Dothan City Hall fraud allegations shake commissioners’ confidence

News 4 looks in at the City of Dothan's plans to continue the feeding program amid a recent criminal probe.
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 8:49 AM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Dothan city commissioners reluctantly voted on Tuesday to continue a child feeding program riddled with corruption allegations.

“I don’t think we have any choice. We’re not going to sit up here and let children go hungry,” said District 5 Commissioner Gantt Pierce.

But his confidence in the program—and other commissioners agree-- is shaken.

“I’m not sure we’ve got the answers we want quite yet, but I’m convinced that we’re going to get those answers before it’s all said and done,” Pierce told WTVY News 4.

The program has been scrutinized since a state ordered audit early this year revealed concerns.

“I’m not sure what scrutiny you’re talking about…those are your words, not mine,” Dothan City Manager Kevin Cowper said on Tuesday when asked about those concerns.

But one of his top assistants, Leisure Services Director Alison Hall, testified last month to allegations that the bid process for providing meals and snacks had been rigged by the program’s administrator.

Hall’s internal investigation led to the termination of Stephanie Wingfield, a 23-year city employee.

Cowper admits to an audit, but otherwise sidestepped the issue.

He is also unclear on the timetable about how the city got to this point.

He claims the school system for 20 years prepared after school meals and snacks for children from low-income family served in their neighborhood, but COVID forced them to stop.

Cowper said that’s when the city turned to the private sector and bid the feeding contract.

But, according to city documents, that’s untrue.

Those documents clearly show that in September 2019----six months before coronavirus’ effects---the city awarded Breakfast at Tammie’s a feeding program bid.

That pact was approved when Cowper was fresh on the job and before Hall’s employment.

In the next two years Tammie’s was paid nearly $2.8 million to provide meals with the city fronting costs, then receiving reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tuesday’s commission vote returns meal preparation to Dothan City Schools, effective October 1.

Allegations of feeding program corruption have been turned over to Dothan police who do not comment regarding ongoing investigations.

WTVY News 4 has requested a feeding program financial report under Alabama’s Open Records Laws.

Copyright 2022 WTVY. All rights reserved.

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