DeKalb’s ex-janitorial director guilty of bribery scheme

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been digging into irregularities in DeKalb County since late 2013. Its investigation of purchasing card spending by DeKalb commissioners triggered a federal investigation and conviction of ex-Commissioner Elaine Boyer. It also prompted the county to curtail officials’ use of purchasing cards, provide more resources for its ethics board and strengthen contracting rules. A federal investigation into DeKalb County is continuing, and last month former state Attorney General Mike Bowers began a sweeping investigation into corruption in the county.

Patrick Jackson, who spent six years drawing full-time salaries from two government agencies, admitted Thursday that he used those positions to steer taxpayer money to a janitorial company that was bribing him.

Jackson, formerly the director of janitorial services for both the DeKalb County government and the Georgia World Congress Center, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. In exchange for helping his former employer land public contracts, and for bolstering the company's pay by increasing its workload, Jackson got a luxury apartment, furniture and utilities, at a cost of more than $130,000, prosecutors alleged.

Jackson is scheduled for sentencing on June 16. The maximum sentence for the charge is 20 years in prison but he could face far less under the plea deal.

“I am going to be truthful,” he told Channel 2 Action News outside the courthouse after his plea, “and do what I need to do to get my life straight.”

He's yet another DeKalb official who has admitted to enriching himself at taxpayers' expense. Last month, a federal judge sentenced ex-Commissioner Elaine Boyer to 14 months in prison for bilking the county out of more than $100,000 through a kickback scheme and abusing her government Visa card. Jerry Clark, a former member of DeKalb's zoning appeals board, pleaded guilty in February to taking $3,500 in bribes for voting to approve a nightclub.

For years, neither DeKalb nor the World Congress Center caught on to Jackson’s ruse, though they did find it troublesome that he never seemed to be around and that reaching him on the phone was next to impossible.

DeKalb paid Jackson more than $65,000 a year to be its custodial services manager, while the center paid him more than $86,000. Both have policies prohibiting employees from being simultaneously employed elsewhere without permission.

“The vexing thing was, the work was getting done,” DeKalb County spokesman Burke Brennan said Thursday. “We just didn’t know where he was, at any particular time.”

In DeKalb, a supervisor noted in Jackson’s 2007 performance review that he was often difficult to locate. “He comes to work space maybe on Tuesday for staff meeting,” the supervisor wrote. “His work ethic has been picked up by his staff — he does not come to work so why should they. The perception by other working staff is ‘What does he do to get paid a salary?’”

Yet he graded Jackson a 3 on a 5-point scale, or “meets standards,” documents reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show.

While drawing government salaries, Jackson was lending aid to a private company he once worked for, Alabama-based Rite Way Service. Jackson’s indictment says he served as a non-voting technical adviser on the DeKalb County committee that awarded a bid for janitorial services, and that he later beefed up the company’s compensation by ordering more services.

The ruse apparently unraveled in 2012, when his bosses at DeKalb discovered a two-year-old issue of Waste & Recycling News. Jackson’s photo was on the front page, identifying him as the World Congress Center’s head of building services.

When his supervisors questioned him, Jackson quit on the spot, Brennan said.

The World Congress Center not only became suspicious about Jackson’s aloof behavior, but also at the escalating fees to Rite Way, a spokeswoman told the AJC last year. He quit that job, too, when the questions started, saying he had taken a job as vice president at a local company.

While the World Congress Center called in law enforcement and terminated its contract with Rite Way, DeKalb continued using the company until 2014, paying it millions of dollars in total.

No one from Rite Way has been charged, and the company is under new ownership. Its former CEO, Anthony Lepore, has not responded to messages from the AJC.

A spokesman for the new owner, Diversified Maintenance, said in a written statement Thursday that the company “fully cooperated with the government during its investigation and holds its employees to the utmost professional standards and code of ethics.”

Jackson, 56, acknowledged Thursday that he let both his employers down.

“If you do the crime then you have to do the time,” he told Channel 2. “Whatever time I get I deserve.”