Bryan County will hold a public meeting on August 7th, 2019 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in order to conduct interviews with organizations that have submitted an application requesting to receive a portion of the funding provided by the Local Victim Assistance Program (LVAP).
The LVAP is a state-wide mandate passed in 1995 which requires each county to impose an additional penalty equal to 5% of the original fine imposed on any criminal offense or any criminal ordinance violation in any court throughout the state. These funds are to be collected by each respective county, to be dispersed as outlined below. Funds derived through these Local Victim Assistance Add-On Fines are also referred to as “5% funds.”
The Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 15-21-132 states:
If the county where the fine was imposed has a victim assistance program providing services to residents of that county and certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), the funds shall be directed to the governing authority of the county for disbursement to those victim assistance programs for the purpose of defraying the costs of victim assistance activities carried out by the programs.
If the county where the fine was imposed does not have a victim assistance program providing services to residents of that county and/or a program not certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the funds shall be directed to the district attorney of the judicial circuit in which the county is located for the purpose of defraying the costs of victim assistance activities carried out by the district attorney’s office.
According to the CJCC’s Certified Agencies Directory, there is a certified victim assistance program named Serenity Hill, Inc. (The Cottage) which not only provides victim services to the residents of Bryan County, it is also the only one physically located within the county.
However, as exposed recently by Jessica Szilagyi with All On Georgia, these funds have not only been illegally sent to the district attorney’s office for their own inter-office use, a misdemeanor according to § 15-21-134, but Szilagyi also reveals, “Over the last ten fiscal years, almost $385,000 is unaccounted for, county reports to the state differ by more than $100,000 over a 10 year period, and the county routinely exceeded the state allowance for retention of allocated funds.“
According to the current State of Georgia Certification Guidelines for Local Victim Assistance Programs, Bryan County must decide what percentage of the total funds will be given to each program if there is more than one certified victim assistance program within the county.
The interview schedule for August 7th is as followed:
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Tri-County Protective Agency
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Atlantic Judicial Circuit Victim Witness
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Serenity Hill (The Cottage)
Richmond Hill, GA
Richmond Hill 411 will be on-site during the interviews and will publish a follow up story after learning the committee’s decision.