Charges note lawyers’ roles

According to a recent article in the local, very expensive, exclusive legal newspaper, the Daily Report, “A new indictment of former DeKalb County School District Superintendent Crawford Lewis says he worked with the school district’s attorneys to conceal criminal acts involving school construction projects.”

The sub-title of the article, “New indictment alleges DeKalb school chief ‘colluded’ with school attorneys”, gives insight as to the extent of the newly released Second Grand Jury Presentment’s evidence against Lewis (available in our FILES under the FACTS & SOURCES tab) as well as the possibly questionable behavior of his attorneys.

The article continues in part,

“In his role as executive officer of the Board of Education, Lewis “manipulated and colluded with general and outside counsel” to minimize the details of crimes he had blamed on the school system’s operations officer, Pat Pope, according to the May 1 indictment.

“The indictment describes two meetings Lewis had with school district lawyers in which they discussed his concerns that Pope, now known as Pat Reid, was trying to blackmail him. But while one lawyer agreed with Lewis that they should “go for blood” if Pope turned on Lewis, they were also balancing how to keep Pope as an allied witness in high-stakes civil litigation against a former school contractor, Heery International.

“Both meetings with Lewis included the school district’s construction counsel, Greg Morgan and Al Phillips; the district’s general counsel Josie Alexander; and John Hinchey, now a retired partner at King & Spalding who was hired to represent the school district in its civil fight with Heery International, according to the indictment.”

The article includes some history and an update to the facts:

“In May 2010, a DeKalb County grand jury first indicted Lewis, Pat Pope and her architect ex-husband Tony Pope for corruption and conspiracy related to the school district’s construction contracts for four projects.

“The new 132-page, six-count indictment adds racketeering and bribery charges. It also dismisses charges against Pat Pope’s former secretary, Cointa Moody, who was originally charged in the 2010 indictment.

“In the new indictment, prosecutors accuse Pat Pope and Tony Pope of bid-rigging, falsifying documents, authorizing illegal payments and misrepresenting material facts to the school board. Lewis is accused of signing off on illegal actions, soliciting and accepting bribes, and using school district funds to pay for hotel rooms where he met with his mistress.

“Crawford Lewis and his Chief Operations Officer, Patricia Reid, aka Pat Pope manipulated and inappropriately funneled contracts to Mrs. Pope’s husband and to contractors for whom they received illegal benefits,” states the new indictment. “In so doing, Pat Pope and Tony Pope went from near bankruptcy to substantial wealth in just a few years. This illegal conduct allowed Crawford Lewis to maintain a lifestyle beyond what he could afford.

“The prosecution also alleges that Pat Pope and Lewis hindered the investigation.”

To read the article in its entirety, ask a lawyer you know to borrow a printed copy of the May 11, 2012 edition of the Daily Report.

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21 Responses to Charges note lawyers’ roles

  1. DeKalb Observer says:

    And this is why… anyone closely associated with the Lewis regime who still holds a job in DCSS needs to go. Anyone who dares defend or marginalize the deeply corrupt practices that became common practice under Lewis is a part of the conspiracy.

  2. justwatch says:

    So Josie Alexander clearly needs to go.

  3. concernforthekids says:

    Exactly! Josie Alexander and her firm need to go!
    Remember what Sarah Copelin Woods said about having two outside counsels, we need to have Alexander & Associates because they “understand the culture of the children!”
    That is all SCW has to say about the “Chosen” outside legal counsel?
    Did you know Alexander & Associates receives over a $1MILLION a year to be associated with the school system for our ouside legal councel?
    “Culture of the children”? give me a break! let’s get rid of BOTH of our outside legal counsels, our entire “Family & Friends” internal legal department (whose director just got a $50,000 raise THIS YEAR and hire new legal representation!
    I’ll give you a perfect recent example why to get rid of Ron Ramsey.
    Ron Ramsey was asked by the current BOE to create and sign off on a letter that the board drafted at last weeks board policy meeting to respond to the updated school board maps passed by our legislative body this session.
    He refused to draft the document or sign off on the paper because he said that responsibilty is for the BOE outside legal counsel (Sutherlin, Asbil & Brennan which costs us taxpayers over $400 per HOUR to draft a letter).
    That is his personal opinion but I can tell you right now that he is an employee of the school system and his salary is approved by the BOE and if they ask him to write a letter then he should take his $50,000 raise and write the damn letter!
    There is legal presedent for this and it WILL be addressed in the near future!
    We have fools on the school board that see no WRONG in our HUGE legal fees that are paid annually.
    You want smaller class sizes? You want accountability?
    Stop spending $5,000,000 – $15,000,000 ANNUALLY in legal fees and spend that money in the CLASSROOM!
    Chose a new board this summer on July 31st!


