The slow implosion occurring in DeKalb County, Georgia

Corruption is getting out of control in DeKalb. A year ago, a Grand jury allege[d] widespread DeKalb corruption. Not much was done about it and today, the corruption is so thick, it’s hard to see a way clear.

Our school system leadership has barely made a dent in recovery from the corruption trials of former superintendent Crawford Lewis and his construction COO, Pat (Pope) Reid and her former husband. We nearly went broke due to the millions spent on attorneys in this and the related civil case. Even today, we continue to spend as much or more on lawyers as we do on books!

elaine-boyerNow, Commissioner Elaine Boyer has resigned in a cloud of corruption. The AJC is reporting, “Federal prosecutors say Commissioner Boyer conspired to defraud taxpayers

Further — it appears she was in cahoots with an evangelist preacher!

rooks-boynton_1“Evangelist M. Rooks Boynton received about $83,000 from DeKalb County in payments authorized by Commissioner Elaine Boyer. Federal prosecutors said that most of the money was funneled back to Boyer and they’ve charged her with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Boynton has not been charged.” [BOBBY HAVEN / THE BRUNSWICK NEWS]

But, the AJC has now discovered, “Elaine Boyer, now facing federal prison for fraud, wasn’t the only DeKalb elected official who tapped taxpayer money for questionable expenses.” … It seems that “DeKalb Commissioner Sutton paid $34K to boyfriend”.

sharon-barnes-suttonIt was revealed that these two were ‘lovers’ when they had an altercation that involved the police. “DeKalb Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton told a police officer in February that she and Walter Mosby had been involved in a seven-year relationship. He was also her campaign manager, and she paid him $34,000 for consulting and other services after she won election in 2008.” Read the police report HERE.

Mind you all, we are already down two commissioners: Boyer, who resigned Monday and Lee May, who stepped down as commissioner to serve as interim CEO in place of former CEO Burrell Ellis who was suspended and according to the AJC, “faces felony charges that accuse him of shaking down county vendors for campaign cash and punishing those who did not give. Ellis has denied wrongdoing. Ellis’ racketeering trial starts in September.”

Oh, what else, what else? Well, interestingly, that Grand Jury also recommended investigating the following people:

  • former public safety director William “Wiz” Miller
  • former Ellis chief of staff Jibari Simama, who is now president of Georgia Piedmont Technical College of DeKalb
  • former Ellis campaign manager Kevin Ross,
  • workers and contractors in DeKalb’s Watershed Department

And guess what? Coming full circle, our ‘newest’ latest superintendent (the 4th in 6 years), Michael Thurmond, has placed himself on the board of a recently, hurriedly approved new DeKalb charter school — along with Jibari Simama.  But that’s not all — Simama (formerly known as Fred Lewis) was appointed as president of the college by a board that included former school board chair, Gene Walker — and coincidentally, superintendent Michael Thurmond serves on the school’s foundation’s advisory board.

Read more >> Interesting news from the DeKalb political network!

Interesting indeed!

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28 Responses to The slow implosion occurring in DeKalb County, Georgia

  1. We have to send out MAJOR KUDOS to the AJC for uncovering all of this corruption! Without their diligent investigative reporting, taxpayers would never have a clue as to how much of their money was being pilfered by their elected (and trusted) officials.

  2. For more on the web of relationships that control DeKalb politics, read our post >>
    Oh the connections, they are more tangled than ever

  3. Kirk Lunde says:

    I want to congratulate DSW2 on such a well written post which clearly lays out the current situation in DeKalb County.

    Thank you, AJC, for all of the investigative work.

    There is much more that should be looked into such as the DA’s failure to follow up on the recommendations of multiple grand juries. Why won’t he do his job?

    Earlier this month the AJC ran a story about millions of dollars being spent on legal fees by the school district which were hidden in the budget.
    Who authorized those payments?
    Where did the money go?
    Was there any graft involved?
    (Yes. That last one was a joke.)

