DeKalb County Report Finds Widespread Corruption, Seeks May’s Resignation
It is hard to pick the most outrageous place to start: tens of thousands of dollars to government employees and their businesses; personal loans made to Interim CEO May by a subordinate; a sanitation worker re-hired a week after being arrested for driving while under the influence, while on the job; allegations of bribery…
The special investigation, conducted by former state Attorney General Mike Bowers and investigator Richard Hyde, faced difficulties in gaining access to records.
“The district attorney, Robert James, in clear violation of the Georgia Open Records Act, flatly refused to even respond to our letters requesting documents that could have explained his questionable spending,” the report states.
The report also alleges that “Mr. May and others conspired to actively block our efforts to obtain public records from county offices.”
Only two commissioners, having only been elected in recent months in Special Elections, are completely absent from the report: District 1 Commissioner Nancy Jester and District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson.
The expenses the report flags include small, but questionable purchases like County Clerk Barbara Sanders’s purchase of a $2.99 Bic lighter, District Six Commissioner Kathie Gannon’s $7.75 Jimmy John’s sandwich, and boiled peanuts purchased for $2.99 by former Deputy COO Morris Williams, who abruptly retired in March 2015.
District Four Commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton paid at least $46,000 to Influence Factory, LLC over a four year period (2011-2014).
According to a case study on their website, “Influence Factory designed a multi-pronged campaign for legislative advocacy entitled Move DeKalb Forward.” This was in response to a group called Citizens for Dunwoody that worked to cede from the county in 2007 to 2008. It is unclear from the corruption report what they were hired to do from 2011 to 2014.
Commissioner Barnes-Sutton also had questionable payments that went to a law firm representing her “for personal tax and car payment matters,” totaling $11,530.
One of District Three Commissioner Larry Johnson’s suspicious charges are payments totaling $21,500 to BLH Consulting, a grassroots marketing firm, during 2009 and 2010.
Commissioner Johnson also spent nearly $400 at Brookstone.
The District Attorney has multiple payments to the State Bar of Georgia, totaling over $1,000.
“These questionable charges may have been lawful and proper. However, our requests to review public records that could have explained and justified these expenses were ignored by the district attorney,” the report notes.
Some other concerning claims in the report include:
- “[P]oor project supervision in the Watershed Management Department”
- “[I]mproper or nonexistent transaction logs” and “unsupported” charges, as noted in a separate report, completed by O.H Plunkett & Company, P.C., covering the county’s Internal Audit & Licensing Division
- Late payments to vendors who are not “connected”
- “An allegation of bribery” that Bowers and Hyde passed along to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation
Not surprisingly, the report highlights over-spending and a lack of enforcement under both state and county laws.
“Most departments do not spend over their budget. But some do it regularly. Since 2010, the worst violators have been: CEO (2014, 2012, 201134, and 2010); District Attorney (2014, 201335, 201236, 201137, and 201038); and Health and Welfare/Family and Children Services (2014, 2013, 2012, and 201139),” the report states.
The report itself cost the county roughly 850,000 dollars.
The report’s recommendations include: the Interim CEO should resign today to allow for a Special Election; take immediate steps to recover all funds that were spent in violation of state law, county policy, or the Georgia Constitution, with amnesty offered for funds repaid; and all spending by commission members and their staffs should be posted on a public county website each week.
Interim CEO May has called for several community meetings, although he has been a no-show so far at an October 08, 2015 meeting at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur..
Remaining meetings will be held October 13th at the Lou Walker Senior Center in Lithonia; October 15th at the Tucker-Reid Cofer Library; October 20th at the Derwin Brown Memorial South Precinct in Decatur; and October 22nd at Welcome Friend Baptist Church in Ellenwood, all from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.