Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Superintendent: A Weasel?


(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


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?

82 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the last straw. The Board of Ed cannot continue with lewis as super, and Pope getting $200,000 of our tax money per year for doing nothing.

Ella Smith said...

You are on target Open and Transportation.

I have always respected Dr. Lewis and I do respect Dr. Lewis. I do think his heart is in the right place. I have no doubt about that.

However, I also am becoming very concerned at the publicity. Making statement about Pam Pope like this to an investigator who was not asking questions about Pam Pope itself is questionable.

A school supertendent has to be careful what he says when a case like the Michell case is going on. One million dollars is not much money compared to the money tied up in the Mitchell case.

What attorney was there representing the school board when he was being questioned? If there was someone there they should be fired as they really did not represent the school board very well in this situation.

Why would the school board not have their attorney their to represent the school board while the superintendent was being questions. It is not like they did not pay the counsel back then enough money to be present in situations like this.

I am embarassed by the whole situation and we need action by the school board and we need action now. Enough is enough and this county has been embarassed enough. Lets clean up the acts in the central office.

Dunwoody Mom said...

Be care of one-sided articles.

And beware of malicious gossip - that means you "Integrity".

I love this blog and what it brings - cere's original idea of a blog to "maintaining steady dialogue focused on improving" out school. However, it appears that lately, the gossip-mongers and people with personal agendas have overtaken and hijacked meaningful discussions about our children's education. At this point, I feel that continuing to post implies that I condone this type of "blogging". I do not.

Cerebration said...

I'm also frustrated that we can never seem to turn our dialogue to the topic of education - there are far, far, far too many wild, outrageous, ridiculous issues brought to the fore to discuss -- all brought to us by our school system leadership.

wea·sel
Pronunciation: \ˈwē-zəl\
Function: noun

1 or plural weasel : any of various small slender active carnivorous mammals that are able to prey on animals (as rabbits) larger than themselves

2 : a sneaky, untrustworthy, or insincere person

I can't disagree with your choice of wording, O&T

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what the procedure is in GA for recall of elected officials?

What about filing a class action lawsuit against a government body?

Anonymous said...

The board is as guilty as Lewis on extending Pope's contract. Lewis can only make a recommendation of who he wants to hire. That recommendation by law comes to the board for vote, yea or nay.

The board must have been briefed on all this since it was an on-going legal matter. Nonetheless they voted "yea" to Lewis' recommendation to extend.

In return upset taxpayers should vote "nay" at the polls on any board member seeking reelection.

No Duh said...

Weasel is harsh. Over his head, surely. Covering his butt, definitely. Honestly, every time I read or hear about our BOE and administration I feel like I need a bath.

I remain amazed how this Board and administration refer to $1 million as "just $1 million."

When we begged the BOE to follow through last year with completely eliminating transportation to magnet programs as was recommended by our Superintendent (after lots of expensive research on other systems' methods)we were told that would save "only" about $1 million over the hub system that was adopted to appease a few BOE members. Now we face ending successful and VERY POPULAR magnet programs -- programs that actually EDUCATE CHILDREN. All so we can spend $$ on gas and busses.

Add the lost $1 million from Pope shenanigans and that's $2 million in savings we could have realized.

Only 54 more examples like that in the system and we could keep teachers, salaries, magnet programs, needed services and more.

But, our BOE's mindset is "that idea only saves a $1 million."

I bet there are at least 100 $1 million ideas out there. Until the taxpayers elect BOE members who understand the value of a dollar -- a million of them -- we will always be held by the short hairs by these people.

Anonymous said...

I read this story on Saturday afternoon and felt the bottom of my stomach rattle...why because I was laid off by these corrupt, unethical rodents..I am outraged that not one BOE member did anything about this mess. They had plenty of ammunition to fire off on these individuals but chose to believe lies. Makes me think that they are just as involved as Lewis and Pope. Maybe they all weere getting some sort of kickback. I think a thorough cleansing is needed. That is why I stress to all who work, live and vote in DeKalb..trust no one elected in this town....they are all self serving and corrupt. SHAME

Cerebration said...

Very true points, No Duh. Please read the article I reposted called It's Deja Vu All Over Again!

You will see that the recent budgetary ideas implemented by Lewis were actually ALL from the initial findings reported by Evergreen Solutions LLC back in July of 2008.

As far as I know, the board never voted to spend the money to complete the studies suggested by Evergreen, however, it appears that Lewis has been using their preliminary suggestions all the way and proposing them as his own, brilliant solutions.

Anonymous said...

There have been several lawsuits filed by individuals who were in the recent layoffs. The dDCSS is coming under fire because they have all owed Pat Pope to create more debt for the county in her attempt to get rid of areas she no longer wanted due nto her over spending. The BOE and Dr Lewis told Pope to trim some of the fat out of her budget since she has created more debt than the DCSS could afford. But the problem for DCSS is that she was under investigation when she did the layoffs...totally unethical. She personally called the people in her office and laid them off..not Ramsey but her. how cann this be ethical or legal when there was a cloud over her head. All I can say is that some settlements are going to be pretty big. Why have they allowed this mess to continue. She should have been let go in the very beginning back in November 2008.
DCSS will have to settle with every employee to keep this out of the press and when it does hit the press..it will cause even more problems for Lewis and the BOE.

