COVE Report – October 6, 2015

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Events

Cityhood Debate at Lakeside High

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Here is a recording of the debate held between DeKalb Strong and LaVista Hills organizers on the subject of the referendum November 3, 2015 for the incorporation of the new city of LaVista Hills. Click here

LaVista Park Fall Festival

Saturday, October 17: Noon – 4:00 pm
Corner of Wild Creek & Brookforest
• Free food & drinks
• Silent Auction
• Many Raffle Items
• Children’s Activities
Click here

Cityhood Forum

Monday, October 19, 2015
Young Israel, 2056 Lavista Rd, Atlanta, GA 30329
Hosted by Senator Elena Parent
Time to be determined

Senate Study Committee on Annexation, De-annexation & Incorporation

Wednesday, October 21: 2:00 -5:00 pm
Tuesday, November 3: 9 AM-12 PM
Room 450 of the Capitol

Sen. Elena Parent has scheduled the last two meetings for the Senate Study Committee on Annexation, De-annexation, and incorporation. More details will follow as the agendas for both are finalized. You can also find the committee documents that have been posted online here
and the notes here
If you have any questions please contact Stephanie Tanner, Legislative Assistant to Sen. Parent, at Stephanie.Tanner@senate.ga.gov

Interim CEO Town Hall Meetings

Lee May is hosting “an up close face to face conversation concerning his Executive Order and the recent report that was released.”

Tuesday, October 13: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Lou Walker Senior Center
2538 Panola Rd., Lithonia, GA 30058

Thursday, October 15: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Tucker-Cofer Reid Library
5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084

Tuesday, October 20: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
2842 H.F. Shepard Drive, Decatur, GA 30032

Thursday, October 22: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Welcome Friend Baptist Church
3198 Bouldercrest Rd, Ellenwood, GA 30295

Don’t Forget to Vote! – DeKalb County Election

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/Voter/CurrentElectionInfo.html

On the ballot for Victoria Estates neighbors:
DEKALB COUNTY SPECIAL ELECTION
YES
NO
DeKalb County Board of Ethics Referendum
(Vote for One)
House Bill No. 597
Act No. 204
“Shall the Act be approved which revises the Board of Ethics for DeKalb County?

DeKalb County Reform Legislation

 

