As of last week, Thomaston-Upson Senior Center Director Donna Auth and T-U Recreation Department Athletic Superintendent Jeff Middlebrooks are no longer employed in their joint projects positions supervised by county management.
Auth, an 18-year-employee, reportedly resigned under pressure surrounding mismanagement of funds related to food services at the center. Audited transaction inconsistencies have been submitted to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, but Sheriff Dan Kilgore stated he thinks GBI focus is on the process of purchasing food items, not on any specific individual.
Kilgore said it is prudent to allow an outside, independent agency to investigate the matter to avoid any possibility of subjectivity.
Popular distributor Sysco is contracted to provide food service to the facility.
Auth said her Sysco representative was “adding items to the food orders” from the center. When she questioned him, the rep said he added to the orders because he “lived down the street and it would be easier to have it delivered there.”
Auth added she “thought he was paying the county for his orders when he added extra items, since he was picking up payment for his company.”
Auth said County Manager Jason Tinsley told her by allowing him to place the orders, “it was like stealing from the government because they do not pay taxes on the food they order, and because no one has paid for the extra food ordered.”
She said Tinsley told her she “wasn’t handling government funds correctly.”
During her tenure, Auth has expanded the center’s services to area seniors, frequently scheduling outings and coordinating events for the older population.
Middlebrooks, a 34-year-employee who also represents District 2 on Thomaston City Council, said he was dismissed after being offered a choice by Recreation Director Shaka Johnson, and plans to retain an attorney to appeal his termination. Tinsley said last week that he has a meeting scheduled with Middlebrooks Thursday.
Middlebrooks told The Upson Beacon that Tinsley said “he wasn’t a team player,” adding that he has been “written up” twice and suspended in a very short period of time, [starting April 2022].”
Middlebrooks said he was written up and suspended by Johnson after a local resident complained to Tinsley about Johnson “no-showing” for two scheduled meetings. He said he was written up again for missing a “tentative” staff meeting Feb. 1.
“[Johnson] did not send out an email confirming the meeting,” Middlebrooks said. “She said ‘tentative’ meant that she would send out another email if she changed the date.”
Middlebrooks said he told Mayor J.D. Stallings that Johnson “was never there, and he had some concerns about the civic center.” According to Middlebrooks, Mayor Stallings questioned Tinsley, which led to Middlebrooks’ alternative to resign or be terminated.
Middlebrooks said Johnson asked him, “Did you really think my boss wouldn’t tell me what you said?”
Middlebrooks said he “doesn’t want his position back… and believes that [the county] wanted him gone because he’s on the city council and was slow on the computer. And because he voiced his concerns about the civic center, which is a joint project for the county and city, to the mayor.”
Middlebrooks alleged Johnson “had a problem with him because of his age, and because he was slow on the computer system.”
“Prior to her coming, I had a secretary, so I didn’t need to learn how to use it and it wasn’t a requirement when I got the job all those years ago,” he said. “She eliminated the secretary position and I think that is how she targeted me… She knew it was going to be difficult for me to learn all of that. But she also knew she couldn’t come right out and say I was old.”
Middlebrooks routinely abstained from council votes involving the city’s participation in recreation through joint projects, and he excused himself from discussion among council members related to the recreation department to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.
Middlebrooks said he plans to seek re-election to city council in the November election.
Both city and county government officials have offered limited to no comment regarding Auth, because of an ongoing GBI investigation, and Middlebrooks, because of potential litigation.
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