If you or I, as private citizens, filed a false tax return or other government document, then we would probably get prosecuted, at least for perjury, and perhaps for fraud and other bad things depending on the circumstances. But what happens when government officials file false documents, and then as a result get access and control over hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money? Is there even so much as a “bad puppy” stern gaze? Let’s find out.
Way back in 1994, Georgia municipalities were required to certify that they met the minimum requirements to remain cities. Those requirements included provision of at least three services from a defined set of services. Some cities, such as Knoxville, Georgia, the Crawford County seat, were honest about their lack of compliance, and were unchartered. However, that same year, according to official documents we have obtained, our old poster child Manassas, Georgia (new readers may want to check out our related Leech City site for background), sent in their filing with the following nugget:
Yep, three services. Let’s look at each. $500 for fire. Well, that’s questionable, but they have claimed to have had an old beat-up fire truck and a volunteer fire department, so we’ll toss them that bone. $5624 for water supply or distribution. That one is legit, there was a crumbling, decrepit water system in place at the time. The last one is the kicker; $3953 for electric or gas utility services. That one needs a closer look.
So how is it that a city of approximately 100 persons managed to provide either gas or electric utility service, or both, while only spending a few thousand dollars on expenses for this service? Keep in mind that we lived in Manassas for about three years and owned two large buildings, both of which predated the 1994 filing. At no time and place did I see any artifacts of gas distribution infrastructure. Further, calls to Georgia Power, the current electrical service provider, produced no indication that anyone other than them had ever provided electrical service to that area. Note also that the contractor column is blank, which indicates that the city itself provided those utilities, which would presumably include some sort of generation or storage in addition to distribution infrastructure.
You can see the entire 1994 filing, if you wish, by clicking on the above graphic. Note that the signatories at the bottom are none other than the current mayor and then city clerk Wanda “Yertle” Rogers, and her now deceased husband and then mayor G. Mack Rogers, Jr. Until her taking office as mayor in 2016, I am told that Wanda had a long, uninterrupted tenure as city clerk, was paid separately for water quality testing, and enjoyed the employ of her relatives on the city payroll as either employees or contractors. Her and her brood’s receipt of these funds was only possible due to this 1994 filing, otherwise, the state would have disbanded the city shortly afterward.
So, the question remains, did Manassas city officials lie to the state back in 1994? It appears that way to me. Or, maybe they had some sort of secret free energy device running that is now a lost swamp technology, possibly stolen from them by none other than the notorious Pixie Mafia, who subsequently sold the invaluable device for scrap.
The more important question is, what, if anything, is the State of Georgia willing to do about this apparent fraud against the state taxpayer (and potentially against the federal taxpayer, if federally funded programs were subsequently accessed). Let’s ask the top cop in Georgia, Attorney General Chris Carr, and see whether official lies and fraud are of any interest to his office.
By the way, Attorney General Carr, as a stand-in political appointee filling the post vacated by the former Attorney General, is running to retain that office in the upcoming November general election. Carr’s campaign website highlights his commitment to government transparency. We’ll have to follow up with him on some of the open records issues encountered during our Manassas days. His site also indicates an interest in “fighting overreach by any Congress and any President and overreach at the state and local levels”. Let’s find out if that blanket statement includes local officials who overreach by filing false documents and avoiding open records compliance.
We should probably also ask Carr’s opponent, Charlie Bailey, what he thinks about this issue. Bailey’s campaign website states that he “is a public servant and prosecutor who is running for Attorney General to protect Georgia’s families from crime, corruption, and consumer fraud”. Let’s find out about that, too.
Note that this isn’t just about some decades old filing, it is about faith in local and state government at all levels, including their willingness to self-police. Along the way, we’ll revisit some strategies for evaluating the officials in your area, and in more effective ways than the initial trial and error approach we were at first forced to use. Pro tip: for those preparedness enthusiasts out there, if things go sideways in some disaster, natural or manmade, the local officials around you, if they are of the wrong disposition, can be much more of a hazard than anything else you may face. We all learned this lesson, and some of us the hard way, in Katrina. Alternatively, if those officials are good people with a finely developed sense of noblesse oblige, then they can be your best resource.
The trick is to know how to tell the difference. Stay tuned, there is a lot more to this story.