    Will someone please begin investigating the school district? Leaving it up to Superintendent Thurmond is not going to lead to any answers.

  4. On another note — it appears we have taken on the most illegal immigrant children from the trains from South America >>

    Feds: Atlanta area counties received hundreds of immigrant children

    DeKalb County has become the top destination in Georgia for unaccompanied immigrant children and teenagers who are being apprehended on the U.S.-Mexico border, a new federal report shows.

    During the first seven months of this year, federal authorities placed 347 of the boys and girls in the care of sponsors in DeKalb. Gwinnett County has received the second highest number in Georgia at 266 followed by Cobb County, 138; Hall County, 85; Cherokee County, 65; and Fulton County, 64.

  5. Gail says:

    We also have not recovered the money lost to “buy out” (for lack of better wording) Johnny Brown and DOCTOR Cheryl Atkinson (as she insisted she be addressed), to say nothing about the relationship between Lewis and Berry… It is all shameful and deeply corrupt.

  6. And when last we checked, Dr. Jamie Wilson, demoted from head of HR to elementary principal was still being paid $158,000 (according to the last posted salary report for FY 2012).

  7. howdy1942 says:

    First, I also thank the AJC for its outstanding work and its sister station WSBTV. @Kirk – you asked some great questions. It was a pleasure to meet you at Lakeside.

    Why did Dekalb County not have the internal controls to uncover the problems that AJC/WSB found? That is very troubling.

    How long has this kind of crap been going on? (I don’t like to use that word, but that properly describes this situation?)

    Why did the District Attorney force the police department to “stand down” when Mr. Rader asked for a complete investigation? What is the District Attorney going to do about what is going on? After all, this is the same District Attorney who told us the the Dekalb County School System can police itself (Right!) Maybe the AJC/WSB team will get around to the DCSS!

    You know, I just paid my taxes this week and that amount was very significant. I’m also a senior citizen and must carefully manage my money in retirement. I’m sure that there are many other residents who really sacrificed to pay their taxes. I support strong police protection, strong fire protection, clean water and sewers, maintaining our road and adequately compensating people who provide the services we need. But the Dekalb County Commission seems to think they are somewhere above the residents they represent. They seem to think that they can set their own budgets and do what they want to do with no accountability to anyone.

    Ms. Boyer is a non-issue. She has resigned, She has admitted her wrong doing in Federal Court and she will be sentenced to prison next week.

    Sharon Barnes-Sutton needs to resign immediately. Paying your boyfriend to give you advice on how to be a commissioner? Really? Has he ever been a commissioner anywhere? What are his credentials? Do you have any documentation, materials, on anything that he produced for that $34,000 you paid him? You were warned in 2011 by the auditor to keep receipts and now you tell us that you did not know that you were supposed to keep receipts? Really?

    And about that speeding ticket that you got in Washington D.C. – Did Dekalb County speed or did you speed? Obviously, Dekalb County did not speed. Then why did you bill the County for your speeding ticket? Why should the people of Dekalb County who follow the laws and pay fines for breaking any laws be on the hook to pay for you breaking the law? The WSBTV anchor was beating himself on the head in disbelief of your poor judgment and audacity. I cannot imagine the reaction of a single boss I ever had if I had gotten a speeding ticket and tried to submit a voucher for the company to pay.

    Ms. Barnes-Sutton, what kind of example are you setting for our residents and our kids?

    Keeping receipts to prove expenses is not just good business, but it is common sense. If you hired a worker and he came for his money, would you just pay him/her without checking to insure that the work was done? Why didn’t you do that as Commissioner?

    Finally, a note to the District Attorney – get the Burrell Ellis case done. It just seems to drag on and on and your office does not appear to know what it is doing. I suppose that I’m still smarting from you comment that the Dekalb County School System can “police itself”, but I am very troubled by your calling the police off from investigating criminal activity. If you are going to do it, then tell us when you will begin.

