Audit: DeKalb Wasted Money Earmarked For Senior Citizens

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Evidence of waste and allegations of corruption inside a DeKalb County department that you might think would be an unlikely place for controversy.

But the FOX 5 I-Team found the Office of Senior Affairs wasted at least $130,000, and the county turned over to the DeKalb District Attorney the findings of a blistering audit.

A separate outside investigation into overall corruption had initially called DeKalb County "rotten to the core." There was no indication that investigation included senior services, but we found even that department was not immune from such unsettling criticism.

Karl Williams once managed the department and the millions of tax dollars that go for everything from running senior centers to helping with health care and transportation.
In February, the 20-year county veteran was suspended with pay after allegations he was "prone to radical mood swings and temper tantrums." Four months later, Williams was allowed to retire after an audit found he wasted money and may have even tried to cover up other questionable activities.

 "We had a manager who was abusing his authority and acting in ways that's against policy and against protocol and we took action to separate him from DeKalb County," said county spokesman Burke Brennan.

The audit pointed to a healthy cooking video, produced at a cost of more than $30,000. Auditors found Williams "had a personal relationship with one of the vendors before and after the vendor performed work for the County."

Approximately 75 copies were made, but not one DeKalb senior ever received the Healthy Cooking videos.

"We didn't know about the video either," said spokesman Brennan. "We certainly couldn't say why it was created in the first place or why it was never disseminated."

Karl Williams had little to say when the FOX 5 I-Team tried talking to him outside his DeKalb home.

FOX 5 I-Team: So what can you tell me about this audit? It looks, it reads like some pretty serious problems in your office.
Williams: I suggest you take this up with the county.

Even more serious -- buses that were supposed to be free for DeKalb County. They were transferred from College Park to be used for seniors to get to medical appointments and other events. Turns out, free came with a price tag.

The buses were too old to be part of a special grant program. Yet DeKalb still wound up spending nearly $100,000 in consulting fees and rebranding the buses with the county name. The county said they still needed tens of thousands of dollars in repair work before they're road safe.

They may be marked DeKalb, but they will never move a single DeKalb senior citizen. The county has made plans to give them to another government outside of Georgia.

"They were certainly too old for most practical purposes," agreed spokesman Brennan. "Who was going to drive these buses... and to where?"

FOX 5 I-Team: Why are we sitting here with some buses that still don't work?
Williams: You need to ask the individuals that actually did this audit.
FOX 5 I-Team: You don't think you have to answer these questions?
Williams: The issue is... the issue is the director, you see. The director of that department is responsible for the actions under that department.
FOX 5 I-Team: What were you responsible for then?
Williams: I'm not the director.
FOX 5 I-Team: What were you responsible for in that office?
Williams: I'm not the director, ok?

But the audit put the blame squarely on Williams, citing vendors who went years without having to rebid their contracts, Williams disappearing from the office during tax season when he also happened to be an employee for a tax preparation service, and Williams removing two computers from his office during a review of grant spending. According to the audit, because Williams didn't return the computers for more than two weeks, "we believe files may have been deleted from the computers."

 "The information we discovered during the forensic audit was turned over to law enforcement officials for their review and prosecution if they see fit," said spokesman Brennan.

We tried again to talk to Williams.

FOX 5 I-Team: They couldn't find the computers and you didn't return them for at least 15 days.
Williams: Go home.
FOX 5 I-Team: Did you hide information? That's what the audit suggests and I want to make sure you have a chance to respond.
Williams: That is not true.