Stan Watson’s phone records
DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson’s phone bills show his phone was used to make and receive 18 calls since November 2012 with the office of South Carolina businessman Eric Robinson, who is currently on trial in a public corruption case.
- Nov. 29, 2012, four calls, five minutes long
- Dec. 30, 2012, one call, one minute long
- Jan. 4, 2013, three calls, three minutes long
- Feb. 9, 2013, two calls, two minutes long
- March 25, 2013, two calls, five minutes long
- June 21, 2013, one call, one minute long
- Sept. 23, 2013, one call, two minutes long
- March 25, 2014, one call, five minutes long
- April 8, 2014, two calls, 12 minutes long
- April 16, 2014, one call, four minutes long
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been scrutinizing local elected officials’ spending since late last year. That examination revealed that several DeKalb County officials had used their county Visa cards to pay personal expenses. Among them was Stan Watson, who paid thousands of dollars in personal cell phone bills. As the AJC pressed for records of his phone bills, federal prosecutors in a public corruption case in South Carolina tied Watson to an alleged bribery scheme. He released the records that same day, after first trying to withhold call logs and then trying to strike out calls to the office one of the defendants in the South Carolina case.
DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson claimed to know nothing about a South Carolina case involving attempted bribery of an unnamed DeKalb official. But records obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution show his phone repeatedly called the office of one of the businessmen on trial in the wide-ranging corruption scheme.
Now, he told the AJC that he is being subpoenaed in connection with the case, though he says he has done nothing wrong.
“I’ve been asked to come testify, and that’s it,” Watson said before referring further questions to his attorney. “When I get served, I will go and figure out what’s going on and try and make it work.”
He would not answer questions about the phone calls, which he tried to hide from the newspaper.
Watson turned over 586 pages from his personal cell phone bills, from November 2012 through April 2014. The records were subject to the Open Records Act because he paid the bills with his county Visa card.
Without any legal justification, Watson used a black marker to try to obscure 16 calls between his phone and defendant Eric Robinson’s business line. But phone numbers and other information could still be read through the ink, and Watson apparently missed striking out two other calls to Robinson’s office, The Bridge Corporation Group.
Watson said he marked out the calls because they were personal. When told Robinson’s phone number was still visible, Watson declined to answer more questions. He did not attend Tuesday’s commission meeting.
Watson’s attorney, Pam Stephenson, did not respond to phone messages.
Robinson’s attorney, Shaun Kent, said in a text message that “there are absolutely no phone calls between Eric Robinson and Stan Watson…Any other assertion is patently untrue.”
Among the calls on Watson’s phone records was an 11-minute conversation on April 8, hours after the AJC first questioned Watson about whether he was the unnamed DeKalb “elected official” in a 52-count federal indictment of Robinson and Jonathan Pinson, a former chairman of the board of South Carolina State University.
“I have no idea what it’s all about, but it absolutely does not involve me,” Watson had told a reporter earlier that day.
Watson has acknowledged knowing Robinson from his management of Arizona’s Steakhouse at Stonecrest Mall in the commissioner’s district. One of several businesses that Robinson and Pinson own, the restaurant has served as a place for political fund-raisers for years.
Campaign records show that Arizona’s gave Watson’s campaign a $125 donation in June 2012. Later that month, Watson paid Arizona’s the same amount for a “golf tournament food expense.”
Robinson and Pinson are charged with using their political and personal connections to enrich themselves through a series of white-collar crimes in South Carolina and Georgia.
Among them, the indictment alleged that from spring 2011 through November of that year, Robinson and Pinson devised a scheme to bribe a DeKalb County elected official in exchange for favorable treatment. The indictment didn’t say what the defendants wanted from the DeKalb official in return for the payment or whether they carried out their plan.
Prosecutors connected Watson to the corruption case Monday. They showed his picture to jurors as a witness testified that he saw a DeKalb County commissioner meet Pinson at a Columbia, South Carolina, hotel. Watson hasn’t been charged in the case.
Neither the DeKalb district attorney’s office nor the Atlanta U.S. attorney’s office would answer questions about whether they would look into the allegations themselves.
The AJC sought Watson’s phone records during an investigation of DeKalb commissioners’ discretionary spending of taxpayer money. He had charged the county nearly $5,000 for personal cellphone bills over the last three years, even though he also carries a county-issued cellphone. After responding to questions about his personal phone expenses, Watson said he would stop charging his cellphone bill to the government and begin reimbursements for his previous phone costs.
Watson’s office said his phone records for 2011 and most of 2012 — a period that includes the alleged bribery scheme — were not available from Verizon.
Sandra Holmes, a member of the watchdog group Restore DeKalb, said that by striking out the phone calls to Robinson’s office, the commissioner “pretty much wanted to hide something.”
“I think that it’s embarrassing. We elect people to do a job, and when they’re not doing their job, they need to move on.”