HomeNewsAnother former mayoral assistant says she witnessed misconduct

Another former mayoral assistant says she witnessed misconduct

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Another former executive assistant in the Mayor’s Office says that she, too, witnessed financial impropriety to such a level that she quit to avoid the possibility of being prosecuted herself.

The former executive assistant is speaking out about her two years working for Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. and what she says became a hostile work environment because she refused to undertake tasks she believed would break the law.

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Latisha McMillan is the second former employee to corroborate claims made earlier by Jessica Buffkin that Davis used his office to enrich and promote himself

“Every time my phone rings, and I don’t recognize the number, I figure it might be the FBI,” McMillan said.

According to McMillan, who has a degree in accounting from Colorado Technical University, when she started working in the Mayor’s Office in 2018, one of her first tasks was to help organize the Mayor’s Masters Reception. For many years, the annual reception was funded by private donations. That year, the Augusta Commission decided to allocate money to put on the event, District 10 Commissioner John Clarke confirmed.

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However, McMillan says that Davis continued to raise donations that may have totaled as much as $100,000, and shortly after, the reception’s account was taken away from her and given to a consultant who was a part of what she described as the mayor’s “outside office.”

“The mayor had two offices, the inside office and the outside office, and when it came to matters like this, he would use the outside office and pay them as consultants. So, I saw the money being raised, but I don’t know where it went or how it was spent,” McMillan said.

A similar situation occurred with the My Brother’s Keeper account. McMillan says that she was tasked with working on the project and that she helped organize a book drive with volunteers, so the city only paid for the books and refreshments.

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The book drive was the only project she worked on for My Brother’s Keeper because McMillan says that she balked when told to cut checks that had nothing to do with the program.

“They were giving me invoices that were not itemized and telling me to pay consultant fees out of the account, and I wouldn’t do it, so they took the account away from me,” McMillan said.

Buffkin corroborates McMillan’s claims regarding My Brother’s Keeper and says that “suddenly” the staff was told not to discuss the matter, that the program was being administered by the “outside” staff.

Check ledgers, invoices and receipts from the time also back up the women’s claims that My Brother’s Keeper was a charitable program in name only and that virtually none of the money allocated went to its intended purpose of mentoring young men of color.

McMillan and Buffkin were both around during the mayor’s campaign to move the James Brown Arena to the Regency Mall site, a campaign that is currently under investigation by the Georgia Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission on allegations of the use of “dark money.”

Davis has repeatedly claimed that he was merely a supporter of moving the arena to the former mall site and had no involvement with the actual campaign.

However, Davis’ own emails show that he was far more than just a campaign supporter.

According to Buffkin and McMillan, the Mayor’s Office ran the entire campaign, which included billboard advertising, under a parallel redevelopment campaign called #SoGo. Both women insist that the “outside” office was used for most of the work to afford Davis with plausible deniability.

“When that whole thing came out, it was clear that they knew who paid for those billboards, but it was like ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge. We know who, but we don’t know who.’ All of it really began to make me feel uneasy,” Buffkin said.

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McMillan says that she accompanied Davis to several out-of-state conventions and that the mayor made it clear to her that the trips were for him to promote himself rather than the city of Augusta.

On one trip, according to McMillan, she organized a meeting with representatives of LYFT, the ride sharing company. LYFT, at the time, wanted to break into the Augusta market, and in exchange for some tax credits, wanted to provide a free program to offer rides to work for people in need.

“I thought it was a great idea, especially for someone whose car breaks down and they are not near the bus lines, but the mayor canceled the meeting at the last minute so he could attend a photo op,” McMillan said.

Buffkin and McMillan say that the environment in the Mayor’s Office was “weird” and based on a cult of personality fostered by Davis.

“The mayor would announce during a meeting that he was going to fast for a day and then asked for a show of hands of who would join him. I never raised my hand. I have to eat,” Buffkin said.

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According to McMillan, her refusal to “go along to get along” made her the subject of retaliation from the higher-ups in the office and a consultant to the Mayor’s Office. McMillian said they started a rumor that she was disgruntled because she was interested in a personal relationship with Davis, and he had rebuffed her advances.

McMillan categorically denies any such insinuation and says that it was the opposite, the mayor had made subtle attempts to pursue her and that she was having nothing to do it. McMillan says the rumor was doing such damage to her reputation that it became the final straw that made her to resign immediately.

“I might look young and naive, but I am a veteran, and I have a college degree. I also have morals. I never tried to have any kind of affair with him, but they were trying to discredit me. They knew that I know money laundering when I see it, and they wanted me silenced,” McMillan said.

According to McMillan, the reason she has not come forward before now is because the retaliation continued long after her resignation. McMillan says she was almost rendered homeless because no one would hire her after she left the Mayor’s Office.

“There were several companies I applied to who told me that the mayor had told them I was incompetent and could not even use (Microsoft) Word, which is ridiculous,” McMillan said, adding, “My conscience is clear. I never used the mayor’s credit card at Honey Baked Ham, and I refused to do anything I thought could be illegal.”

Scott Hudson is the senior reporter for The Augusta Press. Reach him at [email protected] 

17 COMMENTS

  1. Thank God we have some people in a political job that have Morals and are not wanting to be in anything that looks wrong! I am sorry that Ms. McMillan was put through harassment and false claims and all in the office should be investigated and dealt with harshly! The politicians should be held to a high standard of honesty and integrity, which at this point is questionable! The FBI and GBI should be investigating these issues and take appropriate measures for the taxpayers.

  2. The Commissioners who are calling on a complete forensic audit of Augusta in all departments is the only right thing to do! The city commissioners in Toledo, Ohio year before last are proof positive that too much power placed into the hands of the wrong people increases corruption to the 10th level. It is time for the bad apples in Augusta to go to jail, and the citizens of Augusta to get honest hard-working government employees, not wolves working in the henhouse.

  3. I believe everything that these two ladies have said!Davis is all about himself and what he thinks he can get away with.His judgement day is coming and instead of enjoying a “cushy” retirement he will be in prison wearing an orange jumpsuit where people like him belong!Enough is enough!

  4. This is flat out fraud and when proven guilty Davis should be multiple decades in prison. People like him develop an attitude that they are somehow special and are entitled to “a little something extra”. I imagine if his “career” is analyzed one would find he has used his “blackness” as a hammer to get ahead.

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