Pat Killingsworth – COVE President

In February 2014, a group of dedicated citizens came together at the request of Commissioner Kathie Gannon to form Blueprint to Reform DeKalb. This citizen committee determined that the initial issues that should be addressed in order to have the most immediate impact on reform involved oversight and transparency. Purchasing rules were written solely at the discretion of the CEO, were not published, and could be changed at any time, resulting in an open invitation to much of the corruption we have witnessed. Despite the fact that the position of Internal Auditor had been funded for well over five years, it had never been filled. No forensic or management audit of DeKalb County government had been performed for more than a decade, even though studies had been commissioned recommending both. And the Board of Ethics, appointed by the CEO and Board of Commissioners, was chronically underfunded, understaffed, and often without sufficient members to reach a quorum. Blueprint focused their attention on those three issues in pursuit of legislative reform.
After months of research by Blueprint members, consultations with several members of the Operations Task Force, and with the actions taken by Senators Elena Parent and Gloria Butler, and Representative Scott Holcomb, reform legislation was introduced in the Senate and the House this past session. House Bills 597 (Ethics), 598 (Purchasing), and 599 (Independent Internal Audit) passed with the unanimous consent of the DeKalb Delegation, the House, and with only one dissenting vote in the Senate. Many civic organizations were involved in getting the bills through the legislature, including DeKalb Strong, Good Growth DeKalb and DeKalb Citizens for Good Government. This past year has been clear proof of the fact that dedicated citizens in this county can, and do, make a profound difference in the governance of this county.
After being signed into law by the Governor in May, the purchasing and audit reforms went into effect on July 1st. The new Code of Ethics will be on the ballot in a referendum on November 3rd. A brief summary of the new legislation follows:
Purchasing reforms. Purchasing rules will continue to be written by the CEO, but now must be approved by the BOC before going into effect. Formal sealed bids will be required for all purchases exceeding $50,000. The BOC must approve all purchases exceeding $100,000, as well as all purchases from vendors who have more than one contract with the county. Subdividing contracts or subcontracts for the purpose of avoiding BOC approval will result in the contracts being void, and the contractor being subject to debarment from further contracting with the county. All purchasing contracts must be published on the county website within 30 days of approval.
Independent Internal Audit. A credentialed oversight committee is now being selected which will interview candidates for the position of Independent Internal Auditor, and will recommend 2-3 qualified individuals to the BOC for approval. The appointment of the auditor must be made by the BOC within 30 days of receipt of the nominations, or the oversight committee will make the appointment for them. The qualifications for the position are exacting and, once selected, the auditor and his/her office will be entirely independent of control by any other county official. The auditor is charged with performing both financial and performance audits, and has subpoena power. The auditor shall make annual reports to the audit oversight committee, the CEO and the BOC, and the report will be published on the county website in a retrievable fashion within 10 days of submission to the commission.
Ethics
*The Code of Ethics has been entirely rewritten, and is now consistent with national guidelines for local legislation. The board of ethics is completely independent and not subject to the control of any other officials, departments or agencies of county government. The seven members of the board will serve staggered 3-year terms and will be appointed by independent organizations, including the DeKalb County Bar Association, Chamber of Commerce, legislative delegation, probate court judge, chief judge of the superior court, a committee of the six major colleges and universities in DeKalb, and Leadership DeKalb. There are time limits on the appointments, and the members must be residents of DeKalb County and meet certain standards for service on the board that will ensure that there are no conflicts of interest.
* The list of persons subject to the jurisdiction of the code of ethics has been greatly expanded to cover not only commissioners and the CEO, but also all appointed officials, employees and contractors with the county, whether paid or unpaid.
* Prohibited conduct now also includes engaging in or rendering services for any agency, business or professional activity that is adverse to or incompatible with the discharge of official duties, effectively barring county elected and appointed officials, employees and contractors from providing the questionable consulting services that have recently come to light.
* A staff position of ethics officer has been created, and the officer shall be appointed by a majority of the ethics board, and confirmed by the BOC and CEO, to a term not to exceed six years. Among other duties, the ethics officer will be responsible for educating all county officials, employees and appointees on ethical conduct; monitoring a “hot line”; informing the board of all complaints and alleged violations of the ethics code; reporting suspected ethical violations to the board, and suspected criminal violations to law enforcement agencies; obtaining disclosure reports and making them available to the public; and filing an annual report with the Board of Ethics, CEO, BOC and the public.
* Complaints will be handled much more efficiently, with subject matter jurisdiction determined within 30 days, and hearings scheduled promptly once it is found that the board has jurisdiction to review the matter. Complaints that remain unresolved for months, sometimes more than a year, have been tremendously frustrating for not only the individuals who filed the complaints, but also the officials whose reputations remain in question until the case is resolved. These rules are designed to expedite advisory opinions, hearings and rulings by the board.
* Penalties for violations of the code of ethics will include a public reprimand; a fine not to exceed $1000.00; referral for prosecution by the Solicitor in state court and, upon conviction, a fine of up to $1000.00 per violation and up to six months imprisonment; in the case of a contractor, recommendation to the BOC and CEO that the contract be suspended, the contractor be disqualified from performing the contract, and/or debarment from contracting or subcontracting with DeKalb County in the future.
Upon reading the recent Bowers-Hyde Report on county corruption, it is clear that the very reforms that were envisioned by a citizens committee in 2014, and enacted in the legislature this year, are directly on point with the reforms necessary to combat the problems addressed in the report. As residents of DeKalb County, we have to take responsibility for monitoring the actions of our government, both through the oversight of county actions and through the election of honest and capable public officials. I urge you all to become more involved in community and county affairs, to help select and elect good county officials, and to VOTE!

County Corruption Report

Pat Killingsworth – COVE President
Attached for your review is the report by Michael Bowers and Richard Hyde summarizing the results of their investigation into county corruption that was commissioned by ICEO Lee May earlier this year. Responses by our Commissioners, Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader, are also included. I hope that you will thoroughly review the report and responses, and contact our commissioners with any specific concerns that you might have.

Regardless of the legal outcome of the past actions taken by members of the governing authority, the report raises a number of flags about county governance practices that must be addressed going forward. The recently enacted reform legislation certainly puts us on the right path, but no one will disagree that more needs to be done. We have a wealth of resources in the residents of Victoria Estates, and I hope that many of you will consider becoming an active contributor to turning this ship around.
Bowers and Hyde Report

Kathie Gannon Response – Statement on Bowers/Hyde Report

Dear Friends,

The Bowers Report was released this week and there are many conversations that will need to continue. First, I need to converse with you as a listing of some of my expenses has been included. This will also be sent to Mr. Bowers, the GBI, FBI, Attorney General and Governor.

