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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon authority created to fight poverty in Pleasant Hill can’t say how it spent millions

Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom
The Macon-Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority build this house at 231 Moughon Street Lane in 2020. Four years later, it is vacant with trash on the porch, boarded up windows and tall grass.

Editor’s note: This is the first story in a series examining the Macon-Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority’s impact on the historic Pleasant Hill neighborhood. The authority was created by legislation introduced by State Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, in 2012 with the sole mission of eliminating poverty in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

An authority created for the sole purpose of eliminating poverty in Macon’s poorest neighborhoods can’t say how it spent millions in taxpayer dollars or even afford an audit to find out.

Though the Macon-Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority (CEA) received millions from the federal and local government, public records show the authority is operating at a loss and struggling to regain financial footing following years of conducting business without oversight or record-keeping.

The authority’s deteriorating financial position has reduced its footprint in Pleasant Hill, a historically Black neighborhood that was split in two when the Georgia Department of Transportation built Interstate 75 through it in the 1960s and further damaged decades later when GDOT began widening the highway in 2017.

The authority is responsible for building – moving and rehabilitating – a total of 24 homes affected by the interstate’s further encroachment into the neighborhood with $5.4 million in federal highway money passed through the state.

CEA was also tasked with managing two new parks, operating the Little Richard House as a neighborhood resource center and managing the Booker T. Washington Center, which houses nonprofits.

In early June, the Little Richard House closed indefinitely and the CEA moved out. Mayor Lester Miller stopped paying the authority to run the resource center following the CEA’s yearslong failure to provide the county with an audit or details showing how the county’s dollars were being spent.

Macon-Bibb County is exploring options to operate the Little Richard House without CEA’s involvement.

“We do not give another dime to the Community Enhancement Authority… is that correct?” Mayor Pro-Tem Seth Clark asked at the most recent commission meeting in reference to the Little Richard House.

Late last year, the Macon-Bibb County Commission approved paying a private company to maintain the two parks, Linear Park and Jefferson Long Park, along with numerous others.

In March, the CEA moved out of the Booker T. Washington Center and told the county operating the building on Monroe Street was not financially viable.

Most of the 23 homes the CEA completed are vacant. Several were sold to people and nonprofits with which the authority is connected. Another five are being rented, the authority’s interim executive director Latisha Woods said in a recent interview.

Neighborhood leaders like Yolanda “Y-O” Latimore said accountability is critical to the success of any organization and what is happening with CEA is “not a good look.”

“It makes everybody, every entity in Pleasant Hill look kind of funny, because that was supposed to help,” Latimore said.

She noted the importance of having an authority dedicated to eliminating poverty in Black neighborhoods.

“Whatever is broken should be repaired, even if that consists of replacing people … I don’t think the Community Enhancement Authority should disappear because it’s supposed to be something that helps the neighborhood,” Latimore said. “And we need it.”

Lack of oversight

The authority has largely operated under the radar since federal dollars first began flowing to it in 2016.

In eight years, CEA has never submitted a financial audit to any local, state or federal agency.

And now, authority board chairperson Bruce Riggins said it can’t afford one.

“Maybe when we make some more money,” he said.

While the absence of financial audits prompted the county to cut ties with the authority, CEA’s board also doesn’t seem to know how all of its money was spent.

“I think it might have been misplaced,” Riggins said, adding that under previous executive directors, money granted from GDOT to build houses may have been used to “keep other stuff going.”

A home the Macon-Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority built and is renting on Forest Avenue. The authority had not cut the lawn in some time. (Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom)

The authority is managed by a board of directors. Riggins said he was appointed by his friend, then-executive director of the authority, Rep. James Beverly. Riggins said he never received any training on board governance and all he knew was “people come in, they present you with some stuff, and if it sounds like it’s good… ‘Yes, let’s go.’”

Riggins has been on the authority board for at least six years. He said his board development knowledge has grown from serving on boards of other nonprofit organizations.

The CEA is supposed to have a chairperson and four board members who serve two-year terms. The chairperson recommends two members, who then are approved by the county’s state representatives. A third member should be appointed by the county and the fourth is supposed to be a “member” of the county government, according to enabling legislation.

The county has not appointed anyone to the authority board in years.

In 2017, during Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration, the county appointed Josh Rogers, president and CEO of NewTown Macon, to serve on the authority board.

The first meeting Rogers attended occurred in lawyer Blake Sharpton’s office with Beverly, the authority’s creator, board chairman and its paid executive director. Another board member present, Isaac J. Culver III, was later convicted of wire fraud and money laundering.

“I walked out of that meeting and said, ‘I need to get my resignation drafted right now,’ ” Rogers recalled recently. “I can’t even describe to you what it was like being in that room. Really, really unsettling.”