  4. Fred the Chairman says:

    Read and re-read the most recent DeKalb County Grand Jury presentment. We, as taxpayers, are footing an incredible bill for legal representation within the county. Whether it is the standard legal fee allocation, the ‘complex litigation’ or the Heery/Mitchell lawsuit, annually we are spending in the magnitude of tens of million of dollars on legal representation, and the Board of Education had little knowledge of the details, at least that they were willing to discuss with the Grand Jury. Voters should demand transparency from our elected officials; NOTHING related to the use of taxpayer’s money that funds the education of our children should be a secret.

    Please do not allow the waste that has been so prevalent to continue. We need good people from the Northern and Southern parts of the county to run for the BOE. There are tremendous financial resources at the disposal of the county, and they must be used wisely by people who are willing to consider the welfare of our children first and foremost.

    Don’t give up…keep the positive thoughts and positive momentum flowing.

    Best Regards,

    The Chairman

  5. Fred in DeKalb says:

    **Voters should demand transparency from our elected officials; NOTHING related to the use of taxpayer’s money that funds the education of our children should be a secret.**

    Sometimes ones the right to privacy trumps the public’s right to know. You may want to research the Buckley-Pell Amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

    In the case of the Heery/Mitchell lawsuit, we know that Pat Reid is the star witness for the school district in the allegations of overpayments. This blog has done a good job publishing the public indictments. We also know that evidence is to be shared both between the prosecution and defense. Are you suggesting this evidence should be published in advance of the trial for all to see and evaluate? I thought this should be presented and facts determined in the actual trial? What value comes from trying the case in the public domain?

  6. Marney Mayo says:

    Notwithstanding my prior post to the effect that staff should not be contacting board members with personnel issues because it poisons their own possibility of a future fair trial.
    The value in publishing as many facts as possible in this case is the same one often used for the death penalty…it is a deterrent and cautionary tail to help educate the electorate and change the culture of greed and sloppiness that allowed THIS to happen. …And the SPLOSH 3 forgotten interest payments…and whatever got our cash reserves to 0 without notice….?

  7. Fred in DeKalb says:

    It is interesting that on the Today show on 5/21 during the first segment, the prosecution in the Trayvon Martin case complained about making all the information in that case public and how it compromises the process for a fair trial. It seems Florida has a law that allows trial evidence to be made public. The prosecution is worried that the jury pool could be compromised.

    I don’t know what GA law says about this.

  8. Miss Management says:

    And the winner is — The Lawyers!!

  9. MsMerty says:

    Lovely…DCSS employs an attorney who refuses to write a letter for the BOE. Mr Ramsey would try to fire me for insubordination if I refused to write a letter for one of my Administrators.
    And why does PATS have a posting for a senior attorney?
    Also, where is Ken Bradshaw going?

  10. It is SPLOST — Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax — not SPLOSH.

  11. DeKalb Observer says:

    **Voters should demand transparency from our elected officials; NOTHING related to the use of taxpayer’s money that funds the education of our children should be a secret.**
    Fred, are you intentionally missing the point? The point is that there should be transparency GOING IN, when the transactions and purchases and bid processes happen. Had there been transparency in Pat Pope’s hiring, we would have known her credentials were suspect. We would have known she was already doing business with DCSS. We would have known her relationship to her architect-husband Tony’s firm. The previous comments did not advocate violating attorney-client privilege, nor suggest the RICO case be tried in the media. The issue is that we, as taxpayers, were kept in the dark about details of expenditures as large projects were approved in ways that hid what was really happening and who was really pocketing all that SPLOST money. As Pat Pope spent freely, with no mechanism for citizen oversight, we got ripped off. And now we are spending millions on attorneys to fix this mess.

  12. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Chill, dsw. I use splosh all the time…a play on words, splost + slush = splosh . I think we all knew what Marney was saying.

