CVI UGA Holistic View of Impact of County Video Presentation of the Meeting https://dekalbcountyga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2698
Welcome to the land of Oz and secret meetings
CVI UGA Holistic View of Impact of County Video Presentation of the Meeting https://dekalbcountyga.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2698
Welcome to the land of Oz and secret meetings
Roderick L. Wyatt, 61, of Stone Mountain, has been charged with accepting bribe payments in exchange for approving the enrollment of almost 20 students to a local college, through a federal workforce program in DeKalb County. The federal indictment alleges that Wyatt agreed to accept payments from the college president for each student sent to the college through WorkSource DeKalb, a federally funded program.
“Wyatt allegedly sold his supervisory position with WorkSource DeKalb for cash. In doing so, he allegedly accepted a “bounty” for each student sent to a specific college,” said U. S. Attorney John A. Horn.
“An important mission of the Office of Inspector General is to investigate allegations of fraud relating to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of allegations,” said Rafiq Ahmad, Special Agent in Charge, Atlanta Region, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.
According to United States Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a federal public law designed to improve and modernize America’s workforce development system by providing dislocated and low-income individuals with the skills and education needed to obtain employment and by providing employers with trained and qualified workers to fill employment vacancies.
WorkSource DeKalb (formerly DeKalb Workforce Development) was a DeKalb County department funded exclusively by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. WorkSource DeKalb (“WSD”) served the unemployed and underemployed citizens of DeKalb County by providing work readiness programs, services, and activities necessary to obtain sustainable wages. Using federal funds, WSD paid the cost for unemployed and underemployed individuals to attend pre-screened schools or programs where the individuals gained the technical or vocational skills needed to obtain employment in fields such as nursing, truck driving, or welding. After reviewing the unemployed individuals’ career aspirations and educational interests, WSD staff members recommended the individuals to particular pre-screened schools or programs.
From 2013 to April 2017, Wyatt served as a WSD Employment and Training Supervisor. As a supervisor, Wyatt reviewed and approved the school/program recommendations made by WSD staff members.
In 2014, the president and founder of a pre-screened school that offered its students nursing assistant and medical technician certifications approached Wyatt and offered to pay him for each individual that WSD referred to the College. In 2014 and 2015, Wyatt approved the enrollment of approximately 19 students to the College. The College’s president paid Wyatt $100 for each student approved to attend his school. In total, the College received approximately $82,000 in federal funds under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The name of the college has not been identified in the Information or any of the court pleadings.
This case is being investigated by the Department of Labor – Office of the Inspector General and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey W. Davis and Special Assistant United States Attorney Tyler Man prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.
State Representative Vernon Jones (D-Lithonia) today announced that he will introduce legislation that would create a state commission on historic monuments during the 2018 legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly.
“The recent events in Charlottesville, Va., have spurred on calls for the removal of historical monuments and artifacts that honor a dark era in Georgia’s history,” said Jones. “While I have my personal beliefs on the matter, I propose that a bipartisan, systematic and transparent study be conducted in an effort to arrive at an inclusive solution.”
Should this legislation pass and be enacted, this commission would hold statewide hearings to discuss historic monuments and artifacts, and would make recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly regarding monument placement and the possibility of adding new monuments that hold historic value to the citizens of Georgia.
“Hysteria and knee jerk reactions are not the solution. Sensitive subjects such as this deserve calm, practical and open dialogue. A house divided cannot stand, and Georgians must show the nation that we can unite for the greater good,” added Jones.
Commission members would reflect and represent a broad spectrum of interest on the subject, and would include, but not be limited to, preservationists, historians and advocacy groups.
Jones represents the citizens of District 91, which includes portions of DeKalb and Rockdale counties.
Posted: 6:01 p.m. Friday, April 24, 2015
Ch. 2 Investigation reveals possible kickback to DeKalb officials
By Jodie Fleischer
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County’s Interim CEO Lee May is calling for an investigation into a $4,000 check with his name on it, saying he didn’t endorse it, or receive the money from it when it was cashed.
A Chanel 2 Action News – Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation uncovered the check while looking into work done at May’s home which was paid for by DeKalb taxpayers. The vendor who did the work went on to win hundreds of thousands of dollars in DeKalb contracts.
“Absolutely, I plan on having a conversation to figure out what the hell was done, excuse my French,” May told investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
“Morris [Williams] contacted me and said, ‘Doug, Lee’s having some financial trouble, is there any way you can help him out?'” Cotter recounted.
May was a DeKalb commissioner at the time, and had just filed bankruptcy.
Cotter got the check from a water removal and restoration company that had just completed work at May’s home in January.
