Commissioner Elaine Boyer and Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May address a press conference Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 on how the county plans to respond to the grand jury report on a yearlong investigation into allegations of bid rigging and kickbacks in DeKalb County contracts.
Photo: KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Photo: KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

DeKalb to review government restructuring

A day after a yearlong investigation into DeKalb contracting was made public — a report that detailed a culture of corruption that permeates county government — DeKalb commissioners say they will review how the county is governed and seek changes.

A special purpose grand jury investigating contracting in DeKalb’s water department recommended the county get rid of its CEO form of government. DeKalb is almost singular in the authority it gives its CEO, a countywide elected official who runs the day-to-day operations of Georgia’s third-largest county.

That authority, according to the report, was used to steer tens of millions of dollars in contracts to favored vendors. Suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis has been charged with extortion for allegedly strongarming vendors into donating to his campaign.

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May said the county will review its governing structure over the next 30 days and propose some recommendations on how to improve operations, especially contracting.

“I’m gravely concerned about some of the accusations in (the report) and its implications on this county,” Lee said.

A couple of commissioners said that while a review is appropriate, the bigger problem is the elected officials who have held the CEO position.

Kathie Gannon noted that more than 700 counties in the United States have a form of government similar to the one in place in DeKalb and they haven’t suffered the same allegations of corruption.

“It’s not the title,” Gannon said. “We have elected people more interested in taking care of themselves and taking care of their friends than they are of taking care of DeKalb County. We have to do better.”

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