DeKalb County, GA, March 18, 2015 – by Trey Benton – Before signing an Executive Order appointing former State Attorney General Mike Bowers to dig deeply into the internal operations of DeKalb County Government, Interim CEO Lee May stated emphatically, “I’ve made it clear, there is no tolerance for corruption in my administration. There is no tolerance for unethical conduct in my administration.”
May told reporters at a Press Conference held at the law offices of Balch & Bingham, LLC, where Bowers is a Partner, that Bowers will have “unfettered access” to review Government Operations and ferret out any “conflicts of interests, corruption or malfeasance” and make recommendations to authorities based on their findings.
Bowers, who took center stage in investigating the recent Atlanta Public Schools standardized test cheating scandal, said he will begin with a team of around five including Richard Hyde, Chief Investigator at Balch & Bingham.
“I’ve been around Government for a long long time,” Bowers said. “I want this message to go out loud and clear to the employees and officials of DeKalb County. I believe without any reservations the vast majority of you are honest, decent, hard working people. We start from that premise. There are some bad apples. Woe be unto you.”
ICEO May said the Special Investigators have been retained for a minimum initial term of 120 days, subject to extensions by May as needed.
The funding for this Special Investigative team does not have a formal definitive number assigned to it, but, May said, the County “can’t afford not to do this. We are willing to spend what is necessary to root out corruption and identify waste, fraud and abuse.”
According to the signed Executive Order, Mr. Bowers and all attorneys will bill a flat rate of $400.00 per hour, Mr. Hyde and all investigators will bill a flat rate of $300.00 per hour and Paralegals will bill at $150.00 per hour.
The Special Investigative Team will not have access to those on the Board of Commissioners unless they are allowed access by the Commissioners themselves.
The Post reached out to all of the Commissioners and asked if they will allow the investigators access.
Commissioner Jester commended May for his leadership in issuing the Executive Order and said, “I support any and all efforts to improve county operations, as well as restore our image and public trust in county government. I am making any and all records of the District One Commission Office available to the special investigators and I will cooperate in any manner they might request of me to help them in this effort.”
Commissioner Kathie Gannon said, “I will fully cooperate with any investigations.” But, Gannon said, in order to have a truly independent investigation one should be performed by an outside agency that isn’t being funded by the County.
In a conversation with Gannon, she reminded us that she is the one who introduced a resolution for an audit of all of the Commissioners, including herself, just last year when allegations of misuse of county issued purchasing cards surfaced.
Gannon also questioned the timing of this move by May, given the fact that there were recommendations given by his own Governmental Operations Task Force that resulted in Bills being introduced in the General Assembly to reform DeKalb.
One of which (SB121), specifically calls for an independent internal audit.
Commissioner Jeff Rader told us that he would afford the investigators any access that they request but shared Gannon’s sentiment that for a truly impartial investigation to take place, it should be done by investigators that have no connection to the County in any way.
The Post left voice messages with the offices of Commissioners Larry Johnson, Sharon Barnes-Sutton and Stan Watson but have not heard back as of the time of this story. Once we do we will provide an update.