AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Hey, where's that DeKalb County corruption report we were promised?

A reader commenting on the AJC's Facebook page had this to say about DeKalb police investigators seizing interim CEO Lee May’s emails, part of a probe into a $4,000 check written to May by a county vendor:

"This MIGHT have been ONE of the reasons Mr. May wanted the investigation into DeKalb County corruption to be stopped," the poster wrote (with me adjusting some of his punctuation for clarity). "Hmmmmm. Or is there possibly more things to come out in the near future? ... I thought we were getting the 'full' report this week ... Today is Wednesday. Tic toc, tic toc, tic toc."

Others are wondering the same thing: Where's that report, the one with details on the misdeeds alluded to in an Aug. 5 letter from May's special investigators. May said last month he wanted the report finished Aug. 26, which already came and went.

The reason it's not out yet has to do with the icy relations between May and the men he hired to root out the county’s staggering corruption problems. Also at issue is whether the report should be sprung on elected officials during a public meeting, or disseminated into their inboxes so it can be digested in solitude.

Five months ago, May ordered up a comprehensive look into the county’s malfeasance and misfeasance by former state Attorney General Mike Bowers and investigator Richard Hyde, the same men who tracked criminal misdeeds in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal.

May stood side-by-side with Bowers when he announced the hire, the two seemingly united in mission. But that relationship didn’t last. In fact, May and his hired guns can’t even agree on what they said about rollout plans during a private meeting, as their testy exchange of correspondence last month shows.

Bowers says the target was early October, when the report would be revealed publicly in a presentation to May and the County Commission. That would have elected officials hearing the team's findings for the first time with news cameras pointed at them.

May says the report was supposed to be issued more than a month in advance of a presentation to commissioners.

Bowers' response:

Further muddying things, after sending that letter Bowers apparently told May's staff that he only needed an extra week past the disputed Aug. 26 due date. Now says he spoke too soon, and he may need until Oct. 6, after all.

Bowers explained his position to the AJC's Mark Niesse: “It’s just a lot of material to analyze and go through. We’ve been working weekends and nights, and we just can’t get it all together this week or early next week.

“We’re not going to rush this thing," he said. "We’re going to make sure it’s right.”

So the clock that the Facebook poster referenced will go on tick tocking, probably not chiming for another month.

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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.