AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Poll: Did DeKalb CEO Lee May admit taking a loan from a subordinate?

If there were gaps in their report on DeKalb County corruption, the special investigators say those are gaps of the acting CEO’s making, since he cut off their probe in the middle of their work.

But one of those gaps concerns their most crucial allegation against interim CEO Lee May: that he took a loan from a subordinate, an ethical violation and grounds for removal from office.

A review of the document by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found other shortcomings, and some inaccuracies, which you can read about here in a story published Sunday.

Investigator Richard Hyde says that, because he got shut down, he only had one crack at interviewing May about his relationship with Morris Williams, a former high-level county official within May’s inner circle who abruptly resigned shortly after Hyde and former state Attorney General Mike Bowers began digging into the county’s business. May promoted Williams after he became acting CEO, bumping Williams annual pay from $137,500 to $158,000, personnel records show.

Hyde said his first and only talk with May on the subject was supposed to be for rapport building, with a more pressing interrogation to follow. It was never established what kind of loan May might have received from Williams, how much money was involved or when the money changed hands.

After the report's release, May first denied ever talking to the investigators about a loan, then in later public comments characterized it as the aggregate of money he borrowed from Williams for meals and incidentals over the years.

Hyde says that’s not what May said when he asked him.

Here’s the raw audio, available exclusively at myAJC.com. Judge for yourself, and vote in the poll below.

For those who can't make out May's exact words, here are the key parts in writing:

" ... And I shared this with the FBI. I mean, over the eight years, you know, I may have, you know, said, 'Hey, can I borrow a couple hundred dollars?' And it's never been more than, you know, more than that ... I couldn't even say what's it's been, but I know that, you know, eight years went by. If I needed something to that. But then again, it hadn't never been more than a few hundred dollars."

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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.