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Posted: 5:51 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016

Scathing audit alleges money mismanagement in Newton Co

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Newton Co courthouse photo
Newton Co courthouse

By Tim Bryant

by Aaron Diamant, WSB-TV

The FBI and GBI will review a scathing audit that claims long-term mismanagement by a former Newton County attorney cost taxpayers millions.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Aaron Diamant showed government watchdog William Perry the audit that alleges sweeping and systemic mismanagement cost taxpayers more than $29 million.

“This is outrageous,” Perry said. “I think in the old days, a mob mentality would take people to the Newton County Courthouse with torches and pitchforks because this thing is out of control.”

The audit found taxpayers took the biggest hit of at least $25 million on a failed reservoir project overseen by former county attorney Tommy Craig. Craig was also the county’s water consultant for the project.

The audit claims Craig “recklessly wasted county and taxpayer funds.” It says he made “numerous, repeated, misleading, deceptive statements.” It also claims he benefited from years of legal and consulting fees for the failed project.

The board fired Craig last year.

“You can’t have one guy in charge of the project and also be the person who’s supposed to check on it,” Perry said.

We found the front door to Craig’s Covington law firm locked on Wednesday. No one answered the door at his home.

The audit also claims County Commissioner J.C. Henderson, as an officer of a community center, got preferential treatment from the county that cost taxpayers more than $42,000.

“The real truth, I don’t think that’s even worth the paper that it’s written on,” Henderson said when asked about that part of the audit.

One commissioner said the county is trying to figure out how to recoup all the money, and they’ve made significant policy changes to keep this from happening again.

The Newton County district attorney said she’ll be meeting with the GBI and FBI about the audit in the very near future.