Feds inquire about DeKalb commissioners’ spending

Federal investigators have begun questioning DeKalb County commissioners and their staffs about charges on their county-issued debit cards, according to Channel 2 Action News.

Lee May, the county’s interim CEO, confirmed he has been contacted by agents about county purchasing card policies and usage. May didn’t provide details about their conversations because he said he didn’t want to compromise the investigation.

“I’ve actually spoken to them, and they’ve asked some general questions about P-card activities,” May told Channel 2 Action News. “If the FBI is a part of this and they feel like there’s something to look into, they must do that, and I embrace that.”

FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday he couldn’t confirm or deny whether there’s an ongoing investigation.

The AJC has reported on commissioners’ spending through their taxpayer-funded purchasing cards for more than two months.

Commissioners have used their county-funded expense cards at Wal-Mart, Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Office Depot, the Apple online store and restaurants across the Atlanta area, according to their debit card account statements.

The newspaper’s review exposed how Commissioner Elaine Boyer used her county Visa card to make thousands of dollars in personal purchases, including airline tickets, car rentals and a ski resort stay.

The AJC reported Sunday that Commissioner Larry Johnson used his purchasing card to give $12,000 to help fund programs at a county performing arts center, and Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton spent $1,100 at a charity auction for a portrait of President Barack Obama.

County residents have filed ethics complaints against all three commissioners. The DeKalb Ethics Board, which has the power under state law to remove elected officials from office, will review those complaints.

May said he’s urging all county employees to cooperate with federal inquiries.

“Let’s get everything on the table. Let’s deal with it so we can move on,” May told the TV station. “I’m sick and tired of the rumors and innuendos, the ethical allegations. We need to get tot he bottom of this, and we need to do it now. If the FBI is going to come in and help us resolve this, let it be so.”

DeKalb taxpayer Joe Gargiulo said commissioners’ spending deserves an investigation, especially when they haven’t saved receipts detailing what they bought. The county requires employees issued purchasing cards to sign an agreement stipulating that the cards can’t be used for personal purchases, and misuse could result in civil or criminal action.

“It upsets me. In business, you always keep receipts,” Gargiulo said. “I guess when you’re spending other people’s money, you don’t need to keep receipts.”