City manager explains why city wrote checks to her husband’s company

Published 9:45 am Saturday, July 22, 2023

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A series of checks written two to three years ago from the city’s coffers to a company belonging to the city manager’s husband have raised a few eyebrows, but the mayor says there is a perfectly good explanation, and he and the council are not concerned.

Recently, questions were raised about the propriety of several City of LaGrange checks written to a company belonging to the husband of LaGrange City Manager Meg Kelsey. Invoices for the checks were posted on the Georgia Transparency website, which questioned why Kelsey had allegedly signed checks to her husband, Brant.

Kelsey said that she regrets the invoices from Kelsey Advertising and Design were paid by city checks, but said she did not sign the checks and explained how it happened and also how and why it was stopped.

The city manager confirmed that during 2020 five checks were written to Kelsey Advertising totaling $2,780. Shortly thereafter, staff was informed that since city staff and city resources were directly involved in supporting Sweetland, Kelsey Advertising was no longer an authorized vendor.

“My husband’s firm, Kelsey Advertising, had performed marketing and computer work for Sweetland since its inception.  This was not a problem at the time, as neither city staff nor city resources were directly committed to the operations of Sweetland or its day-to-day management,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey said the marketing company had been involved with Sweetland from the beginning, including helping name the amphitheater.

In January 2020, the Downtown Development Authority of the City of LaGrange (DDA II) transitioned to accepting city staff and support in the operations of the Amphitheatre, Kelsey said.

Kelsey said that after the invoices were paid using city funds authorized using a stamp bearing her signature, she put a stop to it. She indicated that the checks were sent during a time of transition and during the pandemic.

“I have notified Heather Graham, Chairman of DDA II, the DDA II Board and all members of the City Council of the few payments which were made in error,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey noted that all of the payments were made for services rendered, including web design and website hosting, but if she could go back, it would be handled differently.

Mayor Willie Edmondson indicated that he and the council are aware of the situation and it’s a non-issue.

“Ms. Kelsey made the council aware of the Sweetland payments and we believe there was no ill intent. We understand this happened during the transitional period for ownership and leadership, as well as in the middle of COVID-19. Soon after the transition, the city and Sweetland stopped doing business with Kelsey Advertising,” Edmonson said.

“We have no concerns about this matter,” he said.