Audit reveals Atlanta taxpayer dollars may have been mishandled at mayor's Senior Ball

In 2022, Mayor Andre Dickens hosted the famous, annual Senior Citizen Ball at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Atlanta. His spending on that event was called into question, and an audit revealed taxpayers may have footed a bill for more than they're aware of.

The brand-new Office of Inspector General examined city funds used for the party and determined tens of thousands of dollars spent on the affair did not follow procurement guidelines.

The report states the City of Atlanta made a payment of $120,653.48 to the Hyatt Regency Atlanta "with an attached note requesting that the invoice be processed as ‘professional courtesy.'"

Although it was a single evening event, a number of Atlanta City Hall staffers spent the night and ordered room service, ultimately billed to Atlanta taxpayers.

The mayor's executive office also booked rooms for two members of the Dickens' family.

FOX 5 received a copy of the report:

On Monday afternoon, the Mayor and a top aide provided Inspector General Shannon K. Manigualt with an explanation. Here's an excerpt:

"As the City has an obligation to pay any debts it incurs to vendors to avoid any exposure to unnecessary and costly litigation, on September 5, 2023, the administration will also seek authorization from the City Council to retroactively ratify the City’s payment of any costs associated with the 2022 Senior Ball.

"The leadership team shall also work with the Department of Law to review any City policies related to the reservation of hotel rooms as may be necessary for City sponsored events; and guidance will be provided to all City departments, offices, and agencies on these policies.

"I would also note that no City funds were used to pay for the cost of alcohol at last year’s Senior Ball. Those costs were paid by a private donor. Also, while your report references the Mayor’s family members as beneficiaries, it should be noted that the Senior Ball was intended to be privately funded with staff support from the City.

"The family members noted were not simply attendees, but integral participants/host for the event. His mother served as the event host, while his sister serves as her caretaker. As is normal practice in the private and philanthropic sectors, such participation usually includes benefits that include, but are not limited to, an honorarium and/or hotel accommodation. As these members are not city employees, and participated in set-up, pre and post-event duties they would have appropriately received such benefit if the event was non-city funded as initially intended prior to the City’s funding to ensure the event took place (in spite of the budget shortfall). To remain in compliance with the highest ethical standards, though not recommended in your report, Mayor Dickens has appropriately submitted reimbursement to the City for the hotel costs incurred by himself and his family during the 2022 Senior Ball. 

"As the Dickens’s administration nears the conclusion of its second year, let us assure you that we take this investigation seriously and will continue to strengthen and document our processes."

The next Senior Ball is scheduled for Oct. 28, 2023.