Deputy Coroner Mathis Wright Files $100,000,000 Lawsuit Against County After Conflict of Interest Allegations
Published 3:16 pm Friday, November 3, 2023
It was brought to the attention of the ATR that there were allegations of a conflict of interest in the Coroner Clifford Walton’s use of his wife’s company to transport bodies. A FOIA revealed the following records, verifying use of his wife’s company Helen’s Professional Removal Service, which had been billed to the County:
According to County documents, Deputy Coroner Mathis Wright authorized Helen’s Professional Removal Service on 1/3/2023 to transport a body to Atlanta Georgia crime Lab GBI from Phoebe Sumter Morgue for $700. This document was signed by Coroner Clifford Walton as the party contracting service and by Helen Walton for Helen’s Professional Removal Service.
On 3/15/23, Wright authorized Helen’s Professional Removal Service to remove a body to a Macon Georgia crime lab GBI from the Sumter County Morgue for $450. Clifford Walton signed under the party contracting services. Helen Walton signed under Helen’s Professional Removal Service.
The corresponding documents list the address for Helen’s Professional Removal Service as 1941 Ga Highway 27 East, Leslie, Ga, zip 31764. Qpublic lists 1941 Ga HWY 27 East Leslie, Ga, 31764 under the ownership of Clifford Walton and Helen Walton.
A call to the number listed for Helen’s Professional Removal Service by the ATR was terminated. When the ATR visited the location a knock on the door received no answer.
Wright spoke on behalf of Clifford Walton, who only spoke once during the interview. Walton’s deputy admitted to the use of Helen Walton’s company by the coroner but defended the choice. Wright mentioned the issue had sparked a lawsuit.
“There is a perceived notion that there exists a conflict of interest. Our bosses, which is the Georgia Coroner’s association, has already told, right now the complainees that’s in magistrate court, that we are not doing anything illegal. Have already told them, and even after they have been told, because of their racism, their bigotry, their position and white supremacy, they want to enforce something that they have no authority or power to enforce.”
When asked who the lawsuit was filed against, he elaborated.
“The Board of Commissioners. They are the ones that’s saying that there is a conflict of interest. And they are saying that the Honorable Clifford Walton only changed the name after he became coroner January 1, 2021. And even if he had, then that still would not create a conflict of interest.”
Wright continued to defend the use of Helen’s Professional Removal Service, claiming the Georgia Coroner’s Association had received an inquiry.
“Yes, the Georgia Board of Coroners who governs our ethical behavior. In other words, if you got a complaint, that we are violating something, that’s who you go to and then they have a council, of three or five different members, set up to review. And we know that there was an inquiry made about it, because when an inquiry go in, they have to tell us that they have received this inquiry.”
He made claims that the former white coroner, Greg Hancock, was held to a different standard.
“Because the same Board had a direct conflict of interest with Hancock, because there exists an agreement between him and Hancock to do all the paupers or indigent cases, every one of them, and prior to that agreement it was a rotation where there’s five funeral homes in Americus and Sumter County, and it used to go from this one, to this one, to this one, to this one.”
Wright compared Clifford Walton to Hancock.
“At least, even if he was guilty, at least he ain’t giving it directly to himself. At least he had decency enough to send it through his wife. But this man doesn’t even send it through his wife. He send it to himself.”
According to Hancock’s Funeral Chapel, Greg Hancock no longer works there.
Wright responded to questions about whether the current Board was the same as the one he claims contracted Hancock.
“They are different members. I don’t think none of them are the same. Could be, don’t care. Because it’s the same policy.”
When asked if Clifford Walton was involved in his wife’s business, Clifford Walton responded directly.
“I’m involved with what I do here. My wife’s business is her business. It’s been that way ever since day one.”
“As I wear many hats, Miss Helen has given me power of attorney to speak on her behalf concerning this matter.”
Wright mentioned further details regarding lawsuits filed against the County.
“This time around, it’s going to cripple Sumter County really bad, because when you have two $100,000,000 dollar lawsuits, that you got to deal with, because you just kept pushing it. . .”
Wright presented copies of the lawsuit, Helen’s Professional Removal Service v. Sumter County Board of Commissioners Magistrate Court of Sumter County, Civil Action File No. 23-0898.
On page 7, part 2, under responsive offensive pleadings, the Board of Commissioners gives their response:
“Coroner Clifford Walton abused his official powers by utilizing his wife’s business as the exclusive vendor to transport bodies to the State Crime Lab and provide other body transportation services. When the County Ceased paying invoices, that Coroner Walton’s office submitted for illegal services, Coroner Walton’s wife filed this suit alleging that the Board of Commissioners owed her money “on an account.” The Sumter County Board of Commissioners has not entered into a contractual relationship with Helen Professional Removal Service, and any services solicited from Helen Professional Removal Service by Coroner Walton, or his designee, are illegal and void.”
On p. 14 the Board also states:
“Helen Professional Removal Service received payment of 20,400.00 before Sumter County Officials realized that services provided by Helen Professional Removal Service were tainted by a conflict of interest.”
Former Coroner Greg Hancock responded to the accusations.
“In regards to the contract between Greg Hancock Funeral Chapel and the Sumter County Commissioners, the county commissioners decided to no longer pay for the burial of pauper cases and go to 100% cremation. They posted in the paper and sent out bid packages to all area funeral homes. When the sealed bids were opened, Greg Hancock Funeral Chapel was the low bid and was awarded the contract. I also got pricing from transport companies and used the most economical company as long as they meet our requirements.”