After an executive session Monday night, the Dawsonville City council voted to turn over documents that present a potential mishandling of city money to law enforcement officials.
Council member Stephen Tolson motioned that the city refer to law enforcement in light of information recently presented by the city’s finance administrator, Hayden Wiggins.
“There appears to be some financial discrepancies that occurred around the former mayor’s administration between 2014 and 2017,” Tolson said. “I think in the interest of full transparency it would be a good idea to go ahead and hand over all those documents and any related documents of the prior investigations conducted.”
Council member Mark French seconded the motion and it passed unanimously, with votes of approval also coming from council members Caleb Phillips and Jason Power.
Tolson explained his motion Tuesday afternoon.
“We want people to understand we’re not hiding anything and nothing will ever be swept under the carpet,” Tolson said.
Tolson said he felt he could speak for the rest of the council in that they all want “full transparency as far as the law will allow,” a stipulation he said made it difficult to comment further.
“We want to make sure it goes to the right people and we don’t have the ability to investigate like law enforcement can,” he said.
Tolson declined to comment on the specific amount of money that could be involved, saying he will let the law enforcement investigation bring the numbers to light.
City Manager Bob Bolz said Tuesday that he would consider the amount of money involved “substantial” and that he and Mayor Mike Eason would be turning the documents over to the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday morning.
Bolz said the documents will include a letter detailing what the city believes to be discrepancies as well as documents Wiggins presented to the council during the executive session, explaining what he had found.
Bolz hired Wiggins on Oct. 30. He formerly worked for Alexander, Almand and Bangs, the auditing firm that has conducted the city’s external audits for a number of years.
Anything that was investigated in the past year will also be included in the report, Tolson said.
That would then necessarily include a spring 2017 investigation into former Mayor James Grogan’s actions, conducted by attorney Abbott Hayes, who the city council hired to look into allegations that Grogan had misused city funds.
Hayes’ findings can be found under the public notices tab on the city’s website, at a link labeled “Investigative Report and Supporting Documents.”
The 527 pages Hayes compiled were briefly summarized at a hearing before the council on May 15, and included misuse of funds amounting to violation of the city ordinance and charter. The council voted Grogan out of office after the hearing.
He appealed the decision to the Superior Court, but the case was dismissed and the city awarded summary judgement on Oct. 9.
After the appeal was dismissed, Mayor Pro Tem Jason Power took over from Grogan until Eason was appointed acting mayor. Grogan and Eason have qualified to run against each other for the seat in the March 20 special election.
Between May and October, Grogan had continued to collect salary and benefits, a total of $25,060.88, and continued to act as mayor. The city recently took Grogan to court in an effort to recover the money that he was paid.
Grogan’s lawyer Paul Menair and City Attorney Dana Miles argued motions before Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller on Jan. 29.
Grogan filed a motion in November to remove Fuller from the case. Fuller was the judge who dismissed the case in October; he subsequently denied Grogan’s motion to recuse himself.
Fuller also heard a motion from both sides seeking a ruling on the city’s wish for reimbursement of Grogan’s salary and benefits, which he has refused to pay back. The city had until Feb. 5 to file a response brief, while Grogan has until Feb. 12 to file a reply.
Miles said in an email that Fuller will likely rule on the motion shortly after Feb. 12.
A third motion, Miles explained, was for a protective order the city is seeking to prohibit any further depositions or discovery on the facts related to Grogan’s removal for violation of city charter and ordinances.
“Since the city won this claim on Oct. 9, it contends that these facts are no longer issues in this case and that the only issue is reimbursement of the public funds spent on salary and benefits that (Grogan) received,” Miles wrote. “There are no more briefs to be filed on this issue and the judge could rule on it at any time.”
Depending upon the ruling on the second motion, Miles said, there could be another court date in the future.