Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

McIntosh Court Scrutinized GBI Investigates Spending Habits

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

McIntosh Court Scrutinized GBI Investigates Spending Habits

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, Times-Union staff writer

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is examining McIntosh County Magistrate Court spending after county commissioners discovered $10,000 was spent over the past two years on candy, printer cartridges, soft drinks and sausage biscuits.

The unusual purchases, including a compact disc recorder, a raincoat and 64-ounce containers of orange juice, turned up in an audit of the office's 2000 and 2001 purchases, Commission Chairman David Earl Lane said.

"It looked like some money was spent for items that weren't used in that office,'' Lane said.

The commissioners referred the matter to Tom Durden, district attorney for the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, who asked the GBI to examine the purchases, Lane said. The court's chief magistrate, Ralph Poppell, said he is unsure of why many of the items were bought because he is not there all the time.

Having not seen the county's audit, Poppell said he couldn't comment on specifics but believes much of it is easily explained. As chief magistrate he is responsible for the budget.

The raincoat was likely purchased for the court's constable to serve papers and summonses in the rain, Poppell said, and the candy was originally purchased for jail trusties, some of whom experienced drug withdrawal while working in his office.

Munching on candy by the staff and visitors may have gotten a little out of hand, he said.

"The candy, hell, I eat some of it myself, probably a bunch of it,'' Poppell said.

Some of the problems with spending by the Magistrate Court were detailed in a letter McIntosh County Attorney Adam S. Poppell III wrote to Sam P. Hensley Jr., a lawyer who represented Assistant Magistrate Teresa Jennings in a dispute with the commission over her pay. Adam Poppell, who is not related to Ralph Poppell, noted that the commission had spent more than $14,200 in Magistrate Court in each of the past two years for office supplies. …

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