(Some may find the term "Weasel" to be harsh and offensive, and I apologize for the severity. But please read the entire post first, especially if you pay DeKalb property taxes, 70% of which go to the school system)
Another day, another front page headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the DeKalb County School System, which will be read by hundreds of thousands of people and potential teachers throughout the state.
This one is shocking. It starts out about Pat Pope funneling business to her husband Tony Pope, and in doing so, costing the school system and taxpayers almost $1 million from the state. But it quickly raises questions about the competency of our superintendent, his competency to renew contracts, his lack of approval regarding large contracts, his allowing the school system to lose a million dollars in state funding, and his withholding of information on possible crimes from law enforcement authorities.
No-bid deal costs DeKalb schools
No-bid deal costs DeKalb schools
Embattled DeKalb County school official Patricia “Pat” Pope cost the school system nearly $1 million in state matching funds when she awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to a construction company without competitive bids, a move that resulted in more work for her architect husband.
State officials say they withheld the money because Pope broke state law when she awarded the contract to Merit Construction Co. in 2007 and because she failed to get state approval for the school renovation project.
It's just not about Pat Pope; the article becomes infinitely more interesting. On November 26th, 2008, Crawford Lewis was being interviewed on an entirely separate matter by the DeKalb District Attorney's office regarding his questionable purchase of his DCSS vehicle for one third the blue book value:
"But midway through the interview, he veered off topic to discuss Pat Pope and what he had recently learned about her. Lewis said the school district’s internal affairs office had been investigating Pope for several weeks, after one of Pope’s employees “made lots of allegations about Ms. Pope and other things that she had seen in the office that are not right, about contracts.” Lewis also said that internal affairs had been investigating allegations that Pope had tampered with the competitive bidding process on construction projects. Then he quickly focused on the Columbia High situation."
Crawford Lewis and Internal Affairs Chief/State Senator Ron Ramsey were aware of improprieties with Pope and the loss of a million in state funds, but did not bring it forth to authorities UNTIL Lewis was being grilled on his questionable vehicle purchase. A school system employee reported allegations about Pope on Nov. 6th, 2008. But Lewis and Ron Ramsey sat on it until Lewis was on the hot seat, er, being investigated himself.
It gets much worse.
But, three months later in February, while the investigation into Pope was under way, Superintendent Lewis chose to continue Pope’s employment and gave her a new contract making nearly $200,000 a year.
Yes, despite the fact that Crawford Lewis brought to the District Attorney's office multiple allegations, Crawford Lewis RENEWED HER NEW CONTRACT...at $200,000 per year!!
Note: In Georgia, an employer can chose not to renew the contract of a contracted employee without any penalty. Pope would have had no legal recourse, but Lewis decided to keep paying her $200,000 per year (?). Why would he keep an employee on staff when he went to the DA with alegations regarding that employee (hmm...would Pope do or say something damaging in retaliation to her contract not being renewed i.e. the Heery Mitchel lawsuit). Pat Pope is being investigated for "possible racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud, theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, theft by taking, theft by deception, flase writing, false swearing, subordination of false swearing, and big rigging." Yet Crawford hired her back. He and he alone renewed her contract.
It gets worse. Tony Pope received $1.43 million for work at Columbia High, a huge amount for an architect for a renovation. Crawford Lewis was aware of this, but made the decision not to tell authorities, until he was questioned on a separate matter.
It gets worse. Pat Pope is still on payroll making $200,000 per year. But she was removed from her duties as chief operating officer and assigned to special projects. She was replaced by five consultants making $1,000 per day. Yes, five people making one million per year total, to replace a person making $200,000 per year.
It gets worse. Pat Pope was allowed to make all decisions regarding school construction and contracts without gaining approval, without any checks and balances. I though Crawford Lewis was head of the school system? I thought the Board of Education had to approve contracts?
Apparently not. Lewis did nothing to make sure Pat Pope followed a chain of command, or made sure contracts went through a proper approval process. Only after Lewis was being investigated himself did he bring information to the authorities. How many other contracts and large purchases have been made in such a manner? Is the Board of Education completely out to lunch? Does Crawford Lewis think so little of taxpayers that his staff can approve million-dollar contracts with approval? Does he think so little of taxpayers that DCSS doesn't need a million dollars from the state for a school renovation project?
We taxpayers should question Georgia Dept. of Education oficials Lyn Jackson and Gregory Snapp, for being aware of the Columbia High situation, and not taking any further steps. Absolutely no one involved with this mess thought of taxpayers/students/parents, including Jackson and Snapp.
I do not see how the Board of Education can continue to pay Pat Pope, and continue to employ Crawford Lewis as our superintendent. This article exposes his lack of competency and poor decision-making abilities. The article exposes just one situation. How many other similar situations have occurred or are occuring now? How many other contracts were awarded without his approval, how many dollars in state funds were lost on other projects, how many other examples of nepotism such as Pat/Vincent Pope occurred or are occurring? What does it say about a state senator/head of Internal Affairs, Ron Ramsey, that he withheld allegations of possible criminal behavior to legal authorities?
Clearly, our Board of Education must make a change and find a new superintendent, chief operating office and head of internal affairs. Is our Board of Education in place to "protect" the superintendent and upper management, or are they in place to oversee a high achieving school system that wisely and frugally spends taxpayer money?