Interesting news from the DeKalb political network!

We are big fans of the political blog, “Peach Pundit“. They focus on statewide politics, but sometimes post bits about DeKalb schools and keep their eye on things with us. And, of course, this political connection between DeKalb schools and the state political scene has so completely blurred that we are left essentially speechless at the blatant use of public schools and ‘parent councils’ as political gathering spots, soap boxes and salary-providers for so many politicians — our new interim superintendent leading the charge, backed by his new communications director, who is also his old communications director.

Read on for the latest on one particular big political grab.

It seems that our DeKalb County sheriff, Thomas Brown has decided he is going to run for Hank Johnson’s seat in Congress. And from there, it gets interesting. Here’s a snippet of the blogpost, DeKalb County Sheriff Thomas Brown Holds A “Birthday Party” At Georgia Piedmont Technical College:

Sheriff Thomas Brown sure looks like he’s going to run against Rep. Hank Johnson.

He’s throwing a birthday party at Georgia Piedmont Technical College on Thursday. Or rather, his exploratory committee is…

Brown’s exploratory committee for a congressional run sent an Evite to about 150 people earlier this week for “A Birthday Celebration for Thomas Brown” at the school.

And then it gets even more interesting …

The names on the invitation list are somewhat more interesting. Among the doctors and business executives, a few public servants crept into the invitation list like Bettye Davis, Director of One DeKalb, Atlanta Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Joel Baker, Rep. Billy Mitchell and DeKalb schools chief Michael Thurmond.

And so we went digging… and found that Michael Thurmond actually serves on the advisory board of the Georgia Piedmont Technical College Foundation.  (How does he find the time?)

And we quickly found a connection between Dr. Jabari Simama, the new President of GPTC (taking office in September, 2012) and Michael Thurmond – as well as to Gene Walker –

1) Dr. Simama is the President of Georgia Piedmont Technical College. He was inaugurated in February 2013. In the program for his inauguration, go to the last page and you will see Michael Thurmond’s name listed on an Advisory Board to the Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s Foundation.

Here is the link to the PDF:

2) Eugene Walker was on the board of Georgia Piedmont Tech. College: “Other members of the Georgia Piedmont Tech Foundation Board of Trustees include Val Bates, George Fertal, Dr. Eugene Walker, Jennifer Hackemyer, Dr. JoAnn Smartt-Gaither, Joe Wilson, Jefferson Riley, and Chuck Little.”

3) And just who was on the Committee that Selected Dr. Simama for his current position as the President of GPTC? Why that would be Dr. Eugene Walker. Here’s the press release about the Search Committee:

We just found this all so interesting!

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15 Responses to Interesting news from the DeKalb political network!

  1. curious says:

    Dr. Jabari Simama was Burrell Ellis’s chief of staff and is named in the special grand jury’s report as someone who should be investigated criminally for possible indictment for “manipulation of selection committee process,” perjury and bid rigging..

  2. ShooShee says:

    You would think that these people are so intertwined with each other that some of them would get choked out! But, apparently they are like kudzu. Almost impossible to weed.

  3. TracyW says:

    All I can think is Friends and Family networking in DeKalb.

  4. @ curious — true. Here are a couple of links to the story —

    A special grand jury report documenting alleged corruption in DeKalb County is now public and Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer got her hands on the first copy.

    The report identifies names, including indicted CEO Burrell Ellis, but it also recommends several key public officials for further criminal investigation.

    Ellis’ attorneys have been fighting the release of the report over the last seven months.

    “It lays out many more alleged crimes than we saw in his criminal indictment,” said Fleischer.

    She says the report also suggests there may be many more public officials and private contractors in trouble.

    Fleischer said the only recommendation for indictment is now-suspended CEO Burrell Ellis. The report accused him of not only shaking down vendors, for campaign contributions, but also directing the cancellation of contracts to steer business elsewhere as Channel 2 Action News first exposed.

    The report also says he dictated which individuals should be placed on selection committees for key contracts, and interfered with their final recommendations.

    The grand jurors also said former CEO Vernon Jones should be criminally investigated for possible indictment on bid rigging and theft allegations. In statement to Channel 2 Action News, Jones said he felt the “report appears to be a political preface statement as to who should have been elected to run county government and has no factual foundation or legal basis to recommend any criminal investigation against me.”

