College Park orders audit of ‘bank account improprieties’ at rec center

Bianca Motley Broom is sworn in by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton as the mayor of College Park. She defeated Jack Longino, who had been mayor 24 years. (Courtesy the City of College Park)
Bianca Motley Broom is sworn in by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton as the mayor of College Park. She defeated Jack Longino, who had been mayor 24 years. (Courtesy the City of College Park)

College Park officials have ordered a forensic audit into what they say is a mishandled city bank account used for six years by two employees who no longer work there.

An account for the Tracey Wyatt Recreation Complex had $100,000 of withdrawals without receipts, and two debit cards issued to the parks and recreation director and supervisor of the recreation center, according to a Fox 5 story.

The department director, Emmanuel Rainey, was fired about a week ago, his attorney Al Kendall told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kendall said his client should not have been let go.

A city spokeswoman would not say whether the head of the complex, Cresit Dowdell, was fired or resigned. Dowdell could not be reached for comment.

READ | College Park arena to open, with hopes of economic revitalization

The city issued a press release saying there were “improprieties” and “deficiencies in city’s transaction policies and accounting principles” related to the account.

City Manager Terrence Moore told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that only Rainey and Dowdell had access to the account.

Moore said the account was established in 2010, and it was closed in 2016 after he realized that it contained money donated from private parties and fundraising events to help children’s recreation sports.

The money should have been deposited into a non-profit bank account instead of a city account, he said.

Kendall said the money was donated from parents whose children were in a travel AAU basketball program, and it was used for the intended purposes. He said the same people who fired his client told him how to handle the money.

READ | South Fulton ethics board sets date for 'mini-trial' of council member

Rainey’s son, Emmanuel Rainey, Jr., told council members that his father and Dowdell are proud public servants who worked hard to help the children of College Park.

“For their efforts to be portrayed in the media … as something other than extremely impactful and life-changing is blasphemous,” the son said.

City Council agreed to spend about $25,000 on the audit, which will be performed by the accounting firm Mauldin and Jenkins. The results should be made public in the coming days, according to Moore.

Until then, city leaders have directed police chief Ferman Williford to contact the GBI. Agency spokeswoman Nelly Miles said Friday that the GBI has not started a formal investigation.

“At this point, since the audit is not completed, the GBI is conducting a preliminary review of the matter before determining next steps,” Miles said.

Mayor Bianca Motley Broom declined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s request for an interview. A city spokeswoman said the mayor would not provide comment “until completion of the audit and investigation.”

Council members voice concern

Motley Broom defeated six-term mayor Jack Longino in a December runoff election, making her the first new leader of the city in 24 years. She was sworn into office in January.

Around that time, Moore said, city officials voiced concern about the account and its history.

“As a result … direction was given to review the account in question weeks ago,” he said.

This controversy is happening in a big moment for an old city that has dealt with a declining population that earns half the median household income compared to the rest of the county.

READ | College Park celebrates first black, female mayor

The city celebrated the November opening of the $46 million Gateway Arena, which serves as the home of the Atlanta Hawks' development team, the Skyhawks, and the WNBA's Dream. And there's a buzz around the upcoming $1.5 billion Airport City mixed-use project set to bring a hotel, store fronts, and office space, along with entertainment and alternative sports venues to the city of 15,000 people.

Resident Alan Gravitt told the City Council at a Feb. 17 meeting that he wanted a full forensic audit of the city’s finances.

“If we don’t do it, then maybe we won’t have the city that we deserve, one of integrity and transparency,” he said.

READ | In Airport City project, College Park looks backward to look forward

Longino told council members that he was disappointed with the city for letting the controversy play out in the press.

“I stand before you and God tonight and tell you [that] you won’t find no dirt on me,” he said. “You’d better dig with a big shovel because you ain’t gone find it.”

Talking to the AJC after a Fulton County Board of Commissioners proclamation naming Feb. 19 “Mayor Jack P. Longino Appreciation Day,” the former mayor said he would cooperate with any investigation into the bank account.

Longino said the city did regular audits under his administration, but added that those reviews are only as good as the auditors they get.

“Sometimes we didn’t have such great auditors,” he said.

Follow The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Facebook and Twitter

In other news...

Channel 2?s Mike Petchenik was live in Roswell where police say they'll be seeking federal help to track the fraudsters.