AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Developer offers to take polygraph about mystery DeKalb document

When Vaughn Irons, the financial beneficiary of an invalid and possibly forged DeKalb County Ethics Board document, held a news conference Friday at his Atlantic Station office, he reiterated that he had no hand in the matter.

“I personally will submit myself to an independent polygraph test to prove that I had nothing to do with that particular process,” said the CEO and founder of APD Solutions, who’s also the chairman of the DeKalb Development Authority.

Irons also said he’d been assured that document was an actual Ethics Board opinion by someone unspecified, and that he has proof of that.

The reporters in attendance never got to ask him what kind of “independent polygraph test” he was referring to and what kind of proof he had. Irons left the room after speaking and wouldn’t return to answer questions, leaving that to an assortment of assembled proxies.

After he left, I asked APD’s managing director, Carl McCluster, if he could produce said proof.

“I’m not here to produce that proof,” McCluster said. “People outside the ethics department, who are involved in doing the work of development in DeKalb, asked the ethics department for their rendering, for their policy decision on this matter, and that document that has been bandied about was what was returned by them to outside sources.”

He ended the press conference shortly after that.

But I think I know what he was referring to.

At one point, as I worked with Channel 2 Action News investigating the origins of the questionable document, a spokesman for Irons sent us an email chain showing that Development Authority attorney Jim Monacell obtained an unsigned, unnumbered version of the questionable opinion in 2013. It came from former Ethics Board member Teri Thompson.

At the time, Monacell was drafting a document of his own dealing with a complaint about Irons serving as both a government member and a government contractor.

We didn’t consider that email chain to be an answer to our question about how – about a year and a half before that – a signed version of that document, with the number “15” handwritten above a blank line, showed up in the Purchasing and Contracting Department. That’s the version that opened the door for APD to bid, when that door had previously been shut because of a conflict of interest.

What the chain does show is that members of the Ethics Board had access to their attorney’s work product. Thompson told us she didn’t intend to proffer it to Monacell as an official opinion. It wasn’t signed, she said, so how could it be?

With Irons not taking questions, we also didn’t get to ask about DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester’s call today for him to resign from the Development Authority by the close of business. A spokesman later told Channel 2 that Irons has no intention of doing that, or reason to.

Jester also asked for the FBI to investigate Irons. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office has already begun looking into the matter.

DA Robert James’s office was tied up most of last year prosecuting suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, whose case remains unresolved because of a mistrial.

The star witness against Ellis told the AJC last week that Ellis took a personal interest in whether APD would be allowed to bid for a county contract, trying to intervene on his behalf in 2011.

Irons told me he doesn’t know why Ellis would have done that.

But Irons had supported Ellis’ 2012 re-election campaigns. State campaign finance records show that Irons, APD and its employees donated a total of $2,500.

More on this in Sunday’s AJC.


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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.