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Mystery: Did Stacey Abrams financial group fund temp agency that staffed Fulton Co. elections?

Documents indicated link between Abrams-founded "NowAccount" and Atlanta personnel group that assisted in elections work.

Updated: June 24, 2021 - 9:50am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

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Conflicting stories have emerged about whether a personnel group that had staff on the frontlines of Fulton County's contentious absentee ballot scanning process was funded by a microfinance company linked to Georgia Democratic super-activist Stacey Abrams, as state records appear to document a financial arrangement between the two concerns at some point.

Documentation from Fulton County shows that Fulton in late 2019 sought to contract with Atlanta-based Happy Faces Personnel Group "to provide temporary staffing services for Registration and Elections for approximately 340 positions, effective January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020."

Notes from an investigator commissioned by the Georgia Secretary of State's office confirms the presence of multiple workers from Happy Faces at Fulton County's absentee ballot processing center at State Farm Arena during the Nov. 3 election. 

Documentation obtained by Just the News, meanwhile, indicated that Happy Faces may have been financially associated with a firm cofounded by Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democratic activist hailed as instrumental in organizing Donald Trump's defeat in her state's 2020 presidential contest. 

Documentation from the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority, dated 2017, identifies NowAccount Network Corporation as the "secured party" for Happy Faces. A "secured party" under the Georgia Code is "a person in whose favor a security interest is created or provided for under a security agreement," as well as, among other definitions, a "consignor." 

Abrams identifies herself on her website as one of the cofounders in 2010 of NowAccount, which she identified as "a company that provides a payment system to small businesses, improving their cash flow so they can grow and thrive."

Abrams did not respond to several requests for comment. As late as 2018, Abrams still had a financial stake in NowAccount. On a financial disclosure form that year she was listed as a "senior vice president" of the group, though her gubernatorial campaign claimed that designation was an error and that she was no longer an employee there. 

Conflicting accounts

Happy Faces and NowAccount gave coflicting answers to questions regarding the involvement of the two businesses. 

In a phone interview, Happy Faces CEO Michael Hairston said his company has never had any financial involvement with NowAccount. Happy Faces has contracted with Georgia for election services since 1996.

Hairston said Happy Faces considered using NowAccount for financing in 2017, the year the Georgia state financing statement was filed. But he claimed the financial terms were ultimately unfavorable. "When we looked at the cost, we were like, 'There's no point in doing this,'" he said. 

He was unable to explain why the 2017 documentation showed NowAccount as a secured party. "I don't know how they have things listed," he said. "But we've never used them." 

Reached for comment via email, Ashley Moore — listed as the contact for NowAccount on the Georgia government document — responded by indicating that the financial firm may have been involved with Happy Faces in some way in the past. 

"NowAccount no longer has a relationship with Happy Faces," she said. She did not respond to repeated requests for clarification on what that relationship constituted. 

Asked about Moore's remarks, Hairston again denied using NowAccount, stating that Moore's indication of a prior "relationship" may have been referring to the brief period when Happy Faces considered using them. 

"We had them as an option," he said. "There were three or four options we signed up for, but we never went with [NowAccount]." 

Court officials can't explain document filing 

Neither the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority nor the Dekalb County Superior Court — where the document appears to have originated — could explain the presence of the apparently erroneous document in the state's files. 

"[A]ll records are filed in the County Clerks office," a representative of the GSCCCA told Just the News. "We simply display the records that are sent to us once they are filed."

Dana Patterson, a spokeswoman for DeKalb County Clerk of Superior Court Debra DeBerry — whose name is on the NowAccount/Happy Faces document — gave a similar answer. 

"We are required to file a document presented in proper form, not content," she said.

A bombshell November report by Carter Jones — who was commissioned by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office to monitor the election in Fulton County — identified numerous apparent issues with election workers allegedly dispatched from Happy Faces. 

In one instance, Jones was apprised of a conversation allegedly between what he claimed was two apparent Happy Faces workers in which one reportedly said: "I'm ready to fuck shit up."

"What is Happy Faces doing to vet the people who they are sending to make sure that they are not sending in people who do actually want to 'f*ck sh*t up?'" Jones wrote in the report. 

Elsewhere, workers were reportedly required to "reorganize" a series of provisional scans, something that officials blamed in part on "Happy Faces reinforcement staff."