“It could have been a reimbursement check. Yes, but it wasn’t my signature on it and I’m not sure how the check got out there,” said John Meyer, who used to own that company, Water Removal Services.
Cotter says it couldn’t be a reimbursement, because the county directly paid for the work at May’s house, roughly $6,500. But the $4,000 check was made out to Lee May, personally, six days later.
Cotter says he delivered it to Morris Williams because he was close friends with him and saw him more often than he saw May, since Williams was the commissioners’ chief of staff he worked at the Decatur office full time.
Within a few days, Cotter says he heard from Morris Williams again.
“Morris asked me, ‘Doug, is there any way you can cash this for Lee?’ said Cotter, “I said sure, I know both of them.”
Cotter’s family owns a liquor store with a check cashing business inside, and he admits he’s the one who turned that check into $4,000 cash.
“I handed that money to Morris Williams and that was the last time I saw it,” said Cotter, “I was hoping it was going to the intended use , to help Lee [May] and his family.”
“I’m answering this very clearly,” said May, “That is not a check that was cut to me. I’ve never received $1 let alone $4000.”
The contract connection
Records show two weeks after that check cleared, bidding opened on a new county contract for water removal. Cotter submitted a bid for the same company that had done the work at May’s home, Water Removal Services, and won the contract.
“I never wanted to participate down there to begin with, that’s why we never took that contract,” said Meyer, the company’s former owner, “We just kind of backed out.”
But Meyer says Cotter still wanted the contract badly.
In fact, three days before Cotter placed the Water Removal Services bid, he reserved the name for his own new company. Haw Creek Restoration went on to make more than $300,000 in DeKalb work.
“If it’s a situation where a brand new company is getting work and they didn’t compete after it, absolutely not, that should not occur,” said May.
But it did occur. May has asked DeKalb County’s new purchasing director to investigate why it was allowed.
Fleischer asked Cotter if the $4,000 had anything to do with his bid to win that contract.
“No!” Cotter replied, “No. Lee had nothing to do with the bidding process.”
Lee May says he also had nothing to do with that check.
“It is absolutely not my signature,” said May, adding that he didn’t even know the check existed.
Fleischer pulled samples of Lee May’s signature from official county records, as well as samples of Morris Williams’ handwriting, since Cotter says when he got the check back from Williams it was already endorsed with May’s name on the back.
The “M” in May appears to resemble the “M” in Morris Williams’ regular signature.
After 17 years with the county, Williams abruptly retired last month, just as the FBI began investigating all of this. Williams had since been promoted to the position of deputy chief operating officer.
Morris Williams declined our request for an on-camera interview. By phone, he would only say Cotter’s version of events “did not happen that way.” Williams said he did not receive “that amount of money” from Cotter, but he refused to comment when Fleischer asked whether he ever gave May any money.
May has been particularly vocal in his efforts to root out DeKalb corruption since he’s taken over as interim CEO. He forwarded all of the records Channel 2 requested and a copy of the $4,000 check to the GBI, FBI, the district attorney and local law enforcement to prove he’s serious about getting to the bottom of it.
“For someone to benefit off my name, that’s inappropriate, that’s illegal and they need to be dealt with,” said May.
Updated: 8:43 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, 2015 | Posted: 6:23 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, 2015
DeKalb CEO launches investigation into own county
By Richard Belcher and Jodie Fleischer
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The man heading up DeKalb County has ordered a comprehensive review of operations in his county in search of corruption.
Interim CEO Lee May announced Wednesday that he’s launching an investigation and he wants all 6,000 employees to cooperate.
The investigation will employ two of the people who spent 10 months digging into the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde will have unfettered authority to look at whatever they want.
Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May’s announcement comes on the heels of a year-long Channel 2 Action News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation exposing misspending, corruption and theft within DeKalb County government.
Our reporting led the district attorney’s investigators and the FBI to file records requests to obtain many of the same records we did; it has already led to guilty pleas, ongoing criminal investigations and more than $25,000 repaid to DeKalb taxpayers.
Last April, May rewrote the county’s purchasing card policy after our investigation caught then-Commissioner Elaine Boyer spending taxpayer dollars on airline tickets, family vacations and other personal expenses. She resigned, and pleaded guilty to federal charges after we uncovered her scheme to pay a man who didn’t do any work but billed more than $80,000 and then funneled much of it back to Boyer’s personal bank account.
“To the people of DeKalb, I’m just deeply, deeply sorry,” Boyer told investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.
Last June, we exposed Commissioner Stan Watson’s use of taxpayer money to pay for his personal cellphone, even though he also had a county-issued phone. He agreed to pay back about $5,000. Watson said at the time he believed it was permissible, but agreed to stop because Channel 2 was asking about it.
