Judge dismisses ex-DeKalb schools chief's lawyer

Former DeKalb County schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis will have to find another lawyer.

DeKalb Superior Court Judge Cynthia J. Becker issued an order Friday, dismissing Lewis’ lawyer Mike Brown because of a conflict of interest.

Brown’s law firm, Alston & Bird LLP, also represents a witness for the state in the school corruption case.

As of Friday afternoon, Lewis had not hired another attorney or asked for a delay in his trial, scheduled for January.

Brown did not return multiple phone calls and e-mails.

Lewis, former schools chief operating officer Patricia Reid, her former husband Tony Pope and her secretary Cointa Moody were indicted in May on charges they ran a criminal enterprise at the school system.

The criminal case centers around conflicts of interest and allegations that Reid, Lewis and Moody funneled construction contracts to Pope’s architecture firm and his friends’ companies. At the time, Reid managed the schools’ multimillion-dollar construction program.

Barbara Colman, a consultant with construction management firm Parsons Commercial Group, has since taken over Reid’s job and is scheduled to testify at the trial.

Alston & Bird represent Parsons, Colman’s employer.

On Thursday, Lewis told the judge he didn’t have a problem with the conflict. But the judge overruled him.

According to her order, the firm's "simultaneous representation of Parsons not only gives the appearance of an irreconcilable and unwaivable conflict of interest, but is an actual conflict which undermines effective representation."

Prosecutors asked the judge to dismiss the attorney, fearing it might jeopardize the case, particularly when he has to cross-examine his firm’s client.

The district attorney's office declined to comment Friday, only saying “the order speaks for itself.”

Colman did not return phone calls Thursday or Friday.

Brown, who works for a firm of about 800 lawyers, told the judge on Thursday that he didn’t foresee a problem because he had never spoken to Colman and didn’t personally represent her.

Brown is not the first lawyer to leave the four-defendant criminal case.

In June, Manny Arora resigned as Reid’s lawyer after Becker issued a temporary restraining order barring him from contacting grand jurors. Arora had knocked on grand jurors' doors to gather information for his case.