    For now, I am one embarrassed citizen who lives in Dekalb County. Pitiful, just pitiful. To the other commissioners, it appears that just a few are making all of you look very, very bad. Clean it up and clean it out.

  8. DecaturMax says:

    When E Boyer’s transgressions first came out, none of the other commissioners criticized her behavior. Regardless of signing an agreement for the P-Card. That led me to think the abuse is more wide spread. What is most concerning is that this discretionary funds will probably be left as is…….just like the county purchasing process. Maybe we should consider paying commissioners double their salaries and and take away all of the freebies and the slush fund? Surely the net cost will be a huge savings. Commissioners and their office can buy lunch for themselves like the rest of us. I bet that would be the first pay raise for themselves, the commissioners would vote against. Some would probably not run again if you take the fun of spending large sums on whatever you want out of the equation.

  9. True, DecaturMax. But it’s like we’ve said ever since Cerebration started the first DeKalb School Watch and met Peyton Wolcott online — an online checkbook register would curtail a lot of corruption. If any taxpayer could log in to check an elected official’s spending, perhaps we could nip corruption in the bud…

    http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Checkbook_register_online

  10. Yesterday, a WSB reporter also reported the only invoices of the work they could find that Barnes-Sutton’s boyfriend did for her with any documentation was create business cards. Then they asked if he did any other work for anyone else in Dekalb government. The answer came back yes. Guess who it was, the Dekalb county DA, Mr. James. Guess what the documentation was that Dekalb could furnish that he created Business cards, again at some outrageous price.

    This simply explains why this DA is doing nothing, unless you happen to be a Dunwoody Jewish widow he will go after you for lie on the stand for having an affair with your boss.

    Now what is wrong with purchasing $9.99 or 19.99 Business cards at Office Depot, or staples. Why can’t his administrative assistant or secretary use Microsoft word templates and lay them out.

  11. Plan to pick up a Sunday paper to read the in-depth report…

    Posted: 5:33 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

    DeKalb County missed signs of Boyer’s kickback scheme

    By Johnny Edwards and Mark Niesse

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    For years, DeKalb County elected officials have been free to run up expenses, with no one inside the government bothering to ask if it was all legitimate.

    But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, then the FBI, dug into the records. Now ex-commissioner Elaine Boyer, the county’s longtime voice of fiscal conservatism, may be heading to federal prison for a $78,000 kickback scheme and taking thousands of dollars more with a county Visa card.

    Some simple accounting controls by DeKalb’s money managers could have exposed Boyer’s ruse almost four years ago, the AJC’s continuing investigation has found. Plenty of red flags were flapping.

    Had the county hired an internal watchdog, as it has discussed but never done, that person might have uncovered questionable spending by other commissioners, such as Stan Watson. Earlier this year, while he was running for reelection, Watson cut two checks that violated Georgia’s ethics law.

    “I’m just frustrated right now,” Interim CEO Lee May said. “The headlines, the accusations, the ethics claims and the criminal charges, as well, (are) more of an obstacle for us here, and we have to get beyond it.”

    There’s a reason so many headlines involve DeKalb: It has completely failed at self-policing, the AJC found. That created a free-for-all where commissioners could spend thousands of dollars and toss out the receipts; or raid the public’s coffers for tens of thousands of dollars through a phony consultant, and get away with it for years.

    For the full story, pick up a copy of Sunday’s newspaper or visit MyAJC.com.

  12. Disappointing – the check for this invoice for Stan Watson’s personal/political website was signed by Lee May… sigh!

    http://media.cmgdigital.com/shared/news/documents/2014/08/29/Watson_invoices.pdf

  13. howdy1942 says:

    This whole thing is getting so sickening. Why hasn’t the District Attorney’s office taken action to investigate this matter? Why did it take the FBI, the AJC, and WSBTV to perform this investigation and uncover these facts? Why didn’t we have the internal controls to expose this kind of thing?This makes Dekalb County look like a bunch of amateurs fumbling around in the dark. And don’t even start to tell me that it is a matter of resources – it’s a matter of priorities!!