He has not repaid roughly $1,800 in taxpayer money spent to operate his campaign website, exposed after an investigation in September.
Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton and her aide failed to provide receipts for more than $45,000 spent with county debit cards. Sutton said she didn’t know she was required to keep receipts. She said she didn’t know she used taxpayer dollars to pay a $130 speeding ticket she got while driving a rental car at an out-of-town conference. She also paid more than $30,000 to her boyfriend, as a consultant.
“Every dime I’ve spent has been spent for the public interest,” Barnes Sutton said.
Just last month we exposed questions about a phony ethics opinion that allowed DeKalb Development Authority Chairman Vaughn Irons to win a million-dollar contract for his personal development company, APD Solutions.
Watson voted on that contract, even though he was on Irons’ payroll at the time.
“I apologize to the citizens if I did that, I didn’t know I did that,” Watson told Fleischer.
In mid-February, former DeKalb zoning official Jerry Clark pleaded guilty to taking a bribe from a nightclub owner who wanted a special land use permit. That vote was the subject of a Channel 2 Action News investigation in 2012.
Former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is facing a 14-count indictment accusing him of shaking down vendors for campaign contributions and manipulating contracts, among other things. His first trial ended in a hung jury; the retrial is scheduled for later this year.
During the original Ellis trial, state’s witness and unindicted co-conspirator Kelvin Walton, the former DeKalb purchasing director, admitted vendors gave him cash to help a secretary out of financial trouble. That secretary also sat on numerous selection committees to award contracts.
4:25 p.m. — An Austell company stopped getting calls to service county-owned generators soon after telling suspended DeKalb Chief Operating Officer Burrell Ellis the business would not contribute to his 2012 re-election campaign, a witness testified Tuesday.
Eneida Robles, who at the time worked for Power and Energy Services, had taken three calls in 2012 from Ellis trying to reach one of the business’ owners to ask for money for his re-election race.
Robles said she told him each time “we could not contribute to his campaign” and he became angry. She testified that Ellis said he would contact the county’s purchasing office the company did not want to service DeKalb.
Soon the calls to service DeKalb County generators stopped, Robles testified.
“They told us we couldn’t service DeKalb County until further notice,” Robles said. “I knew our service people were not going out to any annuals (yearly inspections).” Court is in recess until Wednesday morning.
3:50 p.m. — A former employee of an Austell company described in court the tense conversation she had with suspended DeKalb County Chief Operating Officer Burrell Ellis when she told him the business would not contribute to his 2012 re-election campaign.
The contract Power and Energy Services had with DeKalb County to service generators was relatively new and she feared she would lose her job at the small business after Ellis threatened to withhold business.
Eneida Robles testified that she took three calls from Ellis, asking to speak with one of the company owners. Each time she told Ellis co-owner Brandon Cummings was out of the office on a service call, as were her instructions. She had been told calls from Ellis should be treated as a solicitation.
When the third call from Ellis came a few days after the first two, Robles said she checked with her boss before giving Ellis a response to his request to speak to Cummings about a campaign contribution.
“When I got back on the phone, I told him that at this time we were not interested in his services, in providing campaign funds, that we could not contribute to his campaign,” she testified. “He was pretty angry with the fact that he couldn’t get Brandon on the phone. He told me ‘if you don’t want to service DeKalb County then I will contact the purchasing manager over there.’ When I said again we could not contribute, he got more angry. The tone was not a good tone.”
Minutes later, a call came from the head of DeKalb’s purchasing office, Kelvin Walton, she testified.
“I was pretty much worried about my job because I thought I had cost them the contract,” Robles testified.
2:38 p.m. — The first three witnesses called in the trial of suspended DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis offered jurors a quick tutorial on government operations and campaign finance reporting but their testimony didn’t get t o the heart of the corruption case.
A member of the special purpose grand jury that discovered the alleged corruption testified that the 23 members of the panel were assembled first to look at the Department of Watershed Management but their charge was they could examine other county agencies.
Jimmy Davis,the first witness in the trial that could last six weeks, mostly read from the court order that created the 23-person special grand jury, which completed its work in January 2013, and he responded to questions such as how often the grand jury met.
Davis was quickly followed by the head of DeKalb’s elections and voter registration office and then an investigator with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, also known at the State Ethics Commission, both to take about the mechanics and requirements of campaign reporting.
None of the three — Davis, Maxine Daniels with the county Office of Voter Registration and Elections and Ethics Commissioner investigator Bethany Whetzel — were asked about the charges of extortion, criminal attempt to commit extortion, bribery and perjury, against Ellis.
Daniels testified the outcome of elections in 2008 and 2012 when Ellis won the vote for DeKalb CEO.
Whetzel explained information contained on Ellis’ campaign disclosure reports.
