AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

DeKalb County corruption probe found more than what’s in 40 pages

When Mike Bowers announced the launch of his sweeping investigation into DeKalb County corruption, he sent a message to county employees:

"There are some bad apples. Woe be unto you," the former state Attorney General said at a March press conference. "But the good, decent folks, you have nothing whatsoever to fear from us.

"Come talk to us. We’re gonna’ make it better for you."

It was a call for any potential whistleblowers to come forward. Bowers got what he asked for, and then some.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has obtained more than 250 pages of backup notes written up by Bowers’ and Investigator Richard Hyde’s team during their five months digging into DeKalb operations. A review of the documents shows the investigators had been looking into far more allegations of malfeasance than what ended up in the 40-page report they delivered to the interim CEO in September.

Click here to read a story from Sunday’s AJC detailing other leads the investigators were following.

The records show the team was inundated with tips – some involving low-level employees accused by coworkers of favored treatment and minor theft, others suggesting potential widespread misconduct.

"There’s thousands of things we didn’t put in the report," Hyde said. "Because we weren’t getting paid. We got fired. They told us to stop."

The records also raise questions about May’s decision to cut the probe short, just as investigators were gaining momentum and as Hyde put heat on May over a loan he allegedly received from a subordinate.

May explained his reasoning during a community forum at Dunwoody City Hall last month.

"I sat down with them and said, 'Can you tell me where you are in this? Can you give me an end date on when you believe you’ll be completed?'" the interim CEO told the audience. "And I was told, matter-of-factly, that, 'We can’t give you an end date. We don’t know when this will end. That’s not how we operate. We take every lead and go down every path that we can.'

"My response was, 'Well, you don’t have a blank check.'"

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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.