Letters to the EditorNews

AADM: Restructure the ACC Auditor’s Office

The job of an internal auditor is to follow the money. Auditors protect our democracy by ensuring our government is transparent and accountable to voters. When the internal auditor can’t follow the money, our communities don’t receive adequate resources and support.

The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement continues to support Athens-Clarke County Internal Auditor Stephanie Maddox’s allegations of Mayor Kelly Girtz and County Manager Blaine Williams’ systemic and racial discrimination towards her, which might have led to interference in Maddox’s job. When Auditor Maddox filed her complaint in May 2021 with the AADM, we understood this would be an uphill battle. Her case is deeply complex because it involves allegations of systemic racism and discrimination towards two popular and powerful officials—the mayor and the county manager. In addition, there is still an open investigation initiated by Maddox. We can only hope for a fair and impartial investigation, despite the fact that it’s being conducted by an agency hired by the local government. With this in mind, our focus remains steadfast to uncover the truth, and for the past three months, the AADM civil rights advocates have worked to achieve this goal. This included open records requests, reviewing various documents, interviewing outside parties and supporting Joseph Carter’s criminal complaint.

Carter’s criminal complaint is particularly important. ACC Solicitor C.R. Chisholm sought the advice of Georgia’s Prosecuting Attorneys Council. State Prosecutor C. A. George ultimately concluded that the statute of limitations expired. While he believed that proving the charges would be difficult to impossible, we believe that a criminal investigation would have revealed the truth. 

In conclusion, based on evidence available to us, AADM believes that the alleged abuse of authority and unhealthy work environment within the ACC government was inevitable due to the unclear structure and authority of the internal auditor’s office. For this reason, the internal auditor’s office should be restructured to have full independence from the mayor and commission; parity with all other charter offices in regards to staffing and funding; a whistleblower hotline; and unrestricted access to all governmental matters. Without these changes, incidents such as Williams and Girtz’s alleged discrimination against and interference with Maddox will continue to occur, thereby preventing the auditor from doing what’s in the best interests of the people—following the money. Ultimately, AADM members are deeply concerned that if this issue is not quickly resolved, it will be difficult for Maddox to ensure that our local government is using its funds wisely. 

Auditor Maddox has been fighting for justice since 2018. Over three years later, the commission still refuses to acknowledge these harms and to seek a just and fair resolution with Maddox. It is for this reason AADM feels it must intervene. We recommend a fair, third-party mediation between Maddox and the mayor and manager. Additionally, the internal auditor’s office must be completely restructured. In the coming weeks, AADM will announce a new initiative for this restructuring in order to secure Maddox’s freedom to follow the money independently and objectively. Stay tuned.

Mokah-Jasmine Johnson is a co-founder of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement.