Ex-DeKalb official pleads guilty to taking bribe

A former DeKalb County official pleaded guilty today to taking a $3,500 bribe in exchange for his vote approving a nightclub.

Jerry Clark, who served on the DeKalb Zoning Board of Appeals until 2013, accepted a plea deal with federal prosecutors that requires his ongoing cooperation. Clark will be sentenced April 30.

Clark admitted to meeting with the unnamed owner of a Tucker nightclub before a zoning vote. The club was seeking to continue providing late-night dancing without having to obtain a special permit as required by DeKalb zoning rules, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Davis in court.

“If the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the business owner’s request, Clark would be rewarded,” Davis said.

After the zoning vote, Clark was paid $2,000 in cash and received a $1,500 donation to a charity. Clark must repay the $3,500 as a federal fine, according to the terms of his plea agreement.

A Channel 2 Action News investigation in 2012 first raised questions about zoning decisions involving several nightclubs.

Clark’s attorney, Gary Spencer, said he has no other criminal record and has run a charity, the Jerry Clark Foundation, that mentors children and helps them avoid dropping out of school.

“This is a sad chapter of his life,” Spencer said. “He’s done a lot of fine work with the community. … We look forward to rehabbing his reputation.”

Clark was appointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2009 by Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, who was a commissioner at the time. May has said he was “disturbed and saddened” about the allegations.

The federal bribery charge Clark faces comes with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but Spencer said he’s hoping for a sentence significantly less than that.