Ex-DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson charged with $3,000 theft

7:29 p.m Tuesday, June 27, 2017 Local
DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson speaks during a meeting at Dekalb County Government Administration Building in Decatur on Aug. 26, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson was charged with theft Tuesday for allegedly receiving about $3,000 for travel to conferences, then resigning from office without repaying the money.

A grand jury indicted Watson, 63, on a single felony count of theft by conversion, which comes with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Watson is the latest DeKalb official accused of criminal wrongdoing in a county that has seen years of corruption scandals. Two of his former elected colleagues, Commissioner Elaine Boyer and CEO Burrell Ellis, served prison time for their convictions, though the Georgia Supreme Court later overturned Ellis’ guilty verdict.

Watson didn’t return a phone message seeking comment Tuesday.

According to county records, Watson received $3,586 in travel advance checks from the county trips he planned to take in April 2016.

The checks covered the costs of attending the National Organization of Black County Officials economic development conference in Chicago and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia annual conference in Savannah. The advances were for conference registration, airfare, lodging and meals.

But Watson, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, resigned from the DeKalb Commission in March 2016, before the conferences were held. Watson stepped down so he could run for DeKalb Tax Commissioner, and during a May election he came in last place among three candidates.

“The state alleges the expense money was then converted to personal use and not repaid until approximately one year later, well after Watson’s resignation,” according to a press release from DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston’s office.

Though Watson eventually reimbursed the government,county policy requires unused travel advances to be returned to the county immediately.

County prosecutors subpoenaed government records and checks related to Watson’s travel advances earlier this year. That investigation led to Tuesday’s indictment.

A warrant has been issued for Watson’s arrest, and he’s expected to surrender to authorities, according to Boston’s press release.

The county hopes the cleaning will lead to fewer sewage spills and more money for the economy.
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