GBI offers a hint about its investigation of Burke County sheriff

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 2:15 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it had opened a preliminary investigation of Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams, it didn’t reveal many details.

But a terse answer to a question from News 12 may offer some insight.

We understand that the GBI only investigates criminal matters, so we asked about the nature of the agency’s investigation involving Williams.

The GBI’s answer: “The GBI handles criminal investigations which is consistent with this preliminary inquiry.”

The investigation comes after multiple I-TEAM investigations regarding Williams.

Two independent financial audits were done by the accounting firm Lanier, Deal & Proctor from September 2021 through July 2022.

The I-TEAM reported on this in October of 2022.

The audit investigated how the sheriff’s office spent nearly $250,000 of grant money on turkeys and toys for the community. Those grants were from the Waynesboro Housing Authority for authority property and Georgia Power for safety at Plant Vogtle.


The audit also found the sheriff spent more than $41,000 on restaurants, travel, and stores on a county credit card that the county commissioners say they never authorized.

“I think it’s because I’m young and Black, and they don’t want a Black man to be in control of money and spending. I hate to equate it to that,” said Williams on Oct. 17.

Less than two weeks after we broke down the audit, on Oct. 24, the county was alerted about more than $53,000 in confiscated assets or seized monies that has been missing for six years.

The county started asking questions and sat down with the I-TEAM in March.

“I started asking questions, looking into [it.] I couldn’t find any deposits that matched that amount of $53,871.31,” said County Manager Merv Waldrop, on March 27.

A week after the county started asking questions, the money was deposited at Southern Bank by a deputy in uniform. Although it was the exact amount of money, the denominations don’t appear to match the amounts on the asset sheet.

“Your red flags go up, and you think, well, what … what’s going on here? It warrants asking more questions,” said Waldrop.

Fast forward to Feb. 16, the GBI confirms they opened an investigation into irregularities in training records with former Waynesboro Police Department Officer Gary Jenkins.

Williams was the instructor for the classes in question at the Burke County Sheriff’s Office.

He put this video on Facebook saying he couldn’t remember the date of the class so he put it down as the 29th.

“I agreed to give him the instruction and give him credit for the instruction after it was complete. I did do that,” said Williams on Feb. 21.

The sheriff’s phone record, and GPS show he was not in Waynesboro at the time the training supposedly happened.

After two months and several requests later, the I-TEAM sat down with Williams on May 4 to try and get some answers about his spending, training records, and the missing $53,000.

Will Rioux: “The community was asking where that money went for six years that randomly showed up when questions were being asked, where was that money for six years?”

Sheriff Williams: “Look, every decision that I make regarding any expenditures in this office is done with the utmost integrity in a way that allows me to fulfill my constitutional obligations. I was very responsible in the way we handle our budgetary business. I’m going to continue to do so.”

Will Rioux: “So, you can’t say where those funds were, what they were used for at all, or if they were here?

Sheriff Williams: “The money is there. The money has always been there. The money has never been missing. All of this facade that the money was missing and all of a sudden, it appears, is bulls**t.”

Will Rioux: “Listen, there is this significant ... There is a significant GBI investigation right now going on into training records. I mean that concerns everyone.”

Sheriff Williams: “Is that a budgetary issue?”

Will Rioux: “It’s not, but I haven’t had the chance to ask you about that.”

Sheriff Williams: “You asked me to come and talk about budgetary issues, and I would appreciate you being straightforward.”

Now, the GBI is launching a limited preliminary inquiry into concerns and allegations regarding the sheriff. That means it’s the first investigation to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial or legal action.

The county manager’s office says county commissioners authorized his office to turn over all evidence to the GBI and district attorney.

Emails between the GBI and the county manager’s office show on Feb. 10, the GBI and DA met to discuss moving forward with the investigation.

We have reached out to the GBI to see if this is criminal in nature or what exactly they’re looking into.

They say they cannot share any more information. We’ve reached out to the Burke County Sheriff’s Office for comment, but we have not heard back.