Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

March 1, 2014

Former Habitat affiliate director charged with felony theft

AMERICUS — Joel E. Kellam, 56, of 201 Fairway Drive, Americus was charged this week with theft by conversion, a felony charge involving the wrongful use of funds of another person or entity. Kellam is the former executive director of New Horizons Habitat for Humanity.

 District Attorney Plez Hardin told the Times-Recorder the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Region 3 Office completed its inquiry and evidence was presented on Monday to a Sumter County Grand Jury. Kellam was indicted on one count of theft by conversion. Hardin said indictments do not describe the total retribution amount in such cases, but the DA said at the time the crime was committed, Georgia law considered an amount over $500 a felony. The law has since been changed to $1,500.

Hardin said other persons were subject to indictment, but Kellam was the only who has been charged.

In 2012, Kellam was fired over “poor  management decisions.” The interim executive director, Trenton Tye, told the Times-Recorder in November 2012, that after Kellam’s firing, the Habitat for Humanity affiliate underwent a “high-level” audit.

“There were a lot of bad decisions made on spending,” Tye said.

Earlier in 2012, the local Habitat Restore, under the management of New Horizons and its board, had undergone a vast remodel and began selling high-end items such as $3,000 couches. The change in the store and new inventory apparently occurred without the knowledge of the board.

 In that 2012 interview, Tye downplayed the incident’s effect on New Horizon’s bottom line, but said the ReStore was asking for donations of goods and cash to remain viable. Banks were approached as well during that time.

“We’re leveraging some of those assets to get some extra breathing room until we get this whole thing resolved, Tye said.

At the time of the interview there was no suspected wrong doing,  but Tye said the problems were a “culmination of a number of bad decisions that got past the board ... a lot of accounting errors but nothing done in malfeasance, basic accounting errors.”

Kellam was released by the court on Wednesday and will be arraigned in 30 to 60 days.


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