Allegations of public corruption not investigated by GA attorney general


CBS46 News has learned allegations of public corruption within the University System of Georgia have not been investigated by the office of Attorney General Sam Olens, which is now defending two lawsuits related to the claims.

The suits filed individually by former Georgia Perimeter College president Anthony Tricoli and University of Georgia professor Dezso Benedek accuse various USG officials and Olens himself with violating the state's RICO statute.

You can read Benedek's lawsuit here and Tricoli's lawsuit here.

The office of attorney general is constitutionally required to prosecute public corruption within government and defend state agencies in litigation.

When asked why the office had not investigated the allegations, Olens' spokesperson Lauren Kane said "[n]either Benedek nor Tricoli have made any credible allegations that warrant action by this office."

"I think this is corruption on a level I can't even quantify," Benedek told CBS46 investigative reporter Jeff Chirico during an interview in 2013. "The [UGA] administration reserves the right to cheat and lie and do whatever they please."

Benedek survived an attempt by UGA administration to revoke his tenure in 2010. According to his lawsuit, a dean manufactured evidence to frame Benedek. In doing so, the lawsuit alleges he shared private student information with a third party.

The lawsuit, which is filed in Fulton County Superior Court, goes on to allege an assistant attorney general who prosecuted the tenure revocation withheld evidence that disproved a major allegation in her case. She's accused of moving forward with the hearing anyway, telling witnesses their lies would be protected by sovereign immunity.

A panel ruled that Benedek could keep his job but Benedek said the accusations have ruined his reputation. He wants to clear his name by proving university officials conspired to oust him because he openly and regularly criticized the university administration.

"[The attorney general and university administration] attempted to take away [Benedek's] job, take away his pension, destroy his life and livelihood based on charges they knew were false," said attorney Stephen Humphreys, who represents both Benedek and Tricoli.

Tricoli claimed he was forced from his job over false financial mismanagement allegations.

"I was set up. I was lied to," said Tricoli.

Tricoli's lawsuit contends finance officials manipulated the college budget to frame him. The budget director allegedly told Tricoli GPC's budget had a surplus while telling the Board of Regents officials that GPC was "careening...into the red."

It goes on to allege that Rob Watts, USG Chief Operating Officer and Two-Year College Sector Head, withheld budget information from Tricoli "in order to bring about Tricoli's demise." Watts assumed Tricoli's position after he left in 2012 and currently still serves as interim GPC president.

Humphreys said Olens should have investigated the cases instead of defending them.

Olens' court filings don't dispute facts in the two complaints but has requested that the court dismiss the complaints because state workers are immune from civil lawsuits.

Humphreys disagrees and says the state's RICO statute allows him to sue government workers.

"Every time I receive a pleading from the attorney general's office containing misrepresentations of fact, misrepresentations of law, which they all do, I'm even more determined that this cannot be the way the state government of Georgia conducts itself," said Humphreys.

It is still not clear how Olens' office determined the allegations didn't warrant an investigation.

A hearing in Tricoli's case is set for Sept. 22 in DeKalb County Superior Court.

Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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