AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

DeKalb CEO Lee May’s movie rental: X-rated or not?

For the most part, his Grand Wailea Resort bill, included in a stinging report on DeKalb County corruption, works in Lee May’s favor.

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday, the interim CEO was correct in saying he only paid part of that expense with county money. The AJC found no evidence he spent taxpayer money on the personal luxuries listed on the bill, as his corruption investigators’ written report suggested he did.

You can read Sunday's report on shortcomings in the document here.

But then there’s the $36.45 charge on the twenty-second line.

Staffers at the Hawaii hotel have told both the AJC and Channel 2 Action News that it’s a charge for an “Adult Movie Package.” No question about it. Nothing else it could be, they say. And by adult movies, they’re not talking about “Saw” movies or Judd Apatow films.

Despite what the hotel says, though, May strongly disputes that he rented adult material while in his hotel room at a National Association of Counties conference, in December 2014. He’s been on a circuit of public appearances at community meetings throughout the county, giving his side of the story and pouncing on shortcomings in the report to undermine its credibility.

“I didn’t pay for an adult movie, OK?” May said at a forum in Lithonia last month. “And if I paid for an adult movie, I didn’t watch an adult movie, OK?

“Have you ever paid for something, and they charged you for something and it was something else?” he said.

The audience laughed.

No information is available on what movie was involved.

Keone Reyes, who works in accounts receivable for the Grand Waliea, in Maui, said she can’t determine what, specifically, was viewed in May’s room. It would have been rented through a TV remote, like any pay-per-view movie. But $36.45 is the exact price, with tax, for the adult package, she said.


Whatever it was, the charge was highlighted in the 40-page report by former state Attorney General Mike Bowers and investigator Richard Hyde.

Under the heading “Specific Improper Spending,” the Hyde/Bowers report questioned May’s “purchase of a movie ($36.45) and a spa treatment ($222.71) during his December, 2014, stay at the Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria Hotel and Spa in Hawaii.”

Reyes, of the Grand Wailea, said the spa expenses were for a 50-minute massage and a $30 tip.

Within hours of receiving the report, May was standing in front of news cameras holding up the resort bill, slamming the investigators for getting it wrong.

His statements have been galling to Bowers and Hyde, who say he’s the one who cut them off in the middle of their work, stopped cooperating and demanded a speedy write-up of what they had.

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About the Author

Johnny Edwards is a member of the AJC’s investigative team, focusing on the private sector and state and federal regulation. He has worked at the newspaper since 2010.