GBI: No new criminal allegations due to DeKalb corruption report - CBS46 News


GBI: No new criminal allegations due to DeKalb corruption report

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A letter from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the agency will not open any new criminal investigations into allegations against those named in a report alleging widespread corruption among public officials in DeKalb County.

The letter, obtained exclusively by CBS46 Wednesday afternoon, said the GBI and the FBI worked together to dig deeper into the report, which alleged county commissioners had misused county credit cards.

"It is our view the report contained no new criminal allegations that warranted further investigation by the GBI," Vernon M. Keenan said in the letter.

The letter said the GBI reached out to the FBI to review the report. According to Keenan's letter, the federal agency was already aware of many of the allegations in the report, and said because some of the allegations were related to ethics rules, they "could not be prosecuted criminally."

Report sent shockwaves across county

Mike Bowers, a former Georgia Attorney General, and Richard Hyde, an investigator who worked under him, conducted the investigation at a cost of $850,000 at DeKalb County CEO Lee May's request.

May has persistently denied the allegations in the report, which include that he took a loan from a subordinate and was taking steps to have a county vendor help him with his financial problems. Bowers and Hyde stand by their investigation.

“I hate to call anybody a liar. Those are strong words," said Bowers. "But [Lee May] is lying.”

May was tapped to become CEO after his predecessor, Burrell Ellis, was indicted on charges he shook down contractors for campaign contributions. Ellis was later convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison. 

Following the release of the report and associated fallout, county commissioners, many of whom were named in the report, said they needed to undergo ethics training. One of those who was not named, Mereda Davis Johnson, proposed ethics training for commissioners.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve had no ethics training. I have not been presented a code of ethics," Johnson said. "and so I think that may be a big problem.”

ICEO Lee May released the following statement:
“It is encouraging that we have a sense of closure in this area.  Meanwhile, we will continue to cooperate with all other investigative agencies as they complete their work.  As I’ve said before, the vast majority of DeKalb Employees are honest, hard-working and dedicated, but if there is criminal wrongdoing by any DeKalb County employee, that employee should be held accountable for his or her actions.”

Commissioner Nancy Jester released this statement:

"We have learned today that the GBI has finalized their review of Bower-Hyde report pursuant to the request of Governor Nathan Deal.

"The letter from Director Vernon Keenan indicates the proper federal and local law enforcement authorities have investigated or, are investigating, some of the matters discussed in the report.     

"Given the current status of these investigations the GBI has concluded their review of the report. 

"I appreciate the Governor's and the GBI's attention to these matters in DeKalb.  There remain unanswered questions and competency issues that erode the credibility of county government.  Hopefully the hard work of the local and federal authorities cited in Director Keenan's letter will shed light on some of these issues.  

"We continue to have watershed, sanitation, and financial control issues.  Recently, iCEO Lee May, has taken some decisive and bold steps to address competency issues in DeKalb County government.  He has brought in new, professional leadership to watershed and changes are being made to their staff and operations to improve this function.  We have a new and experienced interim Chief Financial Officer who is tasked with reforming that department while a national search is underway.  Additionally, there are ongoing reviews and restructuring of other county departments.   

"The voters of DeKalb also took an important and thoughtful step forward by approving a new Ethics Board.   

"While we have much work still before us.  There are more people who need to be held to account for their behavior.   But, please know that I am cautious, yet encouraged, by the recent changes.  These changes have happened because the people of DeKalb stood up and have been vocal about important reforms and changes they wanted to see.  

"I will continue to focus a spotlight on DeKalb and work to expose any waste and fraud I find.  I will continue to push for improvements in county operations.  DeKalb taxpayers, businesses, and residents deserve an efficient, cost-effective, and customer service oriented government.  

"The most important power to accomplish these things resides at the ballot box.  Voters can reform government by sending public servants of high moral character to office in 2016."

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