School system says no to DeKalb DA

DeKalb County school officials have refused to give the District Attorney’s Office information it is seeking in its criminal investigation into the county’s school construction program.

DeKalb County investigators filed an Open Records Act request last month. The school system rejected the request, citing attorney-client privilege.

Investigators from the District Attorney’s Office, using a search warrant, had already seized many documents from the school district’s Design & Construction Department in October.

They also searched the home of high-ranking school official Patricia “Pat” Pope, who once ran the construction program, and the homes and offices of her estranged husband, Tony Pope, and the couple’s friend, Lithonia builder David Moody.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Dec. 13 that Tony Pope, an architect, worked on three of the six multimillion-dollar construction projects being investigated by the authorities. Moody worked on two of them.

But investigators believed the school district had more information. Rather than get another search warrant, the District Attorney’s Office filed the records request on Dec. 1, said District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming, who declined to say what her office requested.

“The information we’re seeking is public record,” Keyes Fleming said.

She said she found the school system’s rejection of the request “curious.”

“I guess it may be unusual, in light of the fact that the school system asked us to initiate the investigation,” Keyes Fleming said.

Schools superintendent Crawford Lewis could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

School district spokesman Dale Davis declined to comment on the matter.

Word that the school district has not been helpful in the criminal probe first surfaced on Dec. 22, in a Superior Court hearing for a related civil lawsuit.

“Quite frankly, we would be further along than we are right now if we had had more cooperation from the Board of Education. But we are not getting it,” Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin said. “Matter of fact, we are getting a little bit stalled in that, because we are at a critical phase where the investigation needs to really expand a little bit, but we are being thwarted by the board of education at this point.”

To get the information that she wants, Keyes Fleming said, her office is going to review their “legal options,” but she would not elaborate.