In this 2015 file photo, Snellville Mayor Tom Witts rides with city council members during the city's Christmas parade. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Criminal investigation still looming over head of Snellville mayor

It’s been more than six months since Gwinnett County’s district attorney said he planned to take the criminal case against Snellville Mayor Tom Witts to a grand jury

That hasn’t happened, but it may not be much longer before the case — which involves allegations of corporate and personal tax evasion, as well as an improper relationship between Witts’ business and the city — reaches a head.

District Attorney Danny Porter said this week that he’s trying to schedule a meeting with Witts’ defense team, which had asked for a chance to present "some kind of evidence that would effect whether or not we would charge him.” Porter said that’s not unusual and that, otherwise, the prosecution’s case is ready.

“We’ve got to get moving on this,” Porter said. “I’m not going to wait forever.”

Witts’ attorney did not return requests for comment this week. 

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Porter began looking into Witts, then a member of Snellville’s City Council, in 2013, when he received a tip that the he’d lied on his candidacy affidavit about having paid his taxes. Porter has said he met over the years with representatives from the offices of the attorney general and secretary of state to clarify the matter, which resurfaced in 2015 when Witts qualified to run for mayor.

In March 2016, investigators from the DA’s office, the state Department of Revenue and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at Witts’ home and the Tucker office of his home improvement and repair business, Georgia Property Restoration. 

Porter said the next month that his investigation had shown Witts owed tens of thousands of dollars in state taxes that he did not have a payment plan for. Investigators also believe that, for at least two years, the mayor withheld state taxes from his employees but did not pay them to the state.

The district attorney has also said there were at least two instances when Witts’ business did work for the city of Snellville, which violates state law. 

Documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the Georgia Open Records Act show Snellville cut a $3,963.28 check to Georgia Property Restoration on Nov. 13, 2015 — four days after Witts was sworn in as mayor.

Snellville City Manager Butch Sanders has previously contended that the work — which involved installing glass panels, hand blowers and a chair rail at various spots throughout City Hall — was agreed upon after Witts resigned his city council post to run for mayor and completed before he won the election.

The open records request did not reveal a second instance of Georgia Property Restoration doing business with the city. 

Throughout the investigation, Witts has mostly remained mum on the issue and has continued on as Snellville’s mayor. 

And while Porter said he’s eager for the case to move forward, he’s not exactly anxious.

“It’s not like Witts is going anywhere,” he said. 

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