This is the first part of an exclusive interview with a former long-time PSA employee. The second interview will reveal information about job postings and employment onboarding, the former director’s mileage reimbursements, and other issues related to overall financial health. Part 2 will be published later and will then be linked here, once it is published.
The Public Service Authority’s financial mismanagement has become a large and far-reaching scandal for Camden County. This mismanagement has impacted many people due to the mishandling, neglect, and lack of oversight of the organization’s finances and operations.
AllOnGeorgia-Camden has reported on the financial mismanagement since learning of former director William Brunson being placed on medical leave and then administrative leave in the early spring of 2018.
Current PSA Situation: Until recently, the PSA Board did not complete financial audits since 2004. The PSA Board members, based on the articles of incorporation, are made up of the three city mayors of Kingsland, St. Marys, and Woodbine, along with two county commissioners. The former executive director, William Brunson was fired this past spring, along with the assistant director Shawnta Jenkins. Brunson was then charged with two counts of wire fraud for purchasing two vehicles totaling $38,500. Additionally, Brunson failed to make payroll tax payments and late fees of about $1.5 million. Payroll taxes have been renegotiated with the IRS by the county to $500,000. Since being made aware of the financial mismanagement, the PSA Board requested an audit which is now complete – the D.A.’s office has not released the audit. The financial mismanagement is still under criminal investigation. The PSA is under new executive leadership and the current PSA Board remains in place.
Former PSA employee –
AllOnGeorgia-Camden received a tip from a former employee in September who brought forward some documents showing gross mismanagement from PSA leadership.
The former employee, Ms. Dawn Edmonds, worked for the Camden County Sheriff’s Office for four years prior to transferring to the Camden County Recreation Department in 1992. In 1994 the County, City of Kingsland and the City of St Marys’ recreation departments were merged into Camden County PSA Leisure Services. In Spring 1996, they opened the Camden Community Recreation Center.
Over the years Ms. Edmonds handled sports registrations, processing payroll time sheets, accounts payable, accounts receivable, processing incoming and outgoing mail, office supply orders, bank deposits. She worked her way up to HR, Payroll and benefits manager.
In March 2017, the County’s HR and Finance Departments were contracted to process payroll.
“William never gave me any warning. I came in on a Monday morning and was told to pack up all of the employee files for the County’s HR and Payroll. I was in shock. He advised me ‘not to worry’, that he had plenty of work for me. William and I had a good working relationship in the past and I had years of experience throughout the department, so I had no reason not to believe him,” stated Edmonds.
The working climate within the PSA –
Edmonds describes working at the recreation dept to be a pleasant place at the start of her 24 1/2-year tenure but said the last 10 years or so was not a conducive working environment.
“The climate was very bad at times. Employees were always walking on eggshells. We never knew what kind of mood he was going to be in. They were scared to death of saying or doing anything that [Brunson] would not approve of,” said Edmonds. “I have personally witnessed him screaming so bad at employees (men and women) that they cried.”
The former HR director said her opinion of Brunson’s management style was very micro-managerial.
“He let it be known he had a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree, I believe in math and business. I am not sure what exactly they were in,” explained Edmonds. “[The employees] said they had these degrees, but they were never required to give a copy of the degree or transcripts as far as I know. I was never allowed to do HR hiring process the way it was supposed to be done.” (More of the HR hiring and job process will be discussed in Part 2)
AllOnGeorgia-Camden asked for Brunson’s personnel file in an Open Records Request, but it was denied citing that his records were part of a criminal investigation.
“We could not say or do anything without William’s approval. He was a micromanager beyond belief,” Edmonds said. “Department heads were not allowed to run their own department or give suggestions. My opinion is, he knew how he wanted things done and it was going to be his way.”
According to Edmonds, the designated managers within the PSA had no autonomy to be professionally developed in their role to grow in their position.
After the news broke that Brunson was fired, and then charged with two counts of fraud, she was asked why nobody came forward about the issues surrounding the PSA Leisure Services.
“Everyone was afraid of William and afraid of losing their job,” said Edmonds. “And I personally did not believe the PSA Board members would believe me over William.”
PSA Payroll and Back Taxes –
According to Edmonds, there were two accounts at PSA: payroll and PSA’s general fund. Edmonds said that Brunson transferred money from the general fund into the payroll account as needed.
