Georgia County Called ‘Rotten to The Core’

     DECATUR, Ga. (CN) – Two independent investigators, hired by DeKalb County, Ga. this year to audit county government and identify systematic problems, have concluded their client is “rotten to the core.”
     On Wednesday, the county’s interim CEO made his first public comments in response to a damning letter from those investigators who say corruption in widespread throughout the county’s government.
     “We want to protect the integrity of our county operations and county government,” Lee May told reporters at a press conference. May was appointed interim CEO by Gov. Nathan Deal in July 2013 in place of suspended CEO Burrell Ellis, who just began an 18-month prison sentence on corruption charges.
     May, who hired the investigators in March, said the investigation was the right thing to do, but also said the county needs to move forward. Last week, May released a statement, firing back at the letter.
     “The 120 days have come and gone, and it appears the only thing we have to show for it is a two-page letter full of salacious – but vague – innuendo,” May had said in the statement.
     Special investigators Richard L. Hyde and Michael J. Bowers sent May a scathing letter on Aug. 5, highlighting their findings of fraud and corruption throughout the county government, which they referred to as “rotten to the core.”
     “What we found is stunning,” the letter states.
     Their full report is expected is expected to be released on October 6, 2015.
     According to the letter, the cost of the investigation “is minimal compared to what widespread government corruption has cost DeKalb County and our state in terms of standing, reputation and image.”
     Of particular concern to the investigators was the abuse of county purchasing cards, with expenses ranging “from petty to the absurd.”
     According to the letter, several department heads have “flatly ignored requests” for documentation regarding P-card records.
     “They have also ignored Open Records Act requests we have filed and today are in violation of state law,” the letter states, adding that the holdout has delayed the investigation.
     The investigators called the extent of P-card abuse “astounding” and illegal. Taxpayer-funded purchases violate the “gratitudes clause” of the Georgia Constitution.
     Improper expenditures include a cruise to the Bahamas, flower arrangements, a Christmas tree and a dry cleaning bill for a judge. DeKalb taxpayers have “unwittingly” paid for liquor, catered meals, candy, popcorn and peanut-butter pretzels for elected officials, department heads and staff.
     According to the letter, county auditors have reported the improper spending for several years.
     “Once our final report is published, you and the county commission should take steps to recover all funds illegally spent from those elected or appointed officials and employees,” the letter states.
     The letter says the alleged fraud and mishandling of money is not limited to purchasing cards, with multiple departments making a habit of overspending their budgets with no consequences.
     The letter also reveals that a high-ranking official wrecked a county-owned vehicle “and then failed to follow proper procedures for reporting the accident.”
     According to the letter, DeKalb taxpayers also paid the impound fee to recover another county-owned vehicle after a county employee was arrested for DUI. The employee resigned to avoid disciplinary action, but was “remarkably” rehired days later after pleading guilty to the charges.
     The letter also says taxpayers have paid for traffic fines and toll road penalties. In addition, the take-home vehicle policy is violated regularly.
     “We have no idea how many employees get a county-owned car and gas for commuting,” the letter states.
     County property has been stolen, the letter alleges, and the thefts have been “covered up and mishandled.”
     “In one case, the police were not notified and the thief still draws a paycheck from the county,” the letter states.
     The letter also says the investigation had recently uncovered “what appears to be a bribery scheme involving a major county department.”
     The investigators said they still have a long way to go and won’t reveal the names of guilty parties until the report is published.

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