An outside investigation’s final report on corruption and waste in DeKalb County government may be released at any time now that a deadline for it has quietly come and gone.
Investigators requested more time beyond Wednesday to complete their work, and their report is expected to be delivered next week, said DeKalb spokesman Burke Brennan.
The results of the inquiry could have broad consequences: Any evidence of criminal activity will be turned over to law enforcement, inappropriate conduct could cost employees their jobs, and the county’s leaders will have to decide how to respond.
The investigators, former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde, wrote in a letter earlier this month that they’ve found “stunning” misconduct, calling the county’s government “rotten to the core.”
Their letter didn’t provide details, but it reported broad allegations of bribery in a major county department, cover-ups of county property theft and “astounding” abuse of taxpayer-funded charge cards.
Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, who ordered the investigation five months ago, has rejected the assertion of widespread corruption, saying most county employees are honest. May on Aug. 6 gave the investigators three weeks to complete their work and issue a “factual and accurate” final written report.
“I still think (hiring the investigators) was the right thing to do. I’m not changing from that posture, but we have to move forward,” May said at an Aug. 12 press conference. “We want to protect the integrity of our county operations and our county government.”
The investigators wanted until October to complete their work, but May has told them they wouldn’t be paid beyond Wednesday. Through June, the investigation team had billed the county $673,504, charging rates up to $400 per hour.
Bowers didn’t return a phone message and an email seeking comment. May declined to comment.
The investigation has already gotten some results.
After investigators found many instances of improper purchasing card spending, May suspended most of the county’s nearly 300 charge cards.
An interim report in June written by Hyde cited examples of purchasing card misuse, with spending on international airline tickets, dance lessons, flowers, employee meals and donations to charities.
“We have conducted scores of interviews and looked at several hundred thousand documents, including over 40,000 individual P-card transactions,” according to the investigators’ Aug. 5 investigative update letter. “Those expenses range from the petty to the absurd.”
Their letter also said that some department heads had ignored requests for documents under Georgia’s Open Records Act and are in violation of state law.
They didn’t say who wasn’t complying with their investigation, but May apologized to DeKalb District Attorney Robert James and Sheriff Jeff Mann for receiving the demands from the investigators, according to letters from May obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request.
May wrote that he would inform the investigators they had exceeded their scope. May controls the executive branch of the county’s government, though his order starting the investigation didn’t exclude other elected offices.
James turned over his purchasing card records to the GBI rather than Bowers and Hyde, and he has said he didn’t need to comply with their request after receiving the correspondence from May. Mann declined to comment.
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