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Lott hid forgeries from police, feds

By   /   September 3, 2010  /   Comments

By Kevin Hogencamp

Albany City Manager Alfred Lott allowed a city employee who committed fraud on the city’s behalf to quietly resign rather than to be fired or prosecuted, and then hid the matter from police and the federal agency that was defrauded, public records show.

City Attorney Nathan Davis advised Lott in April that Geraldine Fletcher’s actions were crimes, likely felonies punishable by a prison term. Still, Fletcher was allowed to return to work after the crimes were discovered before deciding to adhere to the city administration’s request to resign, records show.

Records show that Fletcher’s supervisors discovered during a review of her files that Fletcher forged signatures of residents who received federal funds to pay for making their homes more energy efficient. The city receives more than $50,000 in U.S. Department of Energy funds annually in a program administered federally by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fletcher’s salary was paid largely with those funds; she was a longtime city employee.

Public records reviewed by The Albany Journal indicate the matter has not been reported to police or the federal government – the victim of Fletcher’s alleged transgressions. The treatment given by Lott to Fletcher this spring is in contrast to that of airport maintenance supervisor Sean Reddish, who was arrested and charged with felony for cashing in on $1,100 of scrap metal.

Davis recommended that Fletcher be terminated, saying that she was guilty of crimes in her role operating the federally funded Community and Economic Development Department’s weatherization program.

“We want to acknowledge two criminal statutes that impact the instant matter,” Davis wrote to Cutts, Fletcher’s department director; Lott; Assistant City Manager James Taylor; and then Human Resources Management Director Mary LaMont.

“First the forgery statute (OCGA 16-9-1),” Davis wrote. “When the employee the signed the applicant’s name to this document, a document specifically designed to show the applicant’s approval of repairs, and such act was done with intent to defraud, there is a sufficient basis for a felony charge.

“Second, the employee’s actions also raise the misdemeanor statute (OCGA 16-10-20) of falsifying a material fact or making use of a false document. This statute may validly be applied to the employee’s conduct …”

Davis continued, “The employee undertook to falsify the document. At a bare minimum, the misdemeanor statute unquestionably does not permit this. The impact on your department (a false document was prepared and you have to explain the situation to the agency that received that document) is such that it is difficult to imagine anything less than termination as an appropriate response.”

In earlier correspondence to Davis, Cutts stated that Fletcher “admitted to falsifying signatures on federal documents. After the transgression was discovered, Cutts was placed on paid administrative leave, and then was allowed to return to work from March 30 until April 9 as Cutts awaited direction from Lott on “final disciplinary action,” Cutts said.

Fletcher resigned April 12 after being encouraged to do so in an April 9 letter from Cutts.

Following is Cutts’ April 9 correspondence to Fletcher.

“Dear Geraldine,

While preparing for a recent monitoring visit, a review of your weatherization files was conducted by your supervisor, Laura McCool. During her review of your files, Laura found numerous errors and missing documents. She also noticed what appeared to be discrepancies in signatures that were in the files. Further review of additional files by Laura also revealed what appeared to be other discrepancies in signatures. Laura, Shelena (Hawkins) and I met with you to discuss the concerns with the appeared (sic) discrepancies in signatures. When asked out right if you had falsified “any” signatures on any of the documents, you answered “yes.” You were advised that I would be discussing this matter with Human Resources in an effort to get guidance on the appropriate disciplinary actions.

In an effort to allow the time necessary to review this matter further, you were placed on administrative leave with pay until Wednesday, March 31, 2010. From the time of your return from administrative leave on March 31st until the present, there has been a detailed review of your weatherization files, thorough review of your performance history, as well as a review of the City’s current Disciplinary Actions and Grievance Policy. These reviews have been done in an effort to ensure that the appropriate disciplinary action be taken for this situation.

In the past 12 months you have received one oral warning (Nov. 10, 2009). This warning was for repeated issues with inaccurate reports being prepared and submitted by the scheduled deadlines. Despite the fact that there is only one warning in performance pro, Laura has submitted copies of a number of emails which reflect that there continue to be issues surrounding the timely and accurate submission of reports. Your most recent performance appraisal, completed on Jan. 29, 2010, reflects a performance rating of 2.94 Needs Improvement.

A great deal of consideration has been given to all of the circumstances surrounding this issue and it appears evident that your ongoing issues with being able to submit things in a timely manner have resulted in your decision to falsify signatures on documents that you should have gone out and had the homeowners to sign. Falsifying signatures is very serious and could result in a criminal offense. After consulting with human resources and the city attorney’s office, I would ask that you exercise the option to resign. If you decide not to resign, it is my recommendation that you be terminated effective today, which is Friday, April 9, 2010.

Please return any and all City of Albany property to the Department of Community and Economic Development and make an appointment with the Human Resources Department to seek information concerning your eligibility for benefit continuation and/or conversion.

You have the right to appeal my decision to the City Manager, Alfred Lott. If you choose to appeal this action, you must notify the City Manager’s office, in writing, no later than 10 days from the date of this letter.”

