Public complaint leads to investigation into Georgia Appleseed organization in Muscogee County

Public complaint leads to investigation into Georgia Appleseed organization in Muscogee County

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - There’s an investigation and questions about money slated for crime prevention in Muscogee County Schools.

This comes after public complaint about federal grant funds that went to the Columbus City Council and Georgia Appleseed for how the grant money was really used.

“Everybody admits including the school district that the situation is worsening,” said community member Theresa El-Amin.

An auditor dug into the account history for the Georgia Appleseed organization and found that the money had been used for the right reasons, but El-Amin questioned why certain parties on the board of the federal grant didn’t recuse themselves due to there being a conflict of interest and being direct beneficiaries.

"You have to recuse yourself and no one on the crime prevention grant board recused themselves. Not a single person,” said El-Amin.

Georgia Appleseed has worked with the federal government to provide grants to the Muscogee County School District for $2.5 million for mental health services in Columbus, but the investigation revolved around a four to five-year grant for approximately $375,000. The money is reportedly used to help lower the out of school suspension rates in Muscogee County as a means to help stop the school to prison pipeline, as well as Positive Behavioral Intervention for educators and school administration.

But there was a complaint that there were unethical practices inside the crime prevention departments leading to the investigation.

“That was investigated, and they found that we did exactly what we were supposed to do. In fact we’re incredibly proud of the work that we did in Columbus,” said Talley Wells, the executive director of Georgia Appleseed.

Wells said the organization has worked to lower numbers of suspensions at schools all over Columbus.

"I’ve looked at five schools that we worked with and all of them had success in terms of reducing the amount of out of school suspensions,” explained Wells.

Although no foul play was found, the council did approve of El-Amin’s recommendations to work to remove any possibilities of relatives being involved in the grant and working to prevent board members from being direct beneficiaries.

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