CBS Atlanta News is breaking exclusive details of Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves' controversial international vacations.
He's accused soliciting money from businesses who contract with the county to fund his trips all over the world. It's part of a program the chairman set up in 2008 called Fulton County Global Youth.
But now other commissioners are questioning if Eaves is getting a personal kickback in the deal.
The trips span the globe from South Africa to Germany, Turkey, China and Brazil. Eaves says he created the program to give kids international awareness, but his opponents question if he is just funneling money from county contractors to pay for his personal holidays.
"Public office is not for sale," warned County Commissioner Emma Darnell.
Darnell launched an attack at Eaves at this week's commission meeting.
"If employees and officers want to go on a trip, you have to pay your own way," she said.
The Global Youth program is funded dollar by dollar by the businesses who are vying for valuable contracts with the county.
"Some of the criticism here is that you are funneling money though the county for your own personal trips abroad," Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman told the chairman.
"Let me tell you that is absolutely untrue," Eaves replied.
Eaves said the program has been awarded national accolades and admits he regularly travels with the group.
"I have been a part of just about every trip that the youngsters have had. I am sponsoring this program, I am putting my skin in the game in terms of its value," he said.
Eaves also personally decides the location of the trips and he helps secure their funding.
"Are Fulton County contractors being asked for donations for this program?" Saltzman questioned.
"I mean, there are some folks who have done business with the county but there has not been any violation of the rules and regulations that are in place," Eaves replied.
The program recently took 35 kids overseas. This issue was supposed to be heard at this week's board meeting, but Eaves pulled the item off the agenda when CBS Atlanta News started sniffing around.
"You can tell us why you are withholding the item, we withheld at the last meeting?" Commission Robb Pitts questioned.
"I chose to withhold it, that's why," the chairman said.
Eaves and five other county employees were recently reimbursed $9,600 for a trip with no documentation. According to an internal memo obtained by CBS Atlanta News, travel outside of the U.S. is not allowable under the county's policy.
Eaves said that he saw no conflict in taking money from county contractors.
"You are not giving them favors in response for the favor they have given you?" Saltzman asked.
"Absolutely nothing," Eaves said.
The Global Youth program was originally approved unanimously by the entire commission back in 2008. But on Wednesday, commissioners passed a bill banning employees from soliciting funds from county contractors to pay for their trips. There's no word on how that will affect the Global Youth program.
"We have got to maintain the integrity. We don't want anybody out there watching this program to think the way I get a contract from Fulton County I have to pay somebody's travel," Darnell said to the commission.
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