12:07 p.m. — There will be no evidence any vendor lost a contract because they didn’t contribute to the 2012 re-election campaign of suspended DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis, one of his defense attorneys said in opening statements in just-started corruption trial.
Defense attorney Dwight Thomas said Ellis didn’t have the authority to revoke contracts of more than $50,000 and once jurors hear secretly recorded conversations in their entirely — rather than just the snippet prosecutors played in their opening statement — they will understand that Ellis was not threatening anyone.
He was angry, however, that some vendors did not return his phone calls, Thomas said.
“He (Ellis) will say they don’t have to give (to his campaign) but they can’t be not returning phone calls.,” Thomas said. “They have to show respect for the office.”
11:35 a.m. — One of the attorneys defending suspended CEO Burrell Ellis told jurors they will see he did nothing to personally enrich his bank account or that he took kickbacks from vendors with DeKalb County contracts.
Defense attorney Dwight Thomas said the vendor records prosecutors say Ellis broke the law to get were available to any citizen, just for the asking.
“There will not be one single piece of evidence that Burrell Ellis asked for a bribe or solicited a bribe,” Thomas said. “There will be no evidence Burrell Ellis willfully lied to a special purpose grand jury….There is no evidence Chief Executive Officer Burrell Ellis took, stole or skimmed any political funds from any campaign.”
Thomas said Ellis at all times “acted within the power and the scope and the responsibilities” of the CEO’s office.
But assistant district attorney Lawanda Hodges, before wrapping up her 38-minute opening statement, played a brief clip from a recording of Ellis telling the county employee over contracts to cut off a vendor who refused to contribute to Ellis’ 2012 re-election campaign, or to “dry him up.”
Hodges said Ellis is guilty of theft by extortion, criminal attempt to commit extortion, bribery and perjury.
10:59 a.m. — A DeKalb County prosecutor told jurors power, punishment and perjury were at the core of the case against former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis.
Assistant District Attorney Lawanda Hodges said Ellis used his power over an appointed agency head to get a list of vendors and phone numbers to use for soliciting campaign contributions.
He also tried to use that power over vendors to raise money for his 2012 re-election effort and then he threatened to pull lucrative work from companies that didn’t pay up.
Ellis was relentless, even after vendors said “no” and even after vendors said they were no longer interested in doing business with DeKalb, Hodges said.
And when asked before a special purpose grand jury about those threats, he lied, Hodges said.
10:09 a.m. — Even before the jury was brought in for opening statements Tuesday the defense team for suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis suffered two losses.
DeKalb Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson rejected defense attorney Craig Gillen’s efforts to show prosecutors may have tampered with a witness. Through his questions Gillen focused on assistant district attorney Lawanda Hodges’ email to subpoenaed witness Nina Hall in which the prosecutor included questions and proposed answers that Hodges said came from numerous prep sessions with Hall, a one-time Ellis aide.
Then the judge said prosecutors could use some recordings of Ellis talking about contracts in their opening statement.
9:37 a.m. – Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, with his wife sitting behind him and surrounded by his attorneys, is getting his day in court.
Fifteen months after he was first indicted, opening statements in his corruption trial are to begin Tuesday with 12 black women, two black men and two white women — 12 jurors and four alternates — seated to decide if Ellis committed extortion and bribery to advance his political career.
Opening statements, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., were delayed, however, because all the jurors had not arrived at court. In the meanwhile, the judge heard from attorneys any outstanding motions.
The first issue was whether to quash a subpoena for Nina Hall, a former top aide to Ellis. Hall is expected to decline to answer questions out of concern for self-incrimination unless she is granted immunity.
Prosecutors, led by DeKalb District Attorney Robert James, say the man who once ran DeKalb government and oversaw its $1.2 billion annual budget also strong-armed county vendors into giving him campaign cash.They say they will show Ellis illegally mixed county business with his 2012 re-election campaign by threatening county contractors unless they donated.
“The evidence will not show that Ellis is simply a ‘heavy-handed campaigner,’ but will show that he is an extortionist,” wrote Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Leonora Grant in one of the hundreds documents unsealed on Tuesday.
Ellis’ defenders are expected to counter that while Ellis was aggressive in raising campaign funds — $1.5 million — he never linked support for his re-election with winning lucrative county business.
But previously sealed pre-trial rulings will limit Ellis top-tier defense team.
Superior Court Judge Courtney Johnson ruled previously that Ellis can’t claim he was set up and his attorneys can’t ask witnesses if they thought an alleged victim of Ellis’ was racist. Johnson also decided that jurors can hear about vendors not included in the indictment who Ellis hit up for campaign contributions.
For complete coverage, visit MyAJC.com.
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