As a County Commissioner serving the public, my duties include supporting my community. Among the ways I support my community are my office’s constituent services, public appearances, community meetings, dissemination of information, and – when appropriate and when manifestly in the public interest – expenditures from the commission discretionary budget intended to facilitate these things I do to support the community. My constituents expect this sort of involvement, and I am confident that they approve what I do. Each commission office, which operates much like a separate department, is allocated the same budget amount.

At the outset of this investigation I did two things. First, I requested a meeting with Mr. Bowers where I pledged my full cooperation and agreement to provide any information he sought. All supporting records or documents that were requested were delivered. It was my hope he would delve deeper, especially into Watershed where previous attempts to investigate were sidetracked and into those expenditures for which there is no work product. Second, I notified ICEO Lee May and our County Attorney and the public that without a contract, scope of service, and adherence to budgetary policy, controls and procurement procedures, that this venture was not legal and an example of poor management. It is unfortunate that the citizens of the County had to pay over $800,000.

Mr. Bowers takes a very hard line against contributions to non-profit organizations. As you will see in my expenditures report that follows, the non-profits are organizations that the county contracts with to run our senior centers, enhance our parks, or they help our libraries and school programs. All are services that are a priority to our citizens and the expenditures I have made are for specific needs, not some unrestricted, contribution for a tax exemption. Click for more

Commissioner Rader’s Response to the Report of the DeKalb Special Investigator

DeKalb Report of Special Investigators

In April of this year, Interim CEO Lee May took unilateral action under questionable authority to hire Mike Bowers, without a contract or budget, to serve as “Special Investigator” for DeKalb. Insofar as the County Attorney supported his authority to take this action, and given swirling scandals, I, with you awaited the results of Bowers’ investigation.

Now Bowers’ report is in, and I’m in it (as are all members of the Commission with over a year’s service). My first reaction was sticker shock ($885,000 or $22,700 per double-spaced page!) and disappointment in some sloppy errors and lack of consistent documentation. As a consequence, I’ll wait for the dust to settle on his conclusions about others. The Governor has announced a review by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that will provide some perspective, which based on his tone, I think Mr. Bowers has lost.

As it relates to me, I was offended by the tone and sweeping conclusion that working with non-profits to deliver services to DeKalb residents is evidence of corruption. With a government as dysfunctional as ours, partnering with public service organizations are often the only way we can serve residents. Below, you will find facts that refute Bowers’ assertion that my expenditures to non-profits are “gratuities”.
But I also I took a step back and explored the underlying law, and agree that we need better controls to differentiate between permissible and impermissible use of public funds; rules that if in place, would prevent the abuse that now overshadows DeKalb’s government. Because the legislature this year newly empowered the County to adopt enforceable laws governing procurement and contracting, that power is in hand, though the Administration has delayed a draft of a new purchasing code since the new law’s July 1 effective date. Also, with accusations of improper activity extending into the District Attorney’s office, now is the time to formally request an outside taskforce empowered with subpoena authority to take over the investigation.
Click for more

Can Lee May still lead?

Corruption report casts doubt on DeKalb CEO’s ethics, competence.
Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015
By Johnny Edwards and Mark Niesse – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With DeKalb County reeling from one corruption scandal after another, Lee May wanted to prove he could be trusted to lead.
So without a vote or any public input, the acting CEO awarded a no-bid, blank-check contract to a law firm charging as much as $400 per hour. As part of the deal, the county would have no control over how the investigators conducted their work, nor any say-so into the final product.
The directive: root out fraud and abuse, in a county which The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other news outlets had already shown to be teeming with it. Asked what the final price tag might be, May explained at the time, “I don’t want to put a limit on it, or even a floor.”
Six months later, the county faces a tab nearing $900,000 for an investigation that ended where it started — with May Click for more

One thought on “COVE Report – October 6, 2015

  1. Erika Birg

    That neither Rader nor Gannon understand that robbing the taxpayer to pay the charities of their choice – not the taxpayers – is wrong demonstrates the depth of corruption in our county. They both should be called upon to resign. If they left those dollars in the tazpayer’s pocket, then the taxpayers could make their own decisions about how to spend those funds – whether clothing their children or donating to the charity of their choice. What they both did is wrong, no matter their motives, and they both should resign.

    I understand they were not malicious, but that does not make their actions any less problematic.

    Reply

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