    Former public safety director William Wiz Miller is also on the list. The report says he should be investigated for obstructing a criminal investigation.

    Miller retired from DeKalb County in February after prosecutors executed search warrants at the homes and offices of Ellis and Kevin Ross.

    Ross was Ellis’ adviser and former campaign manager. He is also named for criminal investigation and possible indictment for interfering with contracts and bid rigging. Ross works as a consultant for several high profile vendors who do business in DeKalb County.

    Ross’ attorney has not returned our phone call.

    Fleischer says the report also names Jabari Simama, who resigned as Ellis’ chief of staff, and is now serving as president Georgia Piedmont Technical College.

    By phone, Simama said he had not seen the report and has no comment at this time.

    The report also mentions several former watershed department employees including former associate director Roy Barnes, no relation to the former governor.

    The grand jurors recommended investigation of bid rigging, kickbacks, perjury and interfering with the selection of vendors.

    Barnes now works as director of the water and sewer department for the city of East Point.

    Former watershed employees Hadi Haeri and Nadine Maghsoudlou are recommended for investigation of theft, false writings, perjury and bid rigging.

    Several private contractors who did business with DeKalb County are also listed for further criminal investigation. Those include Paul Champion, of Champion Tree Service, John Willis of Brown & Caldwell, Jeffrey Walker and Christian Vann.

    The grand jurors also strongly recommended changing DeKalb County’s form of government to eliminate the CEO position.

    [The following article lists the names of those the Grand Jury recommended further investigation]


    Burrell Ellis 55
    William “Wiz” Miller 56
    Jabari Simama 56
    Roy Barnes 56 [no relation to the former Gov]
    Hadi Haeri 57
    Nadine Maghsoudlou 57
    Vernon Jones 57
    Paul Champion 57
    Kevin Ross 57
    Jeffrey Walker 58
    Christian Vann 58
    John Willis and, possibly, other individuals with Brown & Caldwell 58

  5. To clarify — these are just names of people to investigate. There is no evidence of wrong-doing. We doubt seriously that Jabari Simama would jeopardize his credentials – which are impressive – and his reputation. Hopefully, his only ‘crime’ was being too close to Burrell Ellis. The bid-rigging and contract tampering is a ‘way of life’ in Georgia politics. If the DeKalb Grand Jury succeeds in putting and end to it here, hopefully there will be a ‘trickle up’ reaction and others in powerful positions will start doing business the right way.

  6. Interestingly, we wonder how far he would have gotten in his career had he stuck with his given name, Fred Lewis. Boring. But interesting…. here a the blog, we have a Fred! And several with the surname Lewis! He’d fit right in here…

    From the Hickman High School Kewpies Reunion page:

    Fred Lewis – (Jabari Simama) January 31, 2004
    Former City Councilman Jabari Simama (Fred Lewis HHS’69) brings a fresh, original voice to social and political commentary. His quick wit, concise writing style, and unconventional messages have made him a highly sought after speaker and television and radio guest.

    Simama is a former Atlanta city councilman and professor of radio, television and film at Clark Atlanta University. From 1994-1998, he wrote a highly acclaimed and popular weekly column for Creative Loafing Magazine. While doing so, he was named by a competing magazine as one of “five columnists in Atlanta worth reading.” He has appeared on national television shows such as: “Hardball with Chris Matthews” CNN’s “Talk Back Live,” “ABC News,” and “CNN News.”

    In 1980 Jabari Simama was hired as the original general manager of the Center for Community Television in Atlanta (now People TV). He built and developed this award-winning community media station and directed it until the end of 1986. During and afterwards, he has had considerable production and on-air talent experience.

    Jabari Simama is the former communications director for Mayor Bill Campbell. Presently he is an executive in the Office of Mayor Shirley Franklin where he directs an $8 million nationally acclaimed community technology and Internet initiative. He has worked with, or for, all four African-American Atlanta Mayors. In 1993, his peers on the Atlanta City Council elected him President Pro-Tem of the Council and their representative to the Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority.

