DeKalb corruption probe leads to firing of trash worker

A searing corruption investigation of DeKalb County's government has cost a garbage collector his job.

On Monday, the county fired a low-level Sanitation Department worker who was arrested for DUI while driving a government pickup, then rehired months later.

Sidarius Johnson’s supervisors knew about his arrest in March 2011 because a foreman’s purchasing card was used to retrieve the pickup from an impound lot, according to county records.

But Johnson says a Sanitation deputy director told him Monday that he was being fired because he didn’t disclose the DUI when he reapplied for his job.

“I can only say that the county knew about the situation and failed to take any actions until after this corruption report was released,” Johnson said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “This is a violation of my rights as a county employee, and that’s why I’m fighting for my job back.”

Johnson's arrest comprised a paragraph in the 40-page report handed to the county last week by special investigators Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde.

The authors did not identify Johnson by name, but said that after his arrest, “the impound fee of $140 was paid using county funds. The employee pled guilty to DUI and resigned from the Sanitation Department. The next week he was rehired by the county.”

Johnson was actually rehired six months later, county spokesman Burke Brennan said.

“He’s being let go for falsifying records,” DeKalb Sanitation Director Billy Malone said. “He failed to disclose that he had been arrested.”

In his brief comments to the AJC, Johnson admitted he didn’t put the drunk driving arrest on his re-application form.

“I just didn’t think about it,” he said. “I did not try not to put it down to get the job, because if I put it down or not put it down, I’d still be qualified for that position.”

Johnson said that before his arrest, he was working extra hours as a security guard for Sanitation, in addition to his regular job emptying trash cans. Asked what led to him becoming intoxicated and driving a vehicle, he ended the interview, saying he needed to call his union representative.

According to a police incident report, just after 5 a.m. on March 6, 2011, a DeKalb police officer pulled over Johnson after his truck crossed into the oncoming lane. The officer drove onto the curb “to avoid a head on collision,” he wrote in his report.

The officer said Johnson told him he had drunk three 12-oz. Budweisers an hour beforehand.

Johnson’s citation shows he consented to a breathalyzer test, and he blew a 0.164. The legal limit is 0.08.

He agreed to plead guilty to one of three charges against him and was ordered to pay $521 in fines, serve 24 hours in jail and 12 months on probation and to perform 40 hours of community service.

Johnson was a 14-year employee earning about $28,000 per year, county personnel records show. Brennan said the foreman who used a purchasing card to retrieve the truck won’t be disciplined.

“It’s just an utter lack of controls and folks letting it happen,” north DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester said of the rehiring. “There ought to be others losing their job over these types of things. This is just the one we know of, and how many other questionable hiring decisions have been made?”