some vendors and a ticket-printing practice that gave complimentary access to thousands more people than was allowed, overcrowding the facility. Money was held for months without being deposited, funds were reported inaccurately and one company was given exclusive access to partner with the county for some events, according to the audit.

Employees regularly issued more than 500 complimentary tickets per show, far more than was normal, for the 5,300-seat venue, the audit said. They added 10 extra VIP tables to the facility, but didn’t sell tickets through Ticket Alternative. It’s unclear whether the tickets were sold elsewhere or given away, but the complimentary tickets represent a potential loss of tens of thousands of dollars.

Lisa West, an attorney for Rushin and Poag, did not respond to a phone call or an email seeking comment Wednesday. In November, she said her clients “have done nothing wrong.”

Citing the audit, Fulton County commissioners in the fall decided to outsource the management of the concert venue. In December, they elected to contract with the concert promoter Live Nation to run the facility.

Over the life of the partnership, the county expects to bring in millions of dollars.

According to audit documents, Poag’s husband worked at the facility without county approval. Her termination letter said by allowing Ron Poag “to operate as an agent of Fulton County,” Sandy Poag “violated the spirit of the Fulton County Nepotism and Conflict of Interest policies.”

“You appear to have used your position at Wolf Creek for personal gain,” according to the termination letter to Poag, the Wolf Creek coordinator, who made $65,000 in 2015.

She was also accused of signing contracts without authorization, circumventing county financial controls and failing to maintain control over concert tickets, VIP tables and access to concerts.

The audit said the lack of oversight “could have resulted in the funds being lost or stolen,” though it was not clear if any money was missing.

Jessica Corbitt, a spokesperson for Fulton County, said she did not expect criminal charges immediately against Poag or Rushin, though they had been considered at the time of the audit and are still a possibility.

Rushin, an assistant to the county manager who made more than $117,000 in 2014 according to her personnel file, “violated” the trust placed in her, her termination letter said.

Rushin failed to properly supervise her staff and maintain internal controls over vendor selection, the letter said.

Both Rushin and Poag filed a whistleblower suit in October, before the audit was released, claiming that they were being retaliated against because of a dispute with Commissioner Marvin Arrington about who had access to a skybox at Wolf Creek.

Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves said in a statement that the county does not comment on personnel decisions.

The amphitheater, in south Fulton, had trouble booking shows and couldn't sell tickets when it opened in 2011. A mix of R&B and jazz acts in recent years led Wolf Creek to become profitable in 2013.