GBI searches of­fice of lo­cal pro­ba­tion com­pany

The Covington News - - Front page - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

The Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion used a war­rant Thurs­day to search the Por­terdale of­fice of East Ge­or­gia Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices, the for­mer pro­ba­tion com­pany for the city of Cov­ing­ton, which pre­vi­ously had ques­tions raised about whether it un­der­paid re­quired money to the state and city of Cov­ing­ton.

GBI spokes­woman Sherry Lang said Mon­day, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is “to de­ter­mine if EGCS (East Ge­or­gia Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices) was charg­ing pro­ba­tion­ers more than the con­tract stated.” Lang said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing and no more in­for­ma­tion can be re­leased.

Be­fore 2012, EGCS han­dled pro­ba­tion ser­vices for Cov­ing­ton and was re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing pay­ment of fines and com­mu­nity ser­vice for peo­ple charged with some crimes, traf­fic of­fenses or or­di­nance vi­o­la­tions in the city. The com­pany was al­lowed to charge pro­ba­tion­ers a cer­tain amount of money above the city’s fine.

It’s un­clear if the GBI is only in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether pro­ba­tion­ers were charged more than they were sup­posed to be or is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial un­der­pay­ment of money to the state and city.

In April 2012, for­mer mu­nic­i­pal court judge David Strick­land, a lo­cal at­tor­ney, gave the city more than 150 pages of doc­u­ments show­ing EGCS paid nearly $21,000 less in fees to the state and city than the com­pany was re­quired to pay by law. Pro­ba­tion com­pa­nies are legally re­quired to send $9 per ac­tive pro­ba­tioner each month to the state’s Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Co­or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil.

Doc­u­ments from 2010 and 2011 showed EGCS did not send the re­quired money or re­ports for eight of the 24 months. From the records that the com­pany did send in, it re­ported

$20,946 less in pay­ments than it said it paid to the city and state. Doc­u­ments also led to ques­tions about why the num­ber of pro­ba­tion­ers in the EGCS sys­tem in­ex­pli­ca­bly changed from the end of one month to the be­gin­ning of the next.

Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Chief Stacey Cot­ton said Mon­day his depart­ment con- tacted the GBI to han­dle the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to avoid a con­flict of in­ter­est. EGCS of­fices used to be lo­cated on Gordy Street in Cov­ing­ton, but the com­pany now has of­fices in down­town Por­terdale at 2018 Main St. When Cov­ing­ton bid out its pro­ba­tion ser­vices last year, EGCS did not put in a bid. Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s web­site, it pro­vides pro­ba­tion ser­vices for the Por­terdale and Ox­ford mu­nic­i­pal courts, as well as drug screen­ing ser­vices to lo­cal courts, com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als. An email sent to the com­pany late Tues­day was not im­me­di­ately an­swered. Pre­vi­ous pri­vate au­dits or­dered by the city did not clear up the mat­ter of whether EGCS ever mis­han­dled funds, be­cause the com­pany’s files were not ex­am­ined, city of­fi­cials said. How­ever, more guide­lines and a more in­tense re­port­ing struc­ture for the mu­nic­i­pal court were rec­om­mended as a re­sult of the au­dits.

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