SongCue said...

Does anyone know the reporter who wrote the article, Tim Eberly? Is his beat DeKalb County Government? State Government? He's not the education beat reporter for DeKalb County Schools. That's Kristina Torres who--I think--is not a great reporter. I just find it curious that it wasn't the education writer who uncovered this.

Ella Smith said...

I have a lawyer and judge in my family and I immediately look at the situation from a legal situtation and when you are being questioned you only answer questions you are asked and also give exact answers.

I do not see what going after Pope had to do with him buying the car. I understand why Pope's contract was renewed now and why she is being paid.

I totally understand your concern Dunwoody Mom. However this site is the Dekalb County School Board Watch and items like this definitely anger the public are worth discussing on this blog.

Many teachers in the Dekalb County School System are upset at the administration and school board by recent actions and by blogging on this site it enables them to release frustrations that they cannot do otherwise. That is not a bad thing at all.

The scandals at the administrative level are embarassing to our teachers, our Dekalb County citizens, and it affects the climate of our schools and the morale of our schools which directly affects the education of our students. Any Educational Administration Book you read will indicate the importance of school climate and teacher morale toward educating our children in our schools.

I do respectfully disagree with you Dunwoody Mom. To turn our eyes to what is happening would be just as horrible to the teachers and students of this school system. There is so much that goes into making a climate right for learning in a classroom. It is so much more complicated that just books. I have learned the last year in graduate school that it takes a great deal to be a good administrator in a school. That is why I have always be supported of good salaries for local school administration.

Cerebration said...

Well, SongCue, that's probably because this is not about education. This has been my frustration for the last year and a half - NOTHING IS ABOUT EDUCATION IN DCSS!!!

Self-absorbed, crooked, lying, flipping jerks.

I have NO confidence that this will get legally resolved by the DA or anyone else. (How can the DA focus on this now - they've just been given the task by the state to investigate Clayton County!!)

It is truly up to us to elect a new board - 5 seats are up for re-election this fall. We intend to pay close attention. We need good people to run - you know who you are - please consider tossing your hat in. Persons of Integrity - WE WILL SUPPORT YOU!

Ella Smith said...

I do not think our school super is a weasel. I just am puzzled and embarassed again by this article.

The reporters (Kritina) who normally report for the school sytem get her information from the school system. I have never known her to do much investigating reporting.

Cerebration said...

I think O&T's use of the word, weasel, correlates to the fact that Lewis squealed on Pope - simply because he himself was in the hot seat - being questioned about his car purchase and p-card charges.

Here's a colloquial definition-

1. to evade an obligation, duty, or the like; renege (often fol. by out): That's one invitation I'd like to weasel out of.
2. to use weasel words; be ambiguous; mislead: Upon cross-examination the witness began to weasel.
3. Slang.to inform.

Anonymous said...

I agree Cere...that is what i got from calling ewis a Weasel....I would have gone for a different angle...Gangsta...not name calling Lewis but the entire situation

Anonymous said...

Why can't DCSS withhold & place Ms. Pope's salary in an escroc account until the case is resolved. Of course, she would receive a portion to maintain adequate living standards and meet reasonable expenses.

If Ms. Pope is willfully responsible for forgoing $1 000 000 on a whim because of criminality or negligence, she should be forced to restore these funds to DCSS.

Since her suspension, the salary that she is currently receiving is "unearned" by the "few" of projects she now manages instead of the "hundreds" she is being paid for. Until she is terminated for cause or reinstated with apologies, a large part of her salary should be held in an escroc account.

This 1 000 000 or a portion thereof could mean less hardships on the students. Vox Noctae

Anonymous said...

Dunwoody Mom,
You're absolutely right. Improving the school system for our children is the most important objective.

I think Cere's idea of a STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS with measurable objectives is terrific. Cere suggests that the DeKalb County STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS should state:

1. Every child has the right to be in a decent, clean, safe environment.

2. Every child deserves to be in a classroom with a reasonable pupil teacher ratio.

3. Every child deserves highly qualified, competent teachers who are paid well and have schoolhouse support staff and technology.

4. Every child deserves to have abundant access to state of the art science and technology equipment.

NONE of the items above are under teachers' control. ALL of the items above are the quantifiable objectives that the BOE, Lewis and all of the Dekalb Schools support staff should be measured on.

If the BOE, Lewis and the DeKalb Schools support staff are measured on these objectives, their efforts will be aligned with the needs of the students.

If DeKalb Schools support staff ensured these items, teachers could truly improve student performance.