  13. Many of the BOE members say “splosh,” also. We always thought it was ignorance that led to the incorrect pronunciation. The thing is, SPLOST is NOT a slush fund. For far too long, however, the financially irresponsible BOE members have thought that SPLOST is is their own personal slush fund (the palatial central office building on Memorial Drive comes immediately to mind). We object to anything that might suggest that SPLOST is a slush fund.

  14. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    Ramsey MUST go or nothing will change. Someone in our county made this man an untouchable. I want to know why his legislative bio does not show his employment with DCSS(D?)? For the money we pay him there should not have been all this stuff going on under his watch. Until Ramsey goes, nothing changes for the better.

    Summer break begins Friday. How many here recall all the things the BOE does under the cover of summer vacation? Stay alert! There will be last minute meetings, there will be items added to agendas (like Womack did with the cell tower vote last summer), votes will happen and then disappear from minutes, minutes will disappear and will never be added to the website. We must keep them honest this summer!

    These are the perceptions that Dr. Atkinson has to operate under, but her bosses, the BOE and Eugene Walker as it’s Chairman, have set a table with only three legs and they expect Atkinson to have success. Riiiiiiiight. It’s all about perception, how many of DSW visitors would love to know how many NON-TEACHING staff are getting a pink slip this summer? Dr. Atkinson we want to hear about cuts to America’s Choice – a $10 million dollar boondoggle, we want to hear about unused properties being sold for green space or public use. We want to see Fernbank run on donor dollars, NOT our tax dollars. We want to see significant change in the costs of operations, NOT TEACHING! Tyson and Clew balanced the budget on the back of OUR teachers time and time again and personally I don’t see it working.

  15. Fred in DeKalb says:

    DeKalb Observer said,
    **Fred, are you intentionally missing the point? The point is that there should be transparency GOING IN, when the transactions and purchases and bid processes happen.**

    What pray tell are you talking about? Are you suggesting transparency should be provided even if it VIOLATES the law??? I referenced the FERPA law to remind people that LAWs govern whether some information is made available. That’s why personnel actions are handled in executive session, respecting PRIVACY LAWs.

    **Had there been transparency in Pat Pope’s hiring, we would have known her credentials were suspect. We would have known she was already doing business with DCSS.**

    What evidence do you have that her credentials are suspect? What kind of transparency are you looking for when hiring employees? Are you suggesting that resume’s of prospective hires be placed on a public site to be scrutinized before the Board approves the hire? If that is done with every hire, don’t you realize how that will slow down the process? Are you willing to pay for that?

    **really pocketing all that SPLOST money. As Pat Pope spent freely, with no mechanism for citizen oversight, we got ripped off.**

    Please tell me you realize that there are LAWS governing construction bids for state government entities. RFPs are placed on a public site, prospective bidders can ask questions, and SEALED bids are provided. This is in accordance to the LAW. Why is it some of you want to ignore the LAW?

    For your reading pleasure, here is a website from a law firm in GA about the the rules for construction projects for local governments in GA. If you cannot pull this up, use these as search words

    Click to access January%202011-%20Rules%20for%20Constructing%20Projects%20under%20the%20Georgia%20Local%20Government%20Public%20Works%20Construction%20Law.pdf

    As a reminder, part of the reason this case is taking so long is that construction law is complicated. The prosecution had to hire experts to attempt to unravel the business rules in making their case. This was discussed on the earlier DSW blog. It really will be interesting to see this case deliberated in court.

  16. Fred the Chairman says:

    Fred in DeKalb:

    I have ignored some of your other attempts to call me out, because they simply did not deserve my attention. But at this point you have annoyed me, no doubt your strategy, to the point where I will respond to you.

    My comment about transparency was IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM attempting to address things that would otherwise be illegal to disclose. The BOE has clearly hidden behind attorney-client privilege in the Heery/Mitchell case, for reasons that are anyone’s guess, and that was not the intent of my post.

    I am not at liberty to disclose anything that’s not public record in the Grand Jury presentment, but there were 26 people in the room that heard the BOE discuss a significant number of issues. More often than not, according to the presentment, the BOE did not have answers to questions surrounding the specifics of fiscal issues. Whether it was the total cost to build and fix errors in the Heery matter, or the cost of the initial audit of the Heery matter, or other elements as outlined in the presentment…THEY DID NOT KNOW, or were unwilling to discuss the issues.

