Independent investigation of DeKalb corruption launched

Former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers announced Wednesday he will lead a sweeping investigation of corruption in DeKalb County, which has been troubled by years of allegations and criminal charges against several officials.

Bowers, who was hired by Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May, will have unfettered access to interview government employees and dig through documents in search of malfeasance.

Bowers previously led the state investigation of standardized test cheating in Atlanta Public Schools, which led to criminal charges of former educators.

“We’re going to try to restore the public’s trust in its government,” Bowers said. “We’re going to root out conflicts of interest, corruption, malfeasance.”

Bowers will bring a team to scour DeKalb for misbehavior, including more than 6,000 government employees and even May and his senior staff.

“There is no tolerance for corruption in my administration,” May said. “I think Mike could throw me in jail if he thinks I’m doing something wrong. This administration is willing to take on an endeavor that could possibly go even to my office, and I’m fine with that.”

Bowers’s investigation will last at least 120 days, and he and his team will produce a report that will be released to the public without any prior review by May or his administration.

One of Bowers’ investigators will be Richard Hyde, who also handled the Atlanta schools cheating case and now works for the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission that oversees judges’ conduct.

The inquiry will particularly examine the Department of Watershed Management, which was the subject of the special grand jury investigation that led to criminal charges against suspended CEO Burrell Ellis.

Bowers will be paid $400 an hour, and his investigators will be paid $300 an hour from the county’s non-departmental budget.

Bowers won’t focus his investigation at the DeKalb Commission because it’s not under May’s authority. But Bowers and May said they hope commissioners cooperate.

Former Commissioner Elaine Boyer will be sentenced in federal court Friday after pleading guilty to bilking taxpayers of more than $90,000.

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