Ex-DeKalb schools chief: Reid thought she was too smart to be caught

Former DeKalb County Schools executive Pat Reid boasted that no one was “smart enough” to catch her even if she had done anything illegal in regards to the district’s construction program, according to testimony Friday in the racketeering trial of Reid and her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope.

Crawford Lewis, the former DeKalb superintendent, told jurors he confronted Reid many times about reports that her then-husband was getting school construction work even though it was prohibited as long as she was the system’s chief operating officer.

Lewis had testified earlier that he tried repeatedly to fire Reid after he learned she was allegedly manipulating the contracting system to benefit Pope and his firm, A. Vincent Pope & Associates. He also testified that she had misled him about her position with her’s husband’s business and that he no longer trusted her.

Lewis said it was in one meeting with Reid in 2009 that she boasted that she was smart after he asked her if she had broken the law.

“She indicated that if there was anything that had been done illegal, there was no one smart enough to know about it,” said Lewis.

Lewis’ former chief of staff, also testifying on Friday, confirmed that the former superintendent had recounted his conversation with Reid in a meeting with attorneys and other agency officials as he unsuccessfully made a case for firing her.

Tony Axam, Reid’s defense attorney, asked Lewis if he was “smarter” than Reid.

“Not necessarily,” Lewis said.

“But you’re the one who got the deal,” Axam said.

Lewis, facing a possible 65 years in prison on racketeering and theft-by-taking charges, pleaded guilty last month, just before trial, to one misdemeanor charge of obstruction related to the investigation of the case. Lewis told jurors he would be sentenced to 12 months probation as a first offender, meaning the conviction will vanish from his record once he completes his punishment, if he testified “truthfully.”

Lewis testified that the district’s lawyers objected to Reid’s firing because she was key to the system’s defense in a still-pending multi-million-dollar civil suit stemming from a delayed construction project. Lewis never got board approval to fire Reid, who had been hired in 2005 to repair the school system’s troubled construction program. Lewis said he was instead required to renew Reid’s contract and to give her a pay raise.

Reid and Pope are charged with racketeering and theft for allegedly manipulating construction contracts for Columbia High School and the McNair Elementary School Cluster. Reid could be sentenced to 65 years in prison and Pope could get 30 years if they are convicted of all counts.

One of Reid’s theft charges alleges she bought her county car for one-third of the book value, and both are accused of theft for using district funds to pay Pope’s legal costs in the civil lawsuit.