As DeKalb investigators turned up the heat, top officials resisted
Posted: 4:40 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015
By Alan Judd, Mark Niesse and Johnny Edwards – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mike Bowers glared into the television cameras, cast again in a familiar role: Georgia’s preeminent corruption-buster.
“We’re going to root out conflicts of interest, corruption, malfeasance and misfeasance,” Bowers said, his index finger wagging, “so help me God.”
DeKalb scandals, still unresolved
• An Alpharetta company wrote a $4,000 check to interim CEO Lee May after making $6,500 in sewer damage repairs at his home, at taxpayers’ expense. Later that year, the company won a $300,000 county contract. May, a commissioner at the time, insists he knew nothing about the check and never received a dollar of the money. But Doug Cotter, the man who arranged the home repairs and once organized a campaign fundraiser for May, said it was intended to help May with his personal financial problems. Cotter says he gave the money to former County Commission Chief of Staff Morris Williams. The FBI is investigating.
• An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation revealed that an invalid, possibly forged legal document allowed a government official to double as a government contractor, despite ethics rules to the contrary. Vaughn Irons, chairman of DeKalb’s Development Authority, won a $1 million contract to rehab and sell foreclosed homes. Irons has said he had nothing to do with the document and that he even passed a lie detector test clearing him of wrongdoing. The District Attorney’s office is reviewing the matter.
• Commissioner Stan Watson received more than $19,800 from Irons for consulting from 2012 to 2014, yet twice cast votes to award county contracts to Irons’ company, APD Solutions. Watson apologized for those votes in a brief exchange with the AJC and Channel 2, but the DeKalb Ethics Board will hold a final hearing on the matter Thursday. The board already dismissed complaints that Watson charged the county nearly $5,000 for his personal cellphone and $1,880 for a political website during his last campaign.
• Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton faces ethics complaints alleging she misused her county-issued Visa card for personal gain, including paying for meals, Apple products, gift cards, a laptop computer, a TV, airfare, hotels and charities. The AJC and Channel 2 raised questions about Sutton’s spending last year, and an audit found that she lacked supporting receipts for $12,996 in transactions. Sutton has said she used her card for legitimate business purposes.
• An evangelist who posed as a legislative consultant, helping former Commissioner Elaine Boyer carry out a kickback scheme, has never been charged. Federal prosecutors have said they’ve still investigating 73-year-old Rooks Boynton. Boyer is in federal prison for scamming taxpayers out of more than $100,000 — both through kickbacks and abusing her P-card. Her husband, John, is awaiting sentencing for masterminding the scheme.
• Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records on DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Darryl Jennings Sr., who hasn’t been charged with a crime. But former board member Jerry Clark pleaded guilty to receiving $3,500 from a pool hall owner after voting to approve a permit for Lulu’s Billiards. Club’s owner Ismail Sirdah also pleaded guilty and admitted paying the bribe.
• The special grand jury whose work led to criminal charges against CEO Burrell Ellis recommended investigations of at least 11 other people. They included Ellis’ campaign manager, Kevin Ross, his former chief of staff, Jabari Simama, and his predecessor, former CEO Vernon Jones, all suspected of bid rigging and other misdeeds. Another was the former public safety director, William “Wiz” Miller, accused of smothering a detective’s probe into watershed contracts. None of the 11 has been charged.