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Newton County forensic audit says millions in damage to taxpayers

Newton County taxpayers suffered more than $29 million in potential damages stemming from the alleged mismanagement of a number of funds and projects, according to a forensic audit report made public this week.

The report, commissioned by the county commission, was turned over to law enforcement earlier this month.

The bulk of the allegedly misspent funds identified by the audit went toward the now-abandoned Bear Creek reservoir, overseen by former County Attorney Tommy Craig, who also acted as a water consultant on the project.

Craig was fired in November, 2015 after nearly 40 years amid concerns over his billing, transparency and management of the reservoir project. The Army Corps of Engineers pulled the county’s application and the county commission voted to abandon Bear Creek.

The forensic audit, carried out by David Sawyer of Frazier & Deeter in Alpharetta, concluded Craig “recklessly wasted” public money and made “numerous, repeated, misleading, deceptive statements and misrepresentations to the Board of Commissioners and taxpayers about the need, feasibility and achievability of the proposed Bear Creek Reservoir.”

The report says that Craig, on behalf of the county, paid excessive prices for properties associated with the reservoir and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting and legal fees.

The audit also says Craig owes more than $1 million in federal income taxes. He has been removed from a number of reservoir projects across the state, including in Hall County, South Fulton and Grady County, according to the Covington News.

Craig could not immediately be reached for comment.

The forensic audit also reviewed the financial history of the Newton County Recreation Commission; the Nelson Heights Community Center; the county landfill and recycling centers; and the SPLOST fund and impact fees.

— LEARN MORE: View the forensic audit [redacted] here (.pdf)

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