Report: Waynesboro mayor spent city funds on church trip, personal expenses

Carswell

The mayor of Waynesboro said he has repaid the city money he spent on a five-day trip to Philadelphia that only loosely involved city business, as well as other personal expenses.

 

Greg Carswell, who was elected in April, used a city credit card to book a July trip from Augusta to Philadelphia, where he told City Manager Jerry Coalson he was meeting a man about bringing a kids’ “fun center” to Waynesboro, according to documents obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.

While away, however, Carswell broadcast his appearance on Twitter and Facebook at the 2017 annual Deliverance Evangelistic Association Fellowship Conference in Philadelphia, according to a report prepared by Waynesboro City Manager Jerry Coalson at the request of city council.

Carwell is associate pastor of the Waynesboro Deliverance Evangelistic Church, which is affiliated with the Philadelphia church, and had attended the conference the previous two years, according to social media posts noted in the report.

Coalson said Carswell’s stated purpose for the trip, a cold-call on a Lancaster, Pa., business that expressed no apparent interest in coming to Waynesboro, made it unlikely to warrant the city paying $2,138 for Carswell’s airfare, hotel, car rental, per diems and tolls.

The business was 67 miles from Carswell’s hotel in Philadelphia, and numerous hotels were closer, the report said.

“Upon the mayor’s return to Waynesboro, the mayor did not provide me or any other member of the city council with any proposal, letter of intent, business portfolio, prospectus, business plan or even a business card from the family fun center visit,” Coalson wrote.

Asked to further investigate Carswell’s use of the city credit card, Coalson reported the mayor put 500 miles on a rented Dodge Durango during a short period and spent $255 on food for an event at his church. Carswell characterized both August expenses to Coalson as related to an apartment complex deal involving gospel singer Dottie Peoples, but Coalson said Carswell had since made no reference to a housing deal.

Carswell took another trip from Oct. 8 to Oct. 12, when he charged baggage and parking fees on the city card. He described the trip to Coalson as paid by a company “looking to open in our state” but unable to cover the fees in advance. Coalson, who did not return a call from The Chronicle, said the Burke County Development Authority was unaware of the business prospect.

Lastly, the report stated Carswell used a converted police cruiser equipped with a high-speed interceptor engine and a GPS tracking device to make numerous trips unrelated to city business throughout the region, the report said.

The cruiser, which Carswell had Coalson obtain for his use, led the city fleet both in mileage and in speeding violations, the report said.

According to published reports, the Waynesboro City Council voted 4-2 Monday to require Carswell to repay the city more than $4,000 and return the credit card and car.

Carswell said Wednesday he had done nothing wrong.

“There was no wrongdoing done, but in order for us to move forward and to keep the distraction down, I’ve already paid the money back,” he said in a phone call. Carswell said he turned in the car Oct. 17.

Carswell took office in May after winning a four-way race to replace Pauline Jenkins, who led the city from 2011 until her death in 2016.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-3215 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

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