Edmonds processed payroll checks biweekly and sent the totals to Brunson. Those amounts would be transferred from the general fund into the payroll bank account by the assistant director Shawnta Jenkins.
“There always was an issue regarding payroll as long as I can remember because the excuse was St. Marys -or the County -or Kingsland wasn’t giving money,” explained Edmonds. “But [Brunson] always managed to release the paychecks.”
“The employees never knew the checks were bouncing because the bank was covering them and they had no clue about the mismanagement,” she said. “The only question I ever got as the payroll manager was why the employee retirement had not been paid and employees were getting letters about cancelations concerning supplemental insurances.”
Previous reporting from AllOnGeorgia shows that Brunson would bounce checks in the payroll account consistently and delay payments on employee retirement/benefits payments for months.
The issues surrounding the delay of payouts to employee benefit vendors concerned Edmonds, and payments were eventually caught up. (Link to article on benefits).
Payroll taxes –
In 2012, William Brunson instructed Edmonds to stop the electronic transfer of employer contribution of payroll taxes to the IRS. Edmonds prepared the quarterly 941 reports and submitted to them to the IRS and gave payment vouchers to Brunson for submission to the IRS.
“As far as I knew, he was making the payments,” said Edmonds.
As for the state payroll taxes, Edmonds said it was commonplace for the Georgia Department of Revenue to make calls to her office.
“With the state taxes, that I was still doing electronically, I could only transfer money when William told me to submit a payment,” said Edmonds. “That was usually after Ms. McLeroy [the lady at the Georgia Department of Revenue] would call me and I would forward her on to William.”
Below is a copy of the last quarterly 941 report showing that the payments were made with a balance and the rest of the 2013 -2015 tax voucher payments request to be paid. The $40,963 payment was the last electronic payments made in 2012. All future balances were requested by Ms. Edmonds via IRS payment vouchers to William Brunson for the rest of 2012 until 2017. The 2016 and 2017 documents were not included in the copy below, but were reviewed by AllOnGeorgia before Edmonds handed all documents over to the GBI.IRS 941 2012 Last Quarter
IRS 2013 2015
What did the IRS say? Who talked to the IRS?
Edmonds said the IRS contacted Brunson around March 2017 about all the back-payroll taxes. The environment of the PSA became very stressful during this time, according to Edmonds. IRS investigators questioned Brunson, Jenkins, and Edmonds independently.
Edmonds said the IRS asked the same question in multiple ways about who was responsible for authorizing payments.
“I finally told the investigator that I prepared and submitted the 941 tax forms and gave William the voucher to make the payment. I am not even on the checking account to authorize those payments; that’s when the IRS stopped asking me questions,” said Edmonds.
Edmonds also said that the IRS agent was trying to contact the Chairman of the PSA Board, Kingsland Mayor Kenneth Smith. According to Edmonds, the IRS agent had not heard back from Mayor Smith and wanted to know if Edmonds knew if any of the other Board members knew how much money was owed to the IRS at that time. Edmonds said she had “no idea; probably not.”
Edmonds was asked if she thought William Brunson blamed her for the IRS issue.
“I feel that William blames me for the IRS coming after him. He knew I was not the one to access to that account and to pay the IRS.” said Edmonds. “He was supposed to pay the IRS out of the general fund which I did not have access to. William should have instructed Jenkins to make the IRS payment; apparently he did not.”
After the IRS questioning, Edmonds said the working relationship between her and Brunson changed.
“One day shortly after he had been dealing with the IRS agent. In a very strange tone, he stuck his head in my office and told me ‘just to let you know, the IRS has been paid in full.’ That is when I realized, in my view, he was blaming me for the IRS coming after him,” said Edmonds.
With this realization, Edmonds started to make copies of many financial documents, particularly looking for any possible records of IRS payments, which did not get paid. She made as may copies as she could until she was laid off in January 2018. Edmonds made copies of check registers with check numbers that included the official Chart of Accounts numbers, benefits documents, bank statements, tax documents, and other accounting documents for fear she would be blamed for the financial troubles of the PSA.
Edmonds also said she made those copies because Brunson was getting thousands of dollars in reimbursements to himself issued from the general fund. (more information will be discussed in part 2 of the interview)
AllOnGeorgia, who consulted with an attorney, encouraged Edmonds to turn over her documents to the GBI for further review.
PART 2 of the exclusive interview with the former PSA empolyee –