Before DeKalb's watershed director resigned in a blistering letter, he was the subject of an investigation that found violations of the county's take-home vehicle policy.
The inquiry found that Scott Towler received a $500 monthly vehicle allowance but also used a county vehicle for about a year, an illegal double-dipping. Tapped to conduct the investigation was Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, DeKalb’s former district attorney who now consults on implementation of the federal consent decree aimed at improving the county’s aging water and sewer system.
VIDEO: DeKalb officials on the March 7 water main break
Towler “received a car monthly allowance during the same time he was actively fueling a take home vehicle from December 2016 through December 21, 2017,” she wrote. “As a result, he received $5,257.75 in monthly car allowance disbursements in violation of county policy.”
Towler's attorney, Kim Worth, did not respond to a request for comment. Fleming's report was first submitted on March 2 then revised March 6 to add documentation, the county said.
GPS records also showed that Towler drove the take-home vehicle to a residence he owns in West Chester, Pa., in November 2016, according to the report. It is against county policy for vehicles to be used for non-business purposes or be driven out-of-state without authorization.
Fleming recommended disciplinary action for both violations, but Towler resigned before any action was taken.
Towler’s March 5 letter accused his boss, deputy chief operating officer of infrastructure Ted Rhinehart, and CEO Mike Thurmond of pushing him to violate the 2011 consent decree. Towler wrote that, when he resisted, they started to leave him out of meetings and decision-making.
Both Rhinehart and Fleming were hired by Thurmond after he took office at the beginning of 2017.
Towler’s last day is Friday.
Credit: Mark Niesse
Credit: Mark Niesse
The consent decree was established in 2011 after sewage spills in DeKalb lead to concerns about public health. The agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators required the county to improve its network of sewage pipes and update its policies.
Towler's letter went public on the same day that a massive water main break crippled DeKalb. Together, they renewed scrutiny of the county's beleaguered water and sewer operations.
Benita Ransom, DeKalb’s human resources director, said she discussed the car allowance issues with Towler as part of the process of finalizing his exit. He agreed to pay back the money, she said. The full report is embedded below.
Ransom said that Towler told her that, once he started getting the allowance, he kept the keys to the county vehicle in his office, but considered it part of pool of cars available for other employees’ use. Records showed that Towler used the car 195 days in 2017 when he also received the monthly stipend, the report said.
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