2010 Charges Dismissed Against Former Broxton Mayor & City Clerk
The indictments against former Broxton Mayor Bobby Reynolds and former City Traci Reynolds Lott were dismissed in April 2018, after the District Attorney’s office “did not feel there was enough sufficient existing evidence to convict.” Both indictments stem from an investigation launched after an audit of city finances showed more than a half-million dollars missing from 2000 through 2009.
Reynolds and Lott, who is Reynolds daughter, were both indicted on December 17, 2010, involving their duties with the City of Broxton. Reynolds faced five counts including one count of entry into duties of office without oath, two counts of violation of oath by a public officer, and two counts of unprofessional conduct.
As for the count of entry into duties of office without oath, the 2010 indictment states, “Reynolds did not enter upon the duties of his office without first talking and filing [the oath] in the Coffee County Probate Court,” which is required by law.
As for the two counts of oath by public violation, the indictment reads, “Reynolds did willfully and intentionally violate the terns of this oath by failing to properly supervise the Broxton City Clerk [Lott] in her duties and by failing to provide proper oversight to prevent her from overpaying herself.”
The indictment continues, “Reynolds willfully and intentionally violated the terms of his oath by failing to keep informed about the financial affairs of the government of the City of Broxton and by failing to insure that independent audits of accounts and other financial transactions of the government of the of the City of Broxton were timely completed for calendar year ending December 31, 2000, through December 31, 2009.”
The indictment on unprofessional conduct reads, “Reynolds did willfully and intentionally commit malpractice, misfeasance and malfeasance in office by failing to keep informed about the financial affairs of the City of Broxton and by failing to insure that independent audits of accounts and other financial transactions of the government of the of the City of Broxton were timely completed for calendar year ending December 31, 2000, through December 31, 2009,” and “Reynolds willfully and intentionally committed malpractice, misfeasance, and malfeasance in office by failing to properly supervise the [former] City Clerk [Lott] in her duties as clerk and by failing to provide proper oversight to prevent her from overpaying herself.”
Lott was indicted with one count of making false statements and writing in matter without jurisdiction of state or political subdivisions and two counts of theft by taking.
On the charge of making false statements and writings in matters within jurisdiction of state or political subdivisions, the indictment reads, “Lott did knowingly and intentionally make a false statement to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Chad Lott during an official investigation into missing or accounted revenue in Broxton, that she had a personal safe deposit box at Colony Bank where she had kept the uncashed checks that were issued to the City of Broxton but never deposited in the bank.”
As for the two counts of theft by taking, the indictment states, “Lott did unlawfully appropriate the property of another (checks issued and made to the City of Broxton, with intention of depriving the City of Broxton of said property).”
It also states, “Lott did unlawfully take checks and funds in the form of extra pay to which she was not entitled, which is property of the City of Broxton, with the intention of depriving the City of Broxton of said property.”
Both Reynolds and Lott turned themselves in to the Coffee County Sherriff’s Office on December 21, 2010, and were both released shortly after.
Reynolds continued serving as the Broxton Mayor until Georgia Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order on February 11, 2011, announcing that Reynolds had been suspended from office.
All charges against Reynolds and Lott were dismissed on April 24, 2018, by District Attorney Barnhill because of “insufficient hard evidence and inadequate timely-made records on which to move forward in Superior Court with a felony criminal prosecution.”
The Nolle Prosequi document states, “Based upon numerous audits and investigations, there was and is a lack of accurate bookkeeping and few original records to show the actual collection, non-collection, and expenditures of City funds; fines owed, excused, or paid; costs of equipment purchased or repaired; water bills owed or paid; and virtually no proof of supervision or training of City Hall office staff concerning recordkeeping in an acceptable standard business-like fashion. While re-created records and interpolation estimates can suffice for estimating after-the-fact financial data and a baseline, felony trial court requires a higher burden of proof to prevail when alleging criminal acts.”
The Enterprise contacted District Attorney George Barnhill and he stated, “In simplest terms, the City of Broxton, as a incorporated city, did not follow standard bookkeeping practices nor have thorough audits for some 10 years+/- prior to this charge being made in 2009. It’s easy to cast blame on who or which group was responsible to see these things were done. Was it the Mayor, the City Commission or the hired city staff or all of the above? These people would tell you they were trying their best to save money and run City Hall as cheaply as possible. Regardless, in the end there was a lack of hard records. The CPA called in to straighten it all out had to “recreate” what he thought the historic records ought to be - but these were “best guesses” in many circumstances. It is very difficult to lay criminal blame on any one or two or more individuals about expenditures and undocumented expenses without hard facts to the contrary. Speculation will not carry the day in criminal court. The mistakes and shortcomings of the past were all fixed in Broxton.
“Basically after a thorough review by myself and other attorneys in the District Attorney’s office we did not feel there was sufficient existing evidence to convict at a criminal jury trial. I was the third District Attorney to review what we had and you should note my two predecessors did not take the case to trial either.
“This case was presented to the Grand Jury and indicted in 2010. Rick Currie was the District Attorney at that time and more materials were supposed to come in. Next, Bradley Collins was the District Attorney and nothing happened, then I became District Attorney for Waycross Judicial Circuit in January 1, 2015. One of my tasks was to clean up the old and ‘stepped-over’ case files. With this case, my office requested additional information [there wasn’t any] and after a lengthy examination by several attorneys, we determined it was unlikely to gain a conviction with what we had and dismissed the case in 2018 for insufficient evidence under the requirements of Georgia Law.”
District Attorney Barnhill also stated, “I have been a criminal prosecutor for 35 years, I am blessed to have a have a very experienced staff, several with 15 to 25 years in public service as prosecutors. We take our jobs seriously and we follow the law. We do our best to be fair to all parties, be tough prosecutors, and good stewards of the county’s money. It would be a violation of our prosecutorial oath to take a case to trial, we did not think was winnable.”