Audit finds federal money meant to fight crime in Atlanta misspent

ATLANTA — Federal money meant to fight crime in the City of Atlanta was misspent and mismanaged by city leaders, according to a federal audit by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General.

Auditors said they also ran into roadblocks gaining documentation to verify where federal grant monies for the city’s Weed and Seed program was going. The objective of City of Atlanta's Weed and Seed program, which was funded through federal grants, was to prevent and control crime in neighborhoods including Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, English Avenue and Vine City.

"The city's Weed and Seed director sometimes did not respond to us for weeks or provided incomplete or incorrect information. Some of our questions pertaining to a payment to a former city employee were never answered," the federal report stated.
The City of Atlanta received $1.12 million in federal grants from 2007-2012.

"The City of Atlanta ought to be ashamed of themselves, pointblank, period," Kim Williams, a resident of the Mechanisville neighborhood told Channel 2's Rachel Stockman, when she learned about the federal government's audit.

The federal audit's found that:

  • The city charged $117,306 in unallowable costs to the grants
  • $29,837 to the grants for costs that are not supported by adequate documentation
  • 1,955 for a construction project at the Mayor's Office of Weed and Seed
  • $5,392 for food and catering costs
  • $40 for a personal membership to a warehouse club

The report made several recommendations including reforming invoices, and better tracking of expenditures.

The city released the following statement:

"The City of Atlanta takes the findings of a U.S. Department of Justice audit regarding possible mismanagement of grant funds in its "Weed and Seed" program very seriously. City officials have already responded to DOJ officials about the audit's findings.

Based on his initial review, Chief Financial Officer Jim Beard detailed the areas in which the city disagreed with some of the audit's findings in a written response. Mr. Beard also acknowledged there might have been some discrepancies regarding the city's use of allowable expenses in the amount of approximately $75,000.

We remain committed to working with our federal partner to reconcile the audit's findings. City officials will once again review the DOJ report to ensure we are adhering to its grant guidelines. We also will comply with any further recommendations within the 120-day allowable time frame outlined by the DOJ in its final report.

Moving forward, the city's compliance audit functions will be centralized in the Office of Grant Compliance, which is in the Department of Finance, to ensure adherence to all grant guidelines and timely responsiveness to inquiries.

It should be noted that most of the findings in the DOJ audit occurred between 2007-2010, before the stewardship of the city by Mayor Kasim Reed and his Administration.

"The objective of the City of Atlanta's Weed and Seed program was to prevent and control crime by 5 percent annually in the program's targeted communities of Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, English Avenue and Vine City by focusing on the areas of law enforcement, crime prevention and neighborhood revitalization. Weed and Seed was an important program, but represented only a fraction of the city's public safety and community revitalization spending.

The Reed Administration has focused its public safety investments in recruiting and training the largest police force in the city's history and launching public safety programs such as a more robust community-oriented police unit, referred to as 'COPS.' As a result, violent crime is down across the city by 17 percent since January 2010, when Mayor Reed was inaugurated.

A statement issued by the City of Atlanta on Monday, September 23 mistakenly stated that crime was down in all four neighborhoods targeted by the Weed & Seed program, specifically: Pittsburgh (-42%), Mechanicsville (-35%), English Avenue (-51%) and Vine City (-50%).

This data was not vetted by the Atlanta Police Department’s Tactical Crime Analysis Unit prior to release. As a result, it contained incorrect data. The correct numbers, which the Atlanta Police Department subsequently double-checked and verified, demonstrate that crime is down significantly in three of the four communities, but up in one of those communities: (Pittsburgh (-37%), Mechanicsville (+35 percent), English Avenue (-45%), and Vine City (-44%). The city regrets the unintentional human error.

It is worthy to note that major crimes are down for 2011 compared to 2007, collectively, in those four neighborhoods served by Weed & Seed by 21%, according to APD’s numbers.