“That's absolutely untrue, it's unfounded and it's untrue."
Two Fulton County employees said it over and over in our interview -- Not true: Claiming allegations recently made against them are not only lies, but retaliation for blowing the whistle on an elected official. Their lawyer agrees.
“What you see is a fabricated smoke screen from the beginning to the end."
Allegations against Lisa Rushin and Sandy Ward Poag were released last week in an audit of the county facility they managed, Wolf Creek Amphitheater.
11Alive’s Catie Beck said, “This does make the both of you look like you were running an out-of-control facility.”
“Absolutely, but that it exactly why we are here today,” they said. “We had to come out. We had to speak up.”
The audit doesn’t name them directly, but does criticize ‘management.’ It says amphitheater funds were misappropriated, county policies were broken and excessive complimentary tickets were given out.
“We’re very perplexed by the entire staff,” they said.
The women claim comp tickets were contractually promised to performers at the venue, as well as radio stations and media. They also say there are no missing funds. In fact, their work over the past several years made it more profitable than ever.
They say the overly broad incorrect findings came from one source – County Commissioner Marvin Arrington.
“Why do you think Arrington has made you a target?” Beck asked.
“Because we exposed him,” they said.
The 11Alive Investigators exposed in July that Arrington was using a skybox at Wolf Creek to host private parties, making a guest list almost weekly in summer to allow free entry for a hundred guests.
Arrington told us "he" was working at those concerts.
Our investigation stirred questions among county commissioners who quickly changed the skybox use policy. Shortly after our story, Rushin and Ward Poag filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming Arrington's abuses at that venue went far beyond the scope of our report.
“The target is not my clients – who haven’t done anything wrong. The target is where it should be, and that’s Commissioner Marvin Arrington,” said their attorney.
In their suit, the women claim Arrington was selling umbrellas and chairs at the venue for private gain, was bullying them to give certain promoters and vendors business there, and using the skybox for his personal business and friends. The women say they want the truth come out – and their names restored.
“Today, I just want to clear our names. I want the message to get out that we did the very best we could out there.”
Their lawyer wants more. She wants Arrington to be held accountable.
“I want someone to pay attention and say, ‘Hey, a public official can’t do this.’ Not only can they not do this, this is against the law.”