“When I assumed the position as interim CEO for DeKalb County in July 2013, my number one priority was to restore the people’s trust in their government. My commitment to reform our government and root out any corruption is firm and unwavering,” interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, April 24, 2015.
Strong words and sentiment.
I’m giving our interim CEO the benefit of the doubt that he remains committed to this worthy goal. As a DeKalb resident and taxpayer, as well as regular and daily consumer of news media content and product, I feel continually pummeled at the end of a shoe factory’s assembly line of ‘other shoes dropping.’
I celebrated, here and elsewhere, when ICEO May called in the cavalry, in the form of former Attorney General Michael J. Bowers and veteran investigator Richard L. Hyde to investigate and lock up the bad guys. And I’ll continue to hope that he has no later reason to regret blowing that trumpet and sounding the charge.
While serving only as commissioner for District 5, May’s home, and apparently many others in south DeKalb, was flooded by the actions of the Water Department, replacing and repairing older water and sewer pipes. May’s Lithonia home was flooded by raw sewerage, twice.
In the first instance, well-known water removal and repair company Serv-Pro was called in to repair the damage.
And then again, came the floods in 2010, turning May’s ground floor into a quagmire…but this time, despite calls to numerous departments, starting with the DeKalb Watershed, May was initially treated like most DeKalb residents, slow or no response and different answers depending upon whom he spoke to.
Then, almost overnight, May’s home was drained, dried, cleaned and repaired…and he never got a bill. As these floods were far from rare in District 5, one may think May would note that most of his neighbors and constituents first paid for their repairs, and were later reimbursed by the county. The second job came with a larger bill, from a vendor, Water Removal Services, which for months went unpaid. Until the bill made its way via email from the vendor to DeKalb Purchasing Director Kelvin Walton, the man with the magical recording pen. That invoice for nearly $6,500 was paid the next day. And a $4,000 check was written to May.
May said he now knows that he received “special treatment,” though he claims he asked for none, and that he received no funds back from the vendor. The former owner of the company claims that he did not sign the check made out to May, which he indicated might have been a refund, above the company’s costs of the repair work. But a real refund would have gone to the county, not the commissioner, and the courier for the check, an associate of the company owner and former DeKalb real estate developer claims he was simply trying to aid a friend in financial duress (May), at the behest of another close friend and business associate (Morris Williams).
Granted, we the taxpayers and residents living with this daily chain of embarrassment and duress want this nonsense to end, but clearly we also cannot understand how much self-dealing, graft, corruption, malfeasance and ineptitude can go on for so long with apparently no one ever taking any substantive action.
And though our shoe factory continues to drop new product on the floor almost daily, we have to ask when our district attorney and his team think they may actually convict anyone of wrongdoing? A judge attempted to overturn the aforementioned school construction bid-rigging, yet that judgment is being held in abeyance while the judge, who also resigned, is herself being investigated.
As DeKalb’s District 5 has been without a commissioner since May accepted the interim appointment from Governor Nathan Deal in July 2013, we have one more question.
ICEO May has repeatedly declined requests to resign that seat and allow for a special election. Is DeKalb County also still paying ICEO May the salary for a District Commissioner, separate and apart from the salary he is receiving as CEO? Due to the still pending retrial of suspended CEO Burrell Ellis, DeKalb taxpayers already enjoy the pleasure of paying for the salary, benefits and retirement funds for two CEOs.
Are we also paying two salaries to one of our Commissioners? Anyone wanting to restore our trust and confidence in DeKalb government only has one short and clear answer for that one.
Bill Crane also serves as a political analyst and commentator for Channel 2’s Action News, WSB-AM News/Talk 750 and now 95.5 FM, as well as a columnist for The Champion, Champion Free Press and Georgia Trend. Crane is a DeKalb native and business owner, living in Scottdale. You can reach him or comment on a column at firstname.lastname@example.org.