DeKalb CEO Responds to Report at Town Hall Meetings, as Calls for Resignation Grow

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lithonia(APN) LITHONIA — Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May received a standing ovation at the start of the Up Close and Personal town hall on Tuesday, October 13 at the Lou Walker Senior Center in Lithonia.

 

Saying he is “not running from anybody,” May spoke about the Bowers-Hyde corruption report and recent calls for his resignation.

 

“I absolutely take responsibility, I own that.  I’ve not made excuses for that, it was a decision I’ve made and you all are going to have to asses, you know, was the right or wrong decision and what you think about my leadership,” May said in response to a question about taking responsibility for his leadership, overall, and his decision to initiate the 850,000 dollar investigation.

 

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Commissioner Nancy Jester (District 1) just come out with a statement this week asking him to step down.

 

A group called Reform DeKalb issued a press statement saying they will also be asking him to step down at tonight’s town hall.

 

Many attendees at the event encouraged May not to resign.  Several supporters in the audience held signs, telling May to “Stay Strong.”

 

“This whole ordeal is nothing more than a witch hunt,” said one supporter.

 

“I am encouraging everyone, everyone to read the report,” May told the audience.

 

Surprisingly, May called for an end to the CEO position, echoing the comments made earlier this week by Commissioner Jester.

 

“If this two weeks has proven anything else to me, it’s that my position changing is correct… I just believe that the correct form of government for us in DeKalb County is to have, would be to have a county manager, a professional county manager, with a countywide elected chairperson,” May said.

 

The authors of the corruption report have made it clear they feel their work was terminated before they could conclude their investigation, and that May obstructed their ability to have the “unfettered access” they were promised.

 

During the town hall, May repeatedly stated the report was not in line with the scope of the original executive order, and had become too costly.

 

“So I had a certain set of expectations that were laid out in my executive order, and I got something different than that.  Now here’s the thing… there are still things that can be used in [the report],” May said.

 

May emphasized the language in the executive order that focuses on investigating “any unit of DeKalb County government under the authority of the Chief Executive Officer.”

 

May agreed he did interfere in the investigation into the District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s departments, but said he did so because it was out of the scope of the executive order.

 

“By law I can’t hire/fire anyone in the District Attorney’s office or the Sheriff’s office as well… that is not within the scope of [the investigator’s] work,” May said.

 

May also explained he did not terminate the investigation early, as the report alleges; and that cost, rather than completion, was a factor in the investigation ending.

 

“I asked the question directly to them, ‘How long do you think this is going to last?  When do you think this will come to an end?’ and the response to me was, ‘We don’t know, that’s not how we operate,’” May said.

 

May claimed he gave the investigators more than their 120 days, as laid out in the executive order, but ultimately told them “we don’t have a blank check.”

 

The language of the executive order is: “The Special Investigator… shall be appointed for a term, not less than 120 days, subject to extensions by the Chief Executive Officer…” [emphasis added].

 

It is hard to read the executive order as intending anything other than a long, thorough investigation, which hardly lines up with May’s suggestions that the investigator’s time was simply up or that cost had become unpredictably large.

 

Significant amounts of taxpayer money went to nonprofit organizations, which both May and multiple commissioners have justified as benefiting the County.

 

May said the county attorney was investigating some of the claims in the report about money going to nonprofits, as well as being used for dues, and she would be giving them “some over arching guidance,” on those expenditures.

 

Jeff Long, founder of Reform DeKalb, cited multiple concerns beyond the claims of the Bowers-Hyde corruption report, including the recently approved soccer facility and the delay in getting a new animal shelter built.

 

“[May] said that if he was a distraction to DeKalb County that he would be willing to consider meeting with Gov. Deal and possibly stepping down… I do feel like he is a massive distraction to what is going on in this County,” Long said in an interview with APN.

 

(END/2015)

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