DeKalb County Government “Rotten to the Core,” Investigators Claim
(APN) ATLANTA — Special Investigators Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde issued a letter to Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May on today, August 05, 2015, outlining serious concerns about DeKalb County Government.
“This correspondence is to give you and the Commission members a brief update of our investigative findings thus far. What we have found is stunning,” the letter said.
“We are not identifying those who may be guilty of crimes or other misconduct until we publish the final report. You will recall that you were told from the onset that this inquiry would take both a lot of time and a lot of money,” the letter states.
“But the amount of money this has, and will, cost is minimal compared to what widespread government corruption has cost DeKalb County and our state, in terms of standing, reputation and image,” the letter states.
“The DeKalb County government we have found is rotten to the core. The misconduct starts at the top and has infected nearly every department we have looked at. We have conducted scores of interviews and looked at several hundred thousand documents, including over 40-thousand individual P-card transactions. Those expenses range from petty to the absurd,” the letter states.
“While most folks have been helpful, some department heads have flatly ignored requests from you and your office to provide full documentation with regard to P-card records, including the transaction logs that are required to be kept at each work site,” the letter states.
“They have also ignored Open Records Act requests we have filed and today are in violation of state law. We must have all of these records to continue our investigation into how the Finance Department has processed and paid for various purchases,” the letter states.
“The extent of P-card abuse and misuse is astounding. Before we give you a few examples… let us first tell you why many of these taxpayer-funded purchases are illegal. Article 3, Section 6, Paragraph 6, of our state constitution says, in what is known as the ‘gratuities clause,’ that the government shall not have the power to grant any donation or gratuity. Absent explicit legal authority, no government in Georgia can legally give things away. This prohibition includes gifts made to charities or non-profit organization,” the letter states.
“The main question that must be answered with regard to any spending by county officers is: ‘what is the benefit to the county?’ If there is no articulable, specific and reasonable benefit to the county, then the expenditure is likely illegal and in violation of our state constitution,” the letter states.
Improper expenditures have included: a cruise to the Bahamas for an employee; flower arrangements; a live guitar player; a Christmas tree; and a dry cleaning bill for a judge’s robe.
“Taxpayer funds were routinely used to buy liquor, catered meals, candy, popcorn, and pretzels filled with peanut butter for elected officials, department heads, and staff members. The County’s own internal auditors have reported this improper spending over the years. Yet the abuse has continued,” the letter states.
Several “departments over the past five years have regularly overspent their budgets and no action has been taken to correct this illegal conduct,” they state.
“The county awarded sole-source contracts despite there being many other qualified vendors available to perform the same work, at a much lower cost to the county,” they state.
“A high-level official wrecked a county-owned vehicle, causing substantial damage, and then failed to follow proper procedures for reporting the accident,” they state.
“Taxpayers paid the impound fee to recover another county-owned vehicle after the employee was arrested for DUI. That man resigned rather than face disciplinary action. Remarkably, the employee was rehired within days of entering a guilty plea in court, with no apparent disciplinary action taken. Taxpayers have also paid for traffic fines and toll road penalties,” they state.
“The take-home vehicle policy is routinely violated, with some folks getting a free ride to and from work each day. And we have no idea just how many employees get a county-owned car and gas for commuting,” the letter states.
“Thefts of county property have been covered-up and mishandled. In one case the police were not notified and the thief still draws a paycheck from the county,” the letter states.
“And just in the last few days, we have found what appears to be a bribery scheme involving a major county department,” the letter states.
“While we have reduced the number of county departments we are investigating at your request, we still have a good way to go before completion. Please let us know if you have any questions,” the letter states.
Interim CEO May expressed some displeasure with the letter and is calling for the investigation to come to a close.
“I wholeheartedly disagree with the opinion that DeKalb County is rotten to the core. The overwhelming majority of DeKalb County employees are honest, decent, hard-working, and committed to public service,” May said in a statement.
“We were aware of the underlying issues mentioned in Mr. Bowers’ letter. That is why we hired him to conduct a comprehensive review of county government operations to identify corruption, fraud, criminal activity, conflicts of interest, or abuse; with a report in 120 days,” May said.
“The 120 days has come and gone, and it appears the only thing we have to show for it is a 2-page letter full of salacious – but vague – innuendo,” May said.
“I was informed by Mr. Bowers today that a detailed report will be issued in 3 weeks that will provide me with a road map to reduce our risk exposure to waste, fraud and abuse.”