    Jabari Simama has lived in Atlanta since 1973. He grew up in Columbia, Missouri, attending Lincoln University, the University of Bridgeport, the former Atlanta University, and Emory University, where he earned a Ph.D. in African American Studies. He a nationally recognized authority in community media and technology and is well known and respected throughout Atlanta.

  7. All that said, what GPTC offers appears to be exactly what society needs… It’s a great deal too – as the Hope Grant pays most of the tuition. They offer many of the programs that lead to jobs like the ones described in the news report below —

    The Jobs That Could Save the Middle Class

    If you’re a teacher or electrician, there’s a lot riding on your shoulders.

    The U.S. economy has stagnated because there aren’t as many well-paying middle-class jobs as there used to be. A generation ago, millions of Americans could get ahead on hard work and a bit of brawn. But many of the blue-collar jobs that helped several generations of Americans buy homes and cars and enroll their kids in college no longer exist.

    … Medical technicians, licensed practical nurses, customer-service reps and other types of paraprofessionals will be the assembly-line workers of the 21st century, earning decent pay for work that requires some technical knowledge and a better touch with people than Siri can offer. Various types of trade people fit the profile, too — including plumbers, electricians, builders, HVAC installers and welders — since there’s little substitute for people who come to your home or office building and fix problems.

    Automotive technicians are similar to contractors, except they fix cars, not homes. And teachers, tutors and other types of learning guides have a clear role in a knowledge-based economy, though they typically face higher educational requirements than other types of new artisans.

  8. Just in from Ron Ramsey’s newsletter —


    Governor Deal signed legislation authored by Sen. Ramsey on Turner Field. Senate Bill 121 allows special license plates for former members of the General Assembly, the Atlanta Braves Foundation, Veterans, the AIDS survival project and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

    Oh boy!!

  9. More …
    Unemployment Rate
    Georgia jobless rate increased to 8.6% in June

    The Georgia Department of Labor announced that Georgia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 8.6 percent in June, up from 8.3 percent in May, but down from 9.1 percent in June 2012.

    Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said, “There is a silver lining in this new data because this was the best May-to-June job performance we’ve had since 2002. And if you factor out the loss of 10,000 government jobs and just look at the private sector, we would have actually gained 9,400 jobs last month because our private sector employers continue to hire.”

    June marked the 71st consecutive month that Georgia’s unem-ployment rate was higher than the national average, which is presently 7.6 percent.

    Fiscal year 2013 ends with 5.9% revenue increase Georgia’s net tax collections for the month of June totaled $1.58 billion for an increase of 2.4 percent compared to June 2012.

    For all of fiscal year 2013, net revenue collections totaled $17 billion for an overall increase of $951.5 million, or 5.9 percent over the previous year.

  10. And one more — write this down and watch for Thurmond to qualify and run —

    Federal election dates set for 2014

    U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones has declared a change in the 2014 federal election schedule in Georgia as follows:

    Candidate Qualifying: March 17-21

    Primary: June 3

    Primary Runoff: Aug. 5

    General Election: Nov. 4

    General Election Runoff: Jan. 6, 2015

    The changes were made to provide overseas military personnel with sufficient time to cast absentee ballots in runoff elections.

    The General Assembly will consider action to change Georgia’s state election dates to conform with the new federal schedule.

  11. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Enter Bill Campbell. Now we are getting somewhere. Interesting that dekalb’s current problems started about the same time as he was in office in city of Atlanta 1994. Anyone know of connection between Vernon Jones, Poker Bill and craw-daddy? Besides the obvious, Eugene walker. Did craw daddy know Simama, also last name Lewis? . These people are so inter connected. All their legal issues center around the same things, construction, awarding county contracts, using bullying tactics to get what they want. Sad and sick.

  12. It’s highly doubtful that Simama has deep, lifelong connections to any of these people as he is from Missouri. He has been here a long time, but left for a while to South Carolina. He’s definitely part of the political elite, but is most likely not related to anyone, including Crawford Lewis. He could very well be just a highly qualified (Emory grad) African-American who came to Atlanta (deemed the African-American Mecca in the media during the Olympics) thinking he would do well here. Just because you work for someone doesn’t mean you are privy to any of their corruption.

