Lawsuits Filed Against Fulton County Government 12-02-2010 - CBS46 News

Lawsuits Filed Against Fulton County Government 12-02-2010

Wendy Saltzman, CBS Atlanta Investigates
FULTON COUNTY, Ga.Stunning allegations of corruption fraud, and sexual favors are all outlined in a lawsuit filed against Fulton County government officials today.
The lawsuit claims the Fulton County manager and county commissioners conspired to cover up a rash of criminal activity within the county's top ranks. It also alleges two top county employees were fired for doing their jobs and exposing criminal conduct, theft and abuse.
The details from two lawsuits filed in Fulton County Superior Court and made public Thursday.
The complaints claim Fulton County's top elected officials plotted to cover up fraud and criminal conduct to avoid being ousted from their elected posts. Specifically the lawsuit claims County Manager Zachery Williams demoted and fired the former Deputy County Manager Gwendolyn Warren chief of the now defunct Office of Professional Standards, Maria Colon, to avoid leaks about criminal conduct by other county employees.
"Mr. Williams said to her, 'Don't put anything in writing. Now is not the time. Let the elections pass,'" attorney Lee Parks said.
Parks represents both whistle-blowers who filed suits. The lawsuits say the Office of Professional Standards was dissolved before Colon could forward information to the district attorney about evidence of a conspiracy to steal public money, the solicitation of sexual favors, waste and abuse.
"They didn't just find a few things, they found a lot of things wrong," Parks said of his clients.
Lee says the Office of Professional Standards was dissolved over night, following a closed-door meeting with the County Commission.
"Immediately following that meeting, Mr. Williams told Ms. Warren, 'Several commissioners want you gone today. This will be your last day.'" Parks said.
"That is totally false," Commissioner Robb Pitts responded.
Pitts was the only county official to respond to our request for an interview about the lawsuit. He denies there was every any attempt by the commission to hide anything.
"You are saying there never was a cover-up?” Investigative Reporter Wendy Saltzman asked.
"Never was a cover-up. Never any discussion about a cover-up. Never was there any discussion about holding off on an investigation until after the election. Nothing like that ever happened," Pitts said.
Pitts said the county commission was never involved in the decision to create an Office of Professional Standards or to dissolve it. And he said there was never any attempt on the part of commissioners to sweep any evidence of corruption under the rug.
"Why was that office dissolved?" Saltzman asked.
"The board didn't set it up and the board didn't dissolve it. If the county manager set it up, created it, and did away with it, that is a question you will have to ask the county manager," Pitts said.
But Williams, the county manager, wouldn't speak with us.
A written response from the county attorney said the lawsuits are incorrect. It calls the whistle-blowers "disgruntled employees."


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