Another DeKalb official bilked taxpayers, feds allege


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been digging into irregularities in DeKalb County since late 2013. The newspaper’s examination of purchasing card spending by ex-Commissioner Elaine Boyer sparked a federal investigation that led to fraud charges. She pleaded guilty to those charges late last month and is awaiting sentencing. A federal investigation into DeKalb County officials’ spending is continuing.

For six years, Patrick Jackson drew full-time salaries at taxpayers’ expense from both the DeKalb County government and the Georgia World Congress Center — and neither agency noticed the two-timing.

Nor did they figure out, until years later, that his former employer was landing lucrative janitorial contracts with each agency, with Jackson then continually upping the company’s pay by increasing its purported workload.

Both did find it bothersome, however, that Jackson never seemed to be around and that reaching him on the phone was next to impossible.

“We began to pick up on what we thought was suspicious behavior,” World Congress Center spokeswoman Jennifer LeMaster said.

DeKalb didn’t pick up on the dual employment until after Jackson appeared on the cover of a trade publication, where he was identified as the World Congress Center’s head of building services. The county was paying him more than $65,000 a year to be its custodial services manager, while the center was paying him more than $86,000.

Jackson is yet another public official who schemed to enrich himself through government contracts, according to a federal indictment handed down this month.

The indictment alleges that while he steered multi-million-dollar contracts to one of his former employers, it, in turn, bolstered his lifestyle. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the company set him up in a luxury apartment and paid for furniture and utilities, at a cost of more than $130,000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not identified the company. But documents obtained from the World Congress Center show that it asked state investigators to look into Rite Way Service, based in Birmingham, Ala.

Jackson, 55, is charged with bribery and 10 counts of mail fraud. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday and has been released on his own recognizance.

Neither Jackson nor his public defender, Allison Dawson, returned messages from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In an interview with Channel 2 Action News, Dawson questioned why her client is the only person charged in an alleged conspiracy.

She also said there was no conflict of interest for her client to be working for two government agencies at once.

“The last time I checked it wasn’t illegal to have two full-time jobs,” Dawson told WSB.

Both DeKalb and the World Congress Center, however, have policies prohibiting employees from being simultaneously employed elsewhere without permission.

Calls to Rite Way were returned by its attorney, L.T. Lafferty, who said the company is now under new ownership and is cooperating with federal investigators.

Asked if Rite Way put Jackson up in an apartment while he steered work its way, Lafferty said, “It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to answer, because it’s the subject of a criminal charge that’s pending.”

“We are committed to the highest ethical standards in our business practices,” the attorney said.

Jackson’s alleged ruse appears to have unraveled in 2012.

For his bosses at DeKalb County, the revelation of his second job came from a two-year-old issue of Waste & Recycling News.

“We brought him in for questioning, and he quit on the spot,” DeKalb spokesman Burke Brennan said.

Jackson scribbled a note at the bottom of a county memo, which WSB obtained, that asked him to explain his behavior. “I decline to respond to these questions for personal reasons,” he wrote.

There’s no indication that DeKalb looked into any contracts Jackson approved. Brennan said late Wednesday that he didn’t know if Rite Way still was working for DeKalb.

Jackson’s bosses at World Congress Center not only became suspicious about his aloof behavior, but also at the escalating fees to Rite Way, said LeMaster, the spokeswoman.

He quit that job, too, when the questions started, saying he had taken a job as vice president at a local company.

LeMaster said Jackson left behind paperwork that pointed to possible criminal behavior, and the World Congress Center eventually reported the situation to the GBI.

The state agency later brought in the FBI.

The World Congress Center canceled its contract with Rite Way. A letter obtained by the AJC shows it later demanded nearly $100,000 from the company for not providing contracted cleaning equipment and supplies, among other violations. The county rejected an offer to settle for $15,000.

That dispute still hasn’t been settled, LeMaster said.

“It was an onion,” she said, “where every time you peeled off a layer, there was another layer.”

The charges against Jackson come as DeKalb’s suspended CEO, Burrell Ellis, stands trial for allegedly strong-arming county vendors into giving him campaign donations. Meanwhile, ex-Commissioner Elaine Boyer is awaiting sentencing for engineering a two-year kickback scheme with a fake consultant and putting thousands of dollars in personal expenses on her county purchasing card.