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Recreation Commission used directors company to conduct camps
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The Newton County Recreation Commission’s board of directors supported Director Anthony Avery this week and took no actions against his employment after reviewing a forensic audit released by Frazier and Deeter CPAs and Advisors and commissioned by the Newton County Board of Commissioners (BOC).

The BOC requested an analysis of several areas in the county, including the landfill, Nelson Heights Community Center, Bear Creek Reservoir project, SPLOST/Impact Fees and the Newton County Recreation Commission (NCRC) earlier this year. On Nov. 10 that report was first seen by the BOC and portions of it were released to the public on Nov. 28. The final portion, concerning the Recreation Commission, was released Thursday due to a state statute that “allows an agency to withhold a document for up to 19 days after a completed investigation related to the suspension of, termination of, or complaint against a public officer or employee,” according to Newton County Attorney Megan Martin.

That recreation commission portion of the report said that out of the $19,195 in revenue generated by camps and training programs, the NCRC received $5,360. The rest of the money went to program expenses, and U.S. Sports Training, Inc. (USST), owned, founded and/or operated by Avery and members of his family.

“Based on our analysis and information provided to date, the director of the Newton County Recreation Commission, Anthony Avery, used his position as director for personal benefit and for the benefit of his family members,” the report, put together by David Sawyer, said. “We recommend that further investigative steps be performed by law enforcement authorities, to determine whether or not criminal activity has occurred.”

In 2014 NCRC hosted a USST camp, in which Sawyer reported total revenues of $1,300 collected by the NCRC, in which it kept just $220. In 2015 a camp conducted by USST brought in revenues of $1,950, and the NCRC received $341. A training program conducted by USST brought in a reported $4,590 in revenue, in which the NCRC kept $1,377. In 2016, a USST camp brought in $659 to the NCRC of the $1,730 total revenue. Also that year, a training program brought in $3,910 in revenues, in which $1,173 was kept by the NCRC.

The NCRC Board of Directors disputed these reports in a statement released Thursday.

“Mr. Sawyer’s analysis states that there was $11,853 in financial damage to the county from seven basketball camps and/or training programs,” the statement said. “Nowhere in his analysis, except in Table A0 does he mention that the NCRC saw deposits of $5,360 from the seven programs he examined. This revenue was generated by program participant fees and would not have been received had these programs not been offered. He states, no fee was paid to NCRC for rental of Wolverine gym. Our assertion is that the $5,360 is payment for the facility rental.”

The board further said that Avery used vacation time while he was conducting camps, despite working a portion of that particular day. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, deductions from pay are allowed when an exempt (or salaried) employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons other than sickness or disability.

Due to these circumstances the NCRC board elected to not pursue any discipline against Avery when it met in a special called meeting, executive session, Monday.

“After a thorough investigation of the forensic audit the Recreation Commission has found no illegal or dishonest behavior and no financial damage was done to the taxpayers of Newton County, the statement said. “As the Recreation Commission we welcome any further inquiries on the matter.”

Sawyer’s report also claimed that “under normal programs, the county would receive 100 percent of revenue from these programs.” However, the recreation board said that due to expenses associated with these programs, their “goal for programs at the NCRC is to break even.

The board of directors said it would continue to review any steps that need to be taken.

“Our plan is to review our policies and make adjustments that are deemed appropriate so that we can provide recreational opportunities and programs that best serve the citizens of Newton County,” the board said in a statement.