Charges to be dropped against ex-Cobb EMC chief Dwight Brown

A Cobb County judge has said he plans to dismiss the remaining charges against former Cobb EMC CEO Dwight Brown, five years after the executive was accused of defrauding the Marietta utility of millions of dollars.

Chuck Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, confirmed that Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy indicated he will dismiss the charges. His agency had taken over the case.

Spahos said he will wait until Flournoy issues a written order before deciding whether to appeal.

“I need to see the order and understand exactly what the reasoning was,” he said.

In a statement, Brown’s attorneys called the indictment “legally flawed” and said it “should never have been brought in the first place.”

Brown was charged in 2011 with 35 counts of theft, racketeering, witness tampering and other offenses for his handling of operations at Cobb EMC, a large Marietta-based electric utility cooperative. Brown pleaded not guilty.

The 35 charges were eventually whittled to seven remaining charges before Flournoy said last week that he would dismiss those, as well.

The decision is the latest twist in a scandal dating to 2007, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigated Cobb EMC’s creation and operation of a high-profile, for-profit subsidiary, Cobb Energy. That led eventually to two lawsuits on behalf of utility members, a $98 million legal settlement and Brown’s indictment.

Last year an internal audit found that Cobb EMC or its subsidiaries paid out more than $86 million to Brown and people or firms with close ties to him. The audit said "self-dealing and conflicts of interest abounded" during his watch.

Earlier this year, prosecution of Brown’s case was handed over to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, a state agency, after Flournoy disqualified Cobb DA Vic Reynolds. Brown’s defense attorneys had argued the entire DA’s office should be disqualified due to contacts Reynolds had with a former EMC board member and with attorneys in the case years before he was elected DA in 2012.

Flournoy also has ties to people in the case. He was appointed to the judgeship in 2000 by Brown’s defense attorney, then-Gov. Roy Barnes.