Stonecrest mayor responds to accusations of CARES Act funds misuse

Mayor Jason Lary is pushing back on allegations that he siphoned off some of the $6.2 million DeKalb County gave the city of Stonecrest from the CARES Act in late 2020. He insists the funds helped several businesses stay afloat in the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There was never an intent on anybody's part to kick back or filter money back or any of that nonsense. Being on cancer leave, I came in to shake hands with people who were often in tears saying you saved my business, you saved our church," Mayor Lary said during a news conference at Stonecrest City Hall. "If along the way, something has happened that wasn't in line with the rules, I'll be the first to apologize for it. But the intent of it was good."

State Senator Emanuel Jones has asked the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate the matter. He said a firm hired by Stonecrest's City Council compiled a 400-page report that outlines the allegations against Mayor Lary and some of his associates. He told FOX 5 he gave a copy of the report to Governor Brian Kemp's office, along with a written request for the governor to remove the mayor from office.

"There is testimony from individuals of companies that received money who've gone on the record and publicly stated the mayor asked them to kick back a portion of the money. I hate to use the term 'kickback,' but when you create an organization and say 25% of what's given to a business should be used for marketing and there is no marketing, that is nothing more than a kickback. About $4 million of it found its way into the hands of those who needed it most, so that leaves $2 million that we can't account for that was misappropriated or even abused. That's shameful," said Senator Jones, a Democrat who represents parts of DeKalb and Henry Counties.

Senator Jones stands behind the legislation he wrote--which was signed by the governor-- and strips the mayor of Stonecrest of most of his financial powers. Mayor Lary, the city's first and only mayor, said the move amounts to voter suppression.

"This is not good government. There's no checks and balances. And most of all, it had no citizen input. All of my staff has been removed or fired. All of my departments have been removed unfunded and I haven't been able to find out why. I've been reduced to hugging ladies and kissing babies," Lary told reporters.

The 59-year-old mayor announced Thursday he's taking time off for a third round of cancer treatment but said cancer isn't the only battle he's prepared to fight.

"Let me be clear. I'm not going to resign my seat. The voters put me in this seat and if they see fit for me not to be in this seat, they know what to do," said Lary, who was elected in March 2017 as the first mayor after he helped lead the effort to create the City of Stonecrest.

WATCH: FOX 5 Atlanta live news coverage


Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.