    I’m mad as hell about this. Sound ethical conduct on the part of government officials who serve us is at the very heart of what is essential to make our form of government work. I simply cannot get over WSBTV’s report yesterday about Ms. Sharon Barnes-Sutton. Does she realize how really bad she came across? Works 5 times harder than other commissioners and spends 5 times as much? Gets a speeding ticket in Washington DC and bills the taxpayers? Pays her boy friend $34,000 and all she has to show are come business cards? The police get called to break up a fight with her boy friend wherein the report cites her for attacking him, punching him, ripping his glasses from his face, bending his windshield wipers? What kind of conduct is that for a County Commissioner? She needs to answer for her conduct and very soon.

    I now question the conduct and priorities of the District Attorney’s office. The scope of this matter is way beyond Dekalb County and the only solution is to have an independent, outside organization to investigate this matter. My preference is that the FBI get involved. I respect the work of Federal Attorney Sally Yates. I think that she should head the investigation and it ought to include all areas of the Dekalb County Government, including the conduct of the Dekalb County School System. We need to find out who those two board members who were advised by Crawford Lewis about Pat Pope and intentionally stopped him from firing her. That seems to me like they implicated themselves in this matter. We need to find out who the board members were that leaked that information during the last superintendent search. We need to investigate the expenses of the Dekalb County School Board and top administrations officials for at least the past 10 years. The conduct of Watershed Management should be investigated as well as the conduct of Vernon Jones. We need to take action on the recommendations of last year’s Grand Jury and investigate those people it believes may be involved in inappropriate conduct. The District Attorney has done nothing. Perhaps the office of Ms. Yates should take over the trial of Burrell Ellis because there seems to be some personal motivations on the part of both the District Attorney and Mr. Ellis.

    Enough is enough. This whole situation stinks and is increasingly becoming a source of great embarrassment and even humiliation to all of the good people of Dekalb County. To the Commission – stop stonewalling!!!! Stop trying to excuse this conduct!!!! For those of you who may have done nothing wrong, the misconduct of those who have demonstrated unethical and/or criminal conduct are making all of you look very, very bad. Do something – don’t just call the police chief and have him instructed to “stand down” by the District Attorney.

  14. dsw2contributor says:

    I suspect that Elaine Boyer is just the first of several Dekalb officials who will be facing federal indictments.

    (If I were Sally Yates, I would indict corrupt white officials first because that would make it a lot harder for the NAACP to claim I was a racist when I prosecuted corrupt black officials.)

  15. Refugee from DCSS says:

    Boyer’s chief aide needs to be investigated too.

  16. howdy1942 says:

    @dsw2contributor – I hope you are right! Elaine Boyer has committed crimes against the people she served. She has taken their money, She can apologize, admit her crimes, but violations of our laws have consequences. Her punishment must be adequate to send a clear message to all those who serve in Dekalb County – just don’t do it!

    I see now where Stan Watson wants to simply pay back the money that he took now that he has been caught. No – your conduct appears to have violated, at a minimum, our State’s ethics laws and there are consequences for doing that beyond just simply paying the money back because you were caught.

    And Sharon Barnes-Sutton. Well, you just need to fall you your sword and think about just facing up to what you have done with dignity and grace. At a minimum, you need to explain yourself with receipts, facts, and figures. You definitely took taxpayers’ money to pay for that speeding ticket. You need to produce those printers and scanners (hopefully, you did have them appropriately tagged by the County), and explain that $34,000 to your boyfriend. What were his qualifications/credentials? Has he ever been a commissioner anywhere? Is he certified to give such advice? Does he have college training to do so? Also, you have a personal responsibility to set a standard of behavior that would serve as an example to those you serve. Accordingly, you need to explain your conduct when you went to Mr. Mosby’s home and, according to police reports, assaulted him. After all, you are listed on the police report as the perpetrator. I’ve lived in Dekalb County for a long time and never have had the police called out to our house nor have any of our neighbors.

