I-TEAM: Burke County audit finds big problems with sheriff’s spending

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 5:43 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 11:00 AM EDT
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WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The back-and-forth budget battle between Sheriff Alfonzo Williams and other Burke County officials has taken a turn ... possibly into another legal battle.

Hours ago, the legal team working with Williams confirmed their involvement to our I-TEAM.

Now they are looking to settle the budget issues before they have to take matters to court.

This is not the first time a lawsuit has been threatened.

In November 2021, Williams filed a mandamus, or lawsuit against the county, demanding full control of his budget.


A few months later in January, the sheriff lost that lawsuit, and the county was named the fiscal agent.

A new financial audit report for Burke County confirms what the I-TEAM has reported on for almost a year.

It shows how the Burke County Sheriff’s Office is one of the major weaknesses for the county.

Question after question was raised by the county manager’s office, county commissioners and taxpayers about how Williams is running his department.

WATCH: Sheriff Williams shows at Burke County budget meeting.

The 102-page financial audit report for the county was completed by the independent accounting firm Lanier, Deal, Proctor and Bloser.

On almost the last page of the audit, you’ll find the material weaknesses for the county.

A majority of the weaknesses are associated with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office – and all of them have been previously reported by the I-TEAM.

The first point covers lack of internal controls over expenditures for the agency. The audit notes there was not sufficient control over the budget.

This allowed Williams’ office to purchase items that were overbudget, which then caused the agency to go significantly over budget.


The next two points are problems our I-TEAM just recently exposed: unrecorded grant funds and lack of supporting documentation by the Burke County Sheriff’s Office with unauthorized accounts.

The audit tells us the Burke County Sheriff’s Office received significant grant funding that was put into a separate account opened by the sheriff without the county’s knowledge.

The I-TEAM previously reported $425,000 in grants were put into that unauthorized account. The sheriff also got an unauthorized county credit card, which he used those grant dollars to pay off.

The audit states this allowed the agency to have no oversight or internal controls in place over the use of these funds. All county funds should be deposited within accounts held by the county.

The agency had expenditures from these unauthorized accounts – with no receipts of credit card charges. The I-TEAM uncovered some of those charges were to boost his popularity – or for meals, entertainment and travel out of state – where he got paid by a private company.

The last point covers unrecorded proceeds from confiscated assets. The I-TEAM brought you that story back in March.

This is related to Williams taking over more than $53,000 in confiscated assets from former Sheriff Greg Coursey’s administration – and never reporting it to the county.

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

All of this comes on the heels of a letter Williams sent to commissioners last week, saying his department is being defunded by the county.

That includes Williams’ agency losing 13 uniformed deputies, according to Williams’ letter.

Those positions are paid for with grant dollars – meaning the county never paid for those positions, according to the county manager’s office.

The sheriff’s budget is also expected to be increased in the next fiscal year.