Bowers calls DeKalb CEO a ‘liar’

Embattled CEO Lee May fights back against charges in explosive corruption report.

Staff Writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.

Former Attorney General Mike Bowers released new details in his DeKalb County corruption probe Thursday, aimed squarely at undermining the credibility of Interim CEO Lee May.

A day after May flatly denied that he’d ever borrowed money from a subordinate, Bowers released a transcript of a recording that quotes May saying he’d done just that.

“I hate to call anybody a liar,” Bowers said. “Those are strong words. But he’s lying.”

May, meanwhile, fought back in several appearances on local radio stations. On hip-hop station V-103, May said he was considering filing a complaint against Bowers with the State Bar of Georgia, which investigates allegations of legal misconduct.

May also blasted the $850,000 price tag of Bowers' probe, which May himself commissioned in March to root out corruption in DeKalb and make recommendations on how to improve operations.

May suggested Bowers and his lead investigator, Richard Hyde, were more concerned about money than with doing a good job for DeKalb taxpayers.

“My last conversation with them, 70 percent of the meeting was about money,” May said. “And I told them, ‘You’re going to get your money.’”

The unusual public fight between Bowers and May came as Gov. Nathan Deal ordered the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to review Bowers’ and Hyde’s explosive report, and report back findings.

In a written statement, May said, “I welcome and support all investigations into DeKalb County Government, and this includes the Governor’s announcement today.”

Deal appointed May to replace Burrell Ellis after he was slapped with charges of illegally pressuring contractors to give him campaign contributions. It’s not clear if Deal can remove May based on the report alone.

Questions about trip linger

May’s camp also sought to undermine one of the more sensational allegations contained in the Bowers/Hyde report: that the CEO charged taxpayers for a $223 spa treatment and a $36.45 movie during a stay at a Hawaii resort last year for a National Association of Counties meeting. His spokesman, Burke Brennan, said that May used two charge cards to pay the bill — a county card and a personal card for his personal expenses.

Brennan provided what appears to be a smart phone screen grab of a Bank of America online account, showing a debit from the resort that is identical to one of the credits on the bill. May’s name appears on the account, but the record does not show who controls it. DeKalb uses Bank of America debit cards for county-issued purchasing cards.

The AJC has requested bank statements for both charge cards to verify May’s claim. Brennan did not provide the bank statements Thursday.

Bowers told the AJC that May never showed him that Bank of America page. Rather, May told him he would provide proof that he reimbursed the personal charges, but never did.

Questions about a loan

The back-and-forth between the two camps over the allegation that May borrowed money from Morris Williams, a former subordinate, went to the central recommendation contained in the Bowers/Hyde report: May violated DeKalb’s charter by taking a loan from an employee and should resign.

The loan question is also significant because the AJC and Channel 2 Action News reported that a vendor, who had arranged for $6,500 in repairs to May’s home after a sewage line backup, claims he gave $4,000 to Williams with the understanding that he would pass it along to May to help with his personal financial problems. The vendor won a $300,000 county contract later that year, the news investigation found.

May said previously that he never saw a dollar of the $4,000 and never took part in kickbacks or pay-to-play schemes.

At his news conference Wednesday, May addressed the loan allegation head on.

“I have no idea where Mr. Bowers was getting any conversation about a loan,” May said. “We never even discussed a loan in our conversations … I have no idea what he’s talking about where this is concerned.”

On May 7, however, Hyde asked May if he ever asked Williams for a loan. May described Williams as a friend and is heard answering that he had already told the FBI that he did ask Williams for “a couple hundred dollars” over the years of their friendship.

Bowers would not release the recording of May’s interview to the media, saying that he has turned details of the loan over to the GBI, and he did not want to compromise any potential investigation. But he allowed the AJC to hear a portion of the recording to verify what May said.

“Uh, I, and I shared this with the FBI, over the 8 years, you know, I may have, you know, said, hey, can I borrow a couple hundred dollars?” May said. “And it’s never been more than that, and you know, and, and, I mean has, you know, I couldn’t even say what’s it’s been but I know that you know, 8 years went by, if I needed something to that, but again, it hadn’t been more than a few hundred dollars.”

May issued a statement Thursday standing by his contention that he did not discuss a loan with Bowers or Hyde, but he framed the denial in relation to questions about the $4,000 check the vendor claims he gave Williams.

“I stand by my statement that I never received any money or loans associated with the $4,000 check,” May said in his Thursday statement.

May also told Hyde that he assumed Williams abruptly resigned earlier this year “because I brought you all on.”

The report by Bowers and Hyde has already cost about $885,000. On the radio Wednesday, May said DeKalb officials are holding about $200,000 back and said, “We’ll be having some discussions about it.”

“I want some of it back,” May said.