    I’m look forward to getting the trial of Burrell Ellis behind us. And I’m also looking forward to completing an investigation into all areas and persons cited in the grand jury report.
    .

  17. Your tour guide says:

    Sharon Barnes Sutton and the DA aren’t the only Dekalb politicians that have Mosby ties/ tithes.
    Atlanta City council person Natalie Archibong paid a measly $250 dollar fine after it was
    discovered that she had paid Mosby 11,000 for non-existent consulting services. Walter
    Mosby is Natalie Archibong’s brother. Her other brother is Howard Mosby, state rep for the
    8th district. Dekalb School watch has had interesting articles in the past about his doings.
    Archibong’s city of Atlanta district includes Kirkwood and East Lake. Both are located in
    Dekalb County, So any investigations concerning Dekalb corruption should have her included in them due to how her district is drawn.

  18. DSW2Contributor says:

    I hope and pray that Sally Yates does for Dekalb & Atlanta what Patrick Fitzgerald did for Chicago and the State of Illinois!

  19. The big news on this subject as most of you already know – former DeKalb school board member Nancy Jester has decided to run for the District 1 DeKalb Commission seat vacated by Elaine Boyer.

    Read more here >>

    Ex-school board member seeks county commission seat

    She sent out the following email announcement yesterday >>

    I’m running for the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

    Please join me to kick-off my campaign and discuss the reforms needed in DeKalb County government.

    Coffee Talk with Nancy
    Thursday, September 4th
    10am at Cafe Intermezzo
    4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road
    Dunwoody, GA 30346

    Hosts
    Sen. Fran Millar
    Sen. Josh McKoon
    Rep. Tom Taylor
    Councilman Terry Nall
    Councilman Denny Shortal
    Councilman Doug Thompson

    Hopefully, if she wins, she will keep the school system in the forefront of county discussions.

  20. howdy1942 says:

    Did I read it right in the AJC that the so-called ethics board in Dekalb County has scheduled a hearing for Elaine Boyer to consider “reprimanding” her? What? Why? Where have they been?

    Elaine Boyer has resigned from the Commission, pleaded guilty in Federal Court, and awaits sentencing that will likely include prison time. Why doesn’t this agency get on with other glaring matters, such as investigating Stan Watson and Sharon Barnes-Sutton? This is one more reason why I believe that Dekalb cannot/will not clean itself up – that can only be done by an outside party with the authority to clean it up. And it cannot or will not be done by the District Attorney and cannot or will not be done by the State whose Attorney General and Governor have their own ethical issues.

    I would welcome comments addressing the above question.

  21. dsw2contributor says:

    howdy1942 – “the so-called ethics board in Dekalb County has scheduled a hearing for Elaine Boyer to consider “reprimanding” her?”

    They’re going to reprimand her for having gotten caught!

  22. Yeah. They thought they had taught her better than that! Plus she had all these great role models in DeKalb County government and DeKalb County School District.

  23. Update on the Burrell Ellis trial >>

    Updated: 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 | Posted: 9:34 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014
    On tape, DeKalb CEO Ellis criticizes contractor that won’t give

    11:06 a.m. — Jurors heard the words of DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis as he spoke on a secret recording about county contractors and campaign contributions.

    Here’s a part of the transcript, recorded by DeKalb Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton during a meeting at Cafe Lily in Decatur:

    Ellis: Lichty Commercial Construction, I don’t understand why they won’t give. … They have a policy. They get a lot of our business.

    Walton: They do. I think they’re the low bid on something else that we just opened the other day.