Nobody was keeping notes about the business discussions, Rogers said. There were no financial reports presented for approval.

“Sometimes there’s a fine line between incompetence and malevolence,” he said in a recent interview. “I didn’t stick around long enough to determine which was the problem.”

Rogers said recently he is “amazed and astounded” the authority continues to operate as a governmental body without oversight or financial record-keeping.

“I’m not going to serve on any board that’s not able to produce timely and accurate financial statements,” Rogers said. “It’s impossible to fulfill your responsibilities as directors if you can’t monitor your financial resources.”

Where did all the authority’s money go? That question, Rogers said, “would take hundreds of thousands of dollars and 10 years for a forensic accountant” to answer.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].

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    Donald Richardson JrJun 24, 2024 at 11:29 pm

    My name is Donald H. Richardson Jr. And Reside at 523 Cherry Street Apt 605 in the Dempsey Apartment Macon Bibb County Georgia 31201 and Am Also a Grassroots Republican and a President Donald Trump and The Government of President Netanyahu of Israel Supporter. I have Been a member of Christ Episcopal Church located at 582 Walnut Street Macon Bibb County Georgia 31201 since 1997 and Connected with the Paternal White Inner sanctum Family of Lamar Munroe Wise lll And that Family Social, Ecomomic and Political Connections which their Inherent Wealth. Lamar Munroe Wise lll Is the Great paternal Nephew of Margaret Wise O’Neal ( Mrs B.P. O Neal) and the Great Paternal Nephew of Iola Wise Stetson the Second Wife of Eugene Stetson who was the President Of Guaranty Trust Company Bank located on Wall Street in Manhattan New York, which he played a major role in the Merger of Morgan Gauaranty before death. It has been my Experience in observing from a Spiritual Point of View in Being able to Discern how Some of this white Inner sanctum run their social, Ecomomic and Political Institutions in their invisible Empires which the Illuminati is that Contract through the Democratic Party’s Justice Department for Which the Majority of African Americans through generational conditioning to be cultivated to a dependent race without The Benefit of A New England And Northern Protestant Work Ethic that was promoted By the Republican Party through the Mainline White Mainly Protestant Judeo Christian Religion who came South after the Civil war or the War Between the States to set private Mission schools to Dispensate the Judeo Christian Religion Dispensation to Stablized the Passions of Human nature that the Institution of slavery had not perfected by cultivating Vice and crime in their moral character and denying them an education, so that the could cultivate their Intellectual and labor skills into skilled labour and the Profrssion as a means to contribute and Assimilate into the Market economy of the United States of America. But after the 1969 Court Intergration in Georgia, Some Members of the Inner Sanctum families, through the Democratic Party non Profit contracted with organized Crime through The Democratic Party Justic Department like the President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton Non Profit Foundation to Run the Money Laundering Operations through these non profits like these Drug Cartels and the Palestine Liberation Movement in the Middle East and to cultivate Poor inner City white and Young People like Gangs to sell Drugs, sex trafficking and illegal guns for the Prison Market system and to further hide their money in the Holding Companies of the Global Fortune Five Hundred companies that is located within a fifty miles Radius between Amsterdam Holland and London England. These gang members who was cultivated for Crime after our Jobs were shipped to India and other third world countries for cheap labour and Production, our work force wages were replace with Disability income on the Condition that I work force had to Declare that they were Diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia and Bi Bolar and be required to take mind Altering drugs to destroy our work force where they could be Productive in a legal Work Environment. They became vulnerable to Organized crime and due them being manipulative by Organized crime they are forced into The Prison Market to generate capital for the Democratic Party Justice department and the Government and Private Corporations hire them to do the Dirty work for the Goverment and Private Businesses using them to sabotage Financial Markets businesses both Globally. So these Non profits become Dummy Corporations or padding as we call it or Political watershed by Which Contractors contract With only to be paid by the Government. In 1988 through 1994, I sat on the South Atlanta Land Trust Board of Atlanta which was nothing but a Dummy Corporation in preparation for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics By which the Billy Payne Olympic Committe Consolated all the Inner city property of our South Atlanta Communty one of the Last inner City Atlanta Fulton County Ga 30315 Community’s located in the Empowerment Zone to push us out of Our Community. They the Executive Director bowed out of the land Trust, Formed Dummy Corporations and manipulated the Board to contract with The land trust and Flipped us out of our Properties and Resold them to developers. And this was a White United Methodist minister. He did Contract with Organized crime to do the dirty Controlling the gangs, Putting the Drugs, prostitution, and illegal guns, Terrorizing the Senior citizens Breaking into their homes and Mugging them. This is what the problem is with regard to this issues in the Shadows. It is a Spiritual warfare with regard to this new World Order.