The Georgia Bureau of Investigation used a warrant Thursday to search the Porterdale office of East Georgia Correctional Services, the former probation company for the city of Covington, which previously had questions raised about whether it underpaid required money to the state and city of Covington.
GBI spokeswoman Sherry Lang said Monday, the investigation is “to determine if EGCS (East Georgia Correctional Services) was charging probationers more than the contract stated.” Lang said the investigation is ongoing and no more information can be released.
Before 2012, EGCS handled probation services for Covington and was responsible for overseeing payment of fines and community service for people charged with some crimes, traffic offenses or ordinance violations in the city. The company was allowed to charge probationers a certain amount of money above the city’s fine.
It’s unclear if the GBI is only investigating whether probationers were charged more than they were supposed to be or is also investigating potential underpayment of money to the state and city.
In April 2012, former municipal court judge David Strickland, a local attorney, gave the city more than 150 pages of documents showing EGCS paid nearly $21,000 less in fees to the state and city than the company was required to pay by law. Probation companies are legally required to send $9 per active probationer each month to the state’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
Documents from 2010 and 2011 showed EGCS did not send the required money or reports for eight of the 24 months. From the records that the company did send in, it reported $20,946 less in payments than it said it paid to the city and state. Documents also led to questions about why the number of probationers in the EGCS system inexplicably changed from the end of one month to the beginning of the next.
Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said Monday his department contacted the GBI to handle the investigation to avoid a conflict of interest. EGCS offices used to be located on Gordy Street in Covington, but the company now has offices in downtown Porterdale at 2018 Main St. When Covington bid out its probation services last year, EGCS did not put in a bid. According to the company’s website, it provides probation services for the Porterdale and Oxford municipal courts, as well as drug screening services to local courts, companies and individuals. An email sent to the company late Tuesday was not immediately answered. Previous private audits ordered by the city did not clear up the matter of whether EGCS ever mishandled funds, because the company’s files were not examined, city officials said. However, more guidelines and a more intense reporting structure for the municipal court were recommended as a result of the audits.