    I find it extremely difficult to believe that NO ONE could remember specifics regarding the MILLIONS of dollars that are under their control, especially for the head of the finance and budget committee…I frankly expected more. The transparency we should seek, no, that we DESERVE, is the understanding that if the BOE undertakes a lawsuit in the hundreds of millions of dollars that they KNOW WITH GREAT CERTAINTY that the requested settlement will actually cover the cost of the builds and errors that they are claiming. Cost of errors and new builds: $180 million (per the BOE); claims being pursued in the Heery/Mitchell counter suit: $110 million. Who thinks that makes any sense at all?

    Please save everyone the headache of attempting to play the “don’t look over here…look over there” game. Nothing that I suggested would break the law. If you are in charge of the public’s finances, and you cannot properly account for your actions, then you SHOULD be subject to criticism. As I said previously, read the presentment. Read it multiple times if that’s what it takes for you to understand what is going on. Denial of the fact that this BOE and this school system have been driven into the ground for years is no excuse.

    The people of the county deserve better, plain and simple. If you argue anything to the contrary then you just aren’t being honest with yourself.

    By the way, to respond to one of your prior attempts to bait me, the presentment had a significant portion devoted to the BOE because it was the single most important issue to the Grand Jury, as parents within the county, that we could have an impact on. The Grand Jury toured the DeKalb County Jail and reported on the inspection, had seminars from several of the law enforcement agencies, and made recommendations regarding the use of county resources as it pertains to law enforcement. The Grand Jury gave appropriate attention to the major issues we were asked to evaluate, and the Grand Jury took it upon themselves to request that the entire BOE appear and have a dialogue…well within their rights to do so. The BOE has hundreds of millions of dollars of budget at their disposal and if all was well there would be no questions raised about how the county’s funds are being spent. The plain, simple and undeniable fact is that there is no transparency in how the money is spent, and that is something that all citizen’s deserve.

    All facts, all related to the presentment…all, quite frankly, undeniable by anyone who chooses rational thought…

    Best Regards,

    The Chairman

  17. Fred in DeKalb says:

    Fred the Chairman, thank you for responding. I thought I was respectful when I initially responded to your reply in the “Stupid Is As Stupid Does” blog on May 6th at 4:24 pm. I believe I outlined in that and subsequent posts legitimate points of concern about the Grand Jury report and requested to know where I was incorrect. There was a mention of questioning the reporting structure between the BOE and superintendent, suggesting a change should be made. To me, this demonstrated that members of the Grand Jury did not understand the law and responsibilities of the BOE vs. the superintendent. I also questioned asking the BOE detailed questions about the lawsuit. In fairness, only two BOE members were around at the time of the alleged infractions of HM and the building of the case against them. To expect BOE members to answer detailed questions about the case is disingenuous. I would expect the BOE to answer questions at a high level. If the Grand Jury wanted to ask detailed questions, they should have requested the appropriate staff members and legal representatives accompany the BOE. I’m sure they would have been glad to answer any question that did not compromise the pending litigation.

    Let’s clear something else, I responded the way I did in this blog because you capitalized NOTHING. Had you left that in lower case, I probably would not have said anything. Because of your emphasis, I felt the need to point out that there are legitimate uses of taxpayer money in education that must not be revealed in public. Notice I provided the law that protects privacy. Some readers may have interpreted what you posted literally. That happens a lot on blogs unless statements are challenged and corrections provided.

    You also said, **Denial of the fact that this BOE and this school system have been driven into the ground for years is no excuse.**. I’ll one up you on this given that over half of the current Board members have served less than 4 years, two less than 2 years. You can say the problems of this school district began when Jim Cherry, the BOEs at the time and citizens refused to comply with Brown vs. Board of Education in integrating the schools in DeKalb. Because of the collective refusal to abide by this law, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Pitts v. Cherry., putting this school district under federal control for over 20 years. Some of the decisions that were made to comply with this lawsuit are what many are complaining about today. I believe that was the beginning of driving this school district into the ground. This is undeniable by anyone who chooses rational thought…

    Again, I thank you and your fellow members of the Grand Jury for your service. I respectfully disagree with some of your findings in the final report. My specific disagreements are in the earlier blog.