    Eugene Walker, however, is a Georgian and seems to be connected to everyone – and has served on about every board as well as in the state senate.

  13. acheolus says:

    Interesting find on the Metro Atlanta Olympic Games Authority: they were behind the design and construction of the largely useless tennis center in a now empty shopping area near stone mountain. They failed to comply with ADA standards, and were brought to task by US Justice.

  14. howdy1942 says:

    This is the definition of the Friends-and-Family network. It makes the “good old boys” network look pale in comparison. I’m just amazed at how easily one high-level, well-connected, Dekalb County official can move from that position to another high-level position regardless of qualifications. The only thing that seems to matter is the connections involved. This is why so many of us in the Tucker and Lakeside City Alliance are fed up, just plain fed up, way past disgruntled fed up, and want to make real change. We’ll start by forming our own cities and then we will form a united front to get out of the disaster that is the Dekalb County School System. Friends-and-Family will permanently prevent the Dekalb County School System from ever being restored or even achieving a new greatness. Sometime things are just so broken, so beyond repair, so damaged, so ingrained with mediocrity, so poorly led, and so hopeless that only a complete new beginning can be successful. I once wanted to fix Dekalb and wanted all of our kids to be part of a great school system – and I still do. But the reality is that I live in only one district, one of nine now until January 2015 and one of seven after that. I’m tired of being controlled by a majority who don’t share that vision of having a great school district for all. Since the majority of the Dekalb School Board members seem to be so content with things as they are, especially with poor leadership and poor administration, then those of us who seem to care must take drastic action. And that is going to happen.

    Maybe the Druid Hills Cluster will get approved by the Dekalb County School Board. But I think that the chances of that approval happening from a School Board majority that I cited above are very slim. That approval certainly won’t happen if Eugene Walker wins his lawsuit and he and his four other cohorts return to the board.

  15. Another comment says:

    The bad corruption in DeKalb didn’t start until after Lianne left office and Mr. CEO took over. Then Ellis anointed himself king. In fact when Lianne was the CEO the Water Dept was well run and helpful. If you were a major facility in DeKalb and you had a 50 year old 12″ plus line bust on your property. They wouldn’t tell you screw it, it is on your property, you are responsible. They would come out and lend you parts, clamps they had in stock to fix it. Because Those extra large water lines were just not pieces that anyone would stock, but a water system, or the pieces to clamp the new pieces in. Especially into a system built in the 1960’s. Plus you never knew until it broke what you had underground. Facilities didn’t have CAD back then, having the actual size a contractor really used and exactly where it was vs. the drawings was a guess. Until it leaked. DeKalb water department was always very cooperative and helpful. The deal is they would come out and lend you the materials. Then you would just order the pieces you used, purchase them, and give them to them to replace their stock. But this is in the day when they actually had competent people in the Water Departments. They just happened to be white. Once Lianne wasn’t in office and it was Mr. CEO, came the mandates that DeKalb wasn’t Dark enough. Just like the City of Atlanta and Fulton County Civil service Jobs. Qualifications, don’t matter only the color of your skin and Friends and Family.

    Now just look at the incompetent 2+ day water leak on Claremont Rd. That will just make those Folks on Claremont by Century Center be more than willing to go to Brookhaven City.

    Ricky Rowe, was the door man to the Friday night poker games at Mayor Campbell’s house. That is how the bribes were passed. He also stood at the door at the Atlanta Water shed prebid meetings and told minority bidders, ” what are you doing here, ____, you know you have to be an invited guest to the poker games on Friday nights at the Mayors house to come here.” Campbell thought he was getting off scott free after Ricky Rowe died. I called Sally Yates office and told her I had a contractor tell me about this. She said the FBI would call me.. Less than an hour later they did. They asked me how, I knew, they hadn’t let the press know about the poker games. I said that a contractor told me he was really pissed about this, and I was sure he would at least give a deposition if not testify. A short time later Mayor Campbell pleaded Guilty.

    I have always thought that the death of Ricky Rowe was suspicious because he was going to testify. Just like I believe the death of Cointa Moody is suspicious as well.

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