Lott, meanwhile, was forced in July by the majority of City Commission members to resign after LaMont filed a racial and sexual discrimination complaint against Lott. Lott has said that he is not under fire from the commission and that will leave his job on July 31, 2011 on his own accord, but multiple sources familiar with the dispute say that Lott is lying, and that he likely will depart his $138,000-a-year position, which he has held since 2005, much sooner than mid-2011.

Ironically, Lott also is under scrutiny for failings involving federal finances – including allowing a developer and church to obtain $500,000 and $364,000 of taxpayer funds without paying the money back or building the project. Both of those blunders were projects of the Community and Economic Development Department. The City Commission has asked the Dougherty district attorney’s office to investigate the Greater Cutliff Grove Missionary Baptist Church project, but thus far has allowed the unpaid $500,000 loan to Mayor Willie Adams’ former campaign manager to go without investigative scrutiny.

In another twist, Lott has lobbied recently for Davis’ ouster, saying that Davis is dangerous because he had a loaded gun in his office at the city police station, and because Davis’ son committed suicide.

Davis has not been charged; indeed, a public records review indicates that Davis’ crime was not investigated by police or the district attorney’s office.

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Comments

  1. Truth B Known says:

    Why when cought,all the Officals get slapped on the wrist,or get a chance to stay on the job with pay,and some even get raises.But you or I would be under the jail?
    Everyone who has been found guilty,has either gotten there jobs back,or have to resign if that is what you call what Lott has done.And then Nathan.What was it he got? Now sex at the airport,(sounds like a good name for a drink) Next i would like to hear the line “but i did nt inhale” and i bet it will come somewhere down the line.All of you enjoy while you can getting away with your dasterly deeds.Downtown is back on it s way up.And we will be watching you…….God Bless Albany Ga.

  2. Disappointed in Agony GA says:

    Lott has proven over and over that he can’t do the job. The Commissioners need to send him packing by the end of the year. If the Commissioners can’t or won’t do their job and let him go, then every one of them needs to be voted out. If Lott is stil here in January, I plan to do everything in my power to ensure every Commissioner loses their seat in the next election. I’m tired of the City’s wasteful spending, embarrassing decisions, and the total disregard for ethics.

  3. khogencamp says:

    Bob — I took your advice and reported it to Albany police and the Dougherty DA. Guess what they did? They turned it over to the U.S. Attorney, who apparently is going to contact me tomorrow to start an investigation. Bingo. On behalf of local and federal taxpayers, thank you very much for your advice.

    Avenger — Please call or come see me. We can speak confidentially.

    Kevin

    1. albanyga411 says:

      Can somebody explain to me why do Latoya Cutts – Director, Community and Economic Development Department has a son who lives in Lee County but is enrolled in a Dougherty County School System. They do own property in Dougherty County; They do live in Lee County. Please check into this since they are arresting Parents who send their kids to Lee County Schools

  4. the avenger says:

    Latoya Cutts should be fired too. We can’t wait until the day she get fired.

  5. Bob says:

    Why can’t you just report it to the GBI, you have enough info for them to start a investigation. APD would do nothing but the GBI would almost have to look into it.

  6. Not Me says:

    I get it now.If you are an Offical in Albany you can get away with anything.Look how many laws have been broken by them.How many went to jail? Wrong is wrong.If you break the law,no matter who you are,what color you are,what sex you are,breaking the law is just that.Breaking the law.I do my very best to follow all the laws in Albany,and in the Bible.But yet if i do anything like most of our Officals have done i would be in jail.and not just for 6 months.I see comercials on TV about Drunk driving,and they are good.But it says Break the Law and you will pay.When are all the Officals who have robbed the taxpayers,cheated the people who work for them,lied under oath,and just plain out did not live up to there Oath of Office going to Jail?And When did Nathan get holyer than Thou?Does this make up for his braking the laws.And how about Lott.? And the Mayor?If we had leaders who followed the law,then just maybe everyone of the robbers,drug dealers,and repeat offenders would get the picture.As long as Govt. can break the law and get away with it.Everyone else will think they can.Where would that leave Albany? Right where it is right now.It is way past time for our Officals to answer to there crimes.Return Justice in albany.And you will see Change.

    1. snoopy01 says:

      I agree our city officials are doings as they please and it needs to stop, its like we live in a movie that won’t end

  7. Zigzag says:

    Wouldn’t this be called an accessory to a crime?

  8. Betty Rehberg says:

    Again, why is Lott allowed to stay in his job almost another year???

  9. Schaloam says:

    It is common knowledge that the ONLY reason Reddish was arrested is because certain people were disgruntled because he had fired someone with a different skin color. Racism at its finest in the Good Life City.

About the author

Owner / Editor / Writer

Tom Knighton is the publisher of The Albany Journal. In November, 2011, he became the first blogger to take over a newspaper anywhere in the world. In August of 2012, he made the difficult decision to take the Journal out of print circulation and become an online news agency, a first for the Albany area.

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