  18. dekalbite2 says:

    @ Fred in DeKalb

    “You can say the problems of this school district began when Jim Cherry, the BOEs at the time and citizens refused to comply with Brown vs. Board of Education in integrating the schools in DeKalb. Because of the collective refusal to abide by this law, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Pitts v. Cherry., putting this school district under federal control for over 20 years.”

    Sounds good, but state law forbid integration and none of the school systems would comply with Brown vs Board of Ed so according to your logic all of the school systems should be in the same academic shape as DeKalb – except they aren’t.

    The Pitt versus Cherry case that began in 1979 in DeKalb didn’t affect other school systems. It was brought by Roger Mills, instituted M to M, and was the impetus for “white flight” from DeKalb, particularly in south DeKalb. This case put a stop to building schools in South DeKalb and caused terrible overcrowding in that part of the county. Mills was determined that busing should and would take place so he effectively ensured a moratorium was placed on building schools in south DeKalb, an area that was growing by leaps and bounds with many young families with children filling the rapidly developing communities. Magnet schools were instituted to show voluntary integration, and finally under Johnny Brown we came out of the consent decree. This was too late for many in South DeKalb who had grown up with crowded schools and long bus rides to reach acceptable schools. That’s a legacy that many long time residents in north and south DeKalb remember, but new residents do not. South DeKalb was where the growth was, so they felt the impact of no new schools the hardest. No wonder there was so much resistance to closing neighborhood schools in south DeKalb. South DeKalb residents remember how overcrowded the schools were and how it took years and years just to get a new school built. South DeKalb bore the brunt of overcrowding for those 20 years. Anyone who criticized their efforts to keep their neighborhood schools open did not understand how bad that overcrowding became.

    It’s really about student achievement. If student achievement were good, there would be little discussion about the leadership of the school system. But it is not good. We have many struggling students, and struggling students need better leaders, not mediocre or poor leaders. Leaders who will make the tough, sometimes politically unpopular decisions. The more struggling students you have, the more leadership counts. The “good old boy” culture of DeKalb has been around for years, but when we had a mainly middle class school system, it didn’t make much difference to student achievement. We have a lot more poverty and ESOL students now and the “good old boy” culture that rewarded friends and family just doesn’t work anymore, and we can see this in the declining student achievement.

    DeKalb’s “business as usual” was bad in the past, but it is so much worse today because with lower income students leadership matters much more.

  19. justwatch says:

    This is so true. Another part of the legacy of the desegregation case, which should have been settled much earlier by the way and we can thank Paul Womack for that being dragged out, is that so many of the most influential S. DeKalb residents have only used schools of choice for their children for the last 20 years. These folks have lost touch with all that is bad in DCSS and therefore, make no effort to demand improvements. Not one “leader” from S. DeKalb is ever publicly critical of anything the system does.

    That is shame.

  20. Fred in DeKalb says:

    I must commend you on your post, DeKalbite. My recollection goes back to 1969, when all black schools were closed in DeKalb, eliminating separate black schools and forcing integration to comply with Pitts vs. Cherry. Mills involvement later accelerated the white flight you refer to however that suggests the superintendents, BOEs and citizens still refused to comply while other school districts in the state were.

    Yes, DeKalb went from a mostly white, middle class county to a mostly minority, poor county (at least in the schools). Many whites fled to outlying counties like Gwinnett, who learned from DeKalb’s mistakes and developed a great infrastructure of schools. I stand by my reply to Fred the Chairman that the deep resistance to complying with the 1954 Brown decision plays a key role into where our schools we are today. Many of the suspicions about North versus South DeKalb came from this and are still alive today, even if many residents don’t have memory of this past.

    The past is what it is. You and I both agree that current student achievement is unacceptable. Many students are continuing to do well however many more are not. I put some of the responsibility on the parents for ensuring students come to school prepared to learn and follow instructions but that is another topic all together.

    It should be noted that DeKalb is also a very benevolent county in how it accepted refugees from other countries. I believe DeKalb has resettled more than any other county in Georgia. DeKalb took the responsibility for educating these children, which is commendable.

  21. dekalbite2 says:

    Demographically comparable metro Atlanta systems have much better achievement than DeKalb. Leadership matters. Fiduciary responsibility matters. Putting 40 in a classroom GUARANTEES student failure for a larger percentage of our students. NOTHING should be off the table to be cut in order to bring this number down.

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