Accused of lying on grant applications, the Fort Oglethorpe Sexual Assault Victim's Advocacy Center is under investigation.
Executive Director Kathie Logan said a member of Georgia's Office of Inspector General performed an audit on Feb. 25, a month after receiving a complaint from a former victim advocate. Debbie Hensley, whom Logan laid off on Jan. 6, said her former boss credited her with teaching a class in Walker County last year that never took place. And local officials could not confirm at least two other events the center claimed it held.
A member of the Office of Inspector General confirmed it is looking into the center but said she could not comment on any findings until the investigation is complete.
To receive grant funding, the center must document classes and other community awareness events that it hosts. These are called "deliverables," proof that the center's employees are actually doing something with the money.
According to a March 2014 filing, the center received $38,000 from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and $34,000 from the Governor's Office of Children and Families.
The children and families office gave the center money in five pay periods. To get the fourth $6,800 installment, the center had to host nine community awareness events in three months.
According to a document Logan signed on April 3, 2014, one of those events was a March dating safety class at the Walker County Health Department. Logan wrote that Hensley led the class and gave her a positive performance review.
Hensley told the Office of Inspector General that she never taught that class. She speculates that some of the other nine community awareness events never happened, either.
Logan said Hensley is lying, though she doesn't understand her former employee's motivation.
"Basically, that class was taught," she said. "So that's all covered. There's really not an issue."
Logan said she and Assistant District Attorney Chris Arnt, the president of the center's board, were both at the class. They watched Hensley.
Hensley refuted Logan's version of events.
"That's an out-and-out lie," she said. "I was never anywhere with her and Chris at any events that I held."facebook
Arnt did not respond to an email Friday afternoon asking if he attended the event.
Hensley began working at the center in February 2014. She said she wanted to help women who had been assaulted. She felt like she could show them that somebody is always on their side.
She enjoyed her work. But she said she soon questioned whether the center was doing enough community awareness activities, despite the demand as a condition of its grants. She said few people in Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties knew the center existed.
In April, emails Hensley provided the Times Free Press show, she told friends that she discovered a folder in the office with "Evaluations" scribbled on it. She opened it. Inside, she found details about her performance during an event on March 5, 2014, the one she said never happened.
She didn't know what to do. But she kept a copy.
She sent an email to Arnt in January of this year, telling the prosecutor she thought the center filed false documentation. But she didn't send him a copy of the evaluation form. She told Arnt she wanted to meet. She said he told her by email he was too busy; several criminal cases loomed.
He asked for more details.
"So far you have made allusions to certain things but lacking sufficient detail to confirm anything," he wrote in a Jan. 9 email.
Hensley did not give Arnt the documentation. She asked him to stop contacting her after she lost her job. She says she stopped trusting Arnt when he didn't show enough interest in her claims.
The prosecutor told the Times Free Press by email Friday that he didn't push for more information because Hensley asked him to stop contacting her. He wrote that he told other board members about Hensley's complaint, asked for somebody to perform an audit of the center and is waiting for the results of that audit.
He did not return a follow-up email Friday asking who performed the audit and when he expects to see the results.
Evidence suggests other events on the grant application did not happen. According to the document, the center hosted a dating safety class in February 2014 at an alternative school in Catoosa County, presumably the Performance Learning Center.
But Marissa Brower, public information specialist for Catoosa County Schools, said the office does not have a record of the center giving a presentation at a local school.
Logan also wrote that the center made an appearance at the Dade County Collaborative on March 27, 2014. But the collaborative didn't host an event that month because people were out of town during spring break.
Logan said the Dade report was an honest mistake.
"It wouldn't have been that I made it up," she said. "It would have been that I just forgot to take it off."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6476.