    Ellis: Well, they have to understand that you don’t give something to get something, but they have this policy that they don’t feel comfortable giving to political campaigns. I just don’t — I have a real problem with them getting the level of business they get. Nobody’s asking them to do anything in exchange, but they’re one of the biggest beneficiaries of our work …

    Walton: Mm-hmm.

    Ellis: … On these invitation to bid, and they won’t give to a political campaign.

    Walton: They sure are.

    Ellis: They just won’t give. And that’s going to be part of the conversation. I mean people who don’t, who won’t support good government, and are a beneficiary of this good government.

    Walton: That’s right.

    Ellis: I mean … I never can promise people that they can get work.

    Walton: Right.

    Ellis: That’s illegal.

    Walton: Right.

    Ellis: But because we have a fair procurement process and we don’t play those games … they are benefiting that.

    Walton: That’s right.

    Ellis: And they have a policy. Kelvin, we’ve got to come up with a better way … maybe we shouldn’t be doing invitations to be on some of this stuff.

    Read more >> http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/key-government-witness-against-dekalb-ceo-ellis-te/nhTBN/

    +++

    Also read >> Updated: 5:17 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014 | Posted: 10:18 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014
    Testimony: DeKalb official feared for his job

  24. Today’s report on the Ellis trial >>

    Torpy: DeKalb’s seamy underbelly exposed

    By Bill Torpy

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Jurors in the corruption trial of Burrell Ellis get to choose between two versions of the suspended DeKalb County CEO.

    One, the version prosecutors are selling, is a venal shakedown artist, who illegally bullied county contractors into helping finance his 2012 re-election bid. The other, hardly more appealing, is equal parts grandiosity and tantrum-provoking insecurities.

    And how do we know this? Largely because an Ellis lieutenant, the county’s former procurement honcho, got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and, to save himself, turned snitch.

    Good company all around. Read the full sordid tale, only on MyAJC.com.

    Read more >> Just got back from the Ellis trial. Anybody got hand sanitizer?
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/torpy-dekalbs-seamy-underbelly-exposed/nhWSL/

  25. In another Bill Torpy article, we found this great quote by Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore to sum up the state of DeKalb and other area bureaucracies quite well >>

    “Sometimes I don’t know what I don’t know, but I want to know what I don’t know. But they don’t want me to know it.”

    -Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore

    +++

    Read more >> http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local/felicia-moore-a-thorn-in-the-side-of-atlantas-mayo/nhBjk/#e35d6412.3493094.735502

    +++

    And on the subject of education – here’s another important quote >>

    “Life’s hard. It’s even harder when you’re stupid.”
    ― John Wayne

  26. Wow. Read this one. Behind the pay wall but worth tracking down a copy >>

    Ellis attorney, prosecution witness exchange snide comments

    Star prosecution witness Kelvin Walton asked vendors to give cash to help suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis’s aide to save her house but he didn’t tell his boss that he was collecting contributions for her.

    Walton had testified earlier that Nina Hall was about to lose her house. So he turned to certain vendors and individuals because “I had opened doors for these types of contractors… so that’s why I went to them.

    “They knew this wasn’t a bribe. They knew I was helping Ms. Hall,” Walton said.

    The money was given in cash, Walton said, because that was the methods the donors preferred.

    He also testified that Hall served on the committee that evaluated contracts with the county and some of those contracts may have been held by the companies or individuals who help her.

    Walton testified that he didn’t tell Ellis he was soliciting donations for the woman who was the CEO’s administrative assistant.

  27. Attorneys representing suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis are becoming increasingly frustrated that prosecutors are giving them no warning of which clips they are planning to play for the jury hearing the public corruption trial.

    Craig Gillian complained he spends a good bit of time trying to find places on the copies of transcripts he has as tapes are being played.

    The judge said she was have the same struggles but she cannot order prosecutors to play entire tapes rather than snippets.

    ++++

    So… just curious. Is there a reason they can’t have these files electronically? It’s so easy to do a search on a Word doc or a pdf (as long as it’s not a scan).

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