Lewis and the BOE need to ensure funding for the STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS. Every program dollar needs to be weighed and measured for it's contribution to these 4 items.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:19, you must not be familiar with employment law. Pat Pope has not been charged with anything. For the school system to do something to her without CLEAR evidence of wrong doing would probably violate her contract and subject them to litigation.

As Dunwoody Mom said, Be careful of one-sided articles. Remember this statement by Pope's attorney in the article,

"The reality is Ms. Pope’s decision allowed the Columbia High School project to be completed on time and under budget,” Arora said in a written statement. “Since its completion, Columbia High School has been touted as representing the benchmark standard for construction renovation projects.”

Did the AJC tell readers what the additional work was? How could a project still come in under budget? Could Pope have made the decision to use the contractor already involved in the project to save time and money over bringing in another contractor? Could the state money have been used on other projects in DeKalb thus benefiting other schools that needed work? Was that researched? More questions should be asked.

Think about this, every week an article has appeared on page one of either the front page or the metro section about the same case. Why is the AJC presenting slanted information? Could it be to poison the jury pool for the Heery Mitchell trial and cause a change of venue? Who benefits from these articles appearing weekly in the AJC when they supposedly have all the information now? Tim Eberly needs to answer some questions.

Anonymous said...

Let's concentrate on what Lewis and the BOE should be doing. If they must meet measurable standards, they will either meet those standards or not.

If they don't meet the standards, they can be replaced and those same standards will apply to anyone who replaces them.

If they must spend their funds to meet the standards and keep their jobs, they will not have money available for items that do not benefit children.

They should be ensuring that:
1. Every child has the right to be in a decent, clean, safe environment.

2. Every child deserves to be in a classroom with a reasonable pupil teacher ratio.

3. Every child deserves highly qualified, competent teachers who are paid well and have schoolhouse support staff and technology.

4. Every child deserves to have abundant access to state of the art science and technology equipment.

These are the only reasons their jobs should exist.

Anonymous said...

Disagree strongly Anon 2:12. This is a balanced article. It states some important facts, and gives a lot of time to Pope's lawyer. There is a helpful timeline in the paper edition that is not present online.

It also attempts to ask Lewis some tough questions that he and his lackey spokesman Dale Davis refused to answer. Eberly does a good job with this, and is definitely more investigative than Kristina Torres, who just seems to rewrite DCS press releases.

The one thing Eberly did not do is state the status of the Lewis vehicle investigation, which started the mess. it is clear that lewis tried to deflect attention on himself to Pat Pope. But is our District Attorney's Office competent enough to make sure the seperate matter of the Lewis vehicle purchase still properly investgated? Gwen Keyes and Crawford are fellow Leadership DeKalb alumni.

Anonymous said...

I can't wra my head around this pitiful mess.

Crawford Lewis hired Pat Pope as CEO. He brought her on from a consultant to a full-time DCSS administrator, the No. 2 administrator in fact.

He told the public that DCSS would save millions by bringing project management back to Sam Moss under her veteran leadership.

He clearly knew her husband was architect Vincent Pope, who had previous DCSS contracts, and who's office was a half block from the Sam Moss Center.

They seemed to have a good relationship, until she didn't cover his back during the vehicle purchase mess.

So if Pat Pope did cover Lewis' back for the vehicle purchase, and didn't lose the trust of Sam Moss staff when she laid off many of them, none of this would ever of have gone public. Us taxpayers/DCSS parents would be in the dark about all these alledged improprieties.

I don't understand why Lewis renewed her contract. He could have just let it end with no repurcusssions.

And he has brought all this scrutiny onto himself. He hired Pat Pope. He allowed her to award huge contracts without BOe or his approval. Talk about self-inflicted.

Dekalbparent said...

@Anon 2:12, I also caught Manny Aurora's observation that The decision to continue with the contractor allowed the project to come in on time/under budget. The reason given (that two contractors working at the same time might trip over each other) makes some sense.

However, could Ms. Pope not have stipulated that Merit Construction could not use A Vincent Pope Architects on this phase of the project? That would have made her actions a lot less questionable.

Second, going back to the issue of Dr Lewis' car and p-card use, was the p-card issue ever fully investigated? Was it resolved? What exactly were they looking into - just gas purchases or other things, too? Is p-card use in general being looked at?

This left me with a lot of questions. Where is DCSS Internal Affairs in this??

Anonymous said...

From Anon 2:12 pm:

The point I'm making is that parents/taxpayers can replace Lewis and the BOE members just like DeKalb replaced Brown and the people running the BOE at that time, but if you don't expect anything but business as usual, then that's exactly what you'll get.

Are they providing DeKalb students with a safe, clean environment, low pupil-teacher ratio, competent and well compensated teachers, and an abundance of science and technology?

If not, then replace them with someone who will commit to doing that.

As long as the superintendent and the BOE members have no measurable standards to be held to that relate students, nothing will ever change except the name of the superintendent and the names of the BOE members.

They will continue to pat themselves on the back publicly for what a good job they do. No one can really dispute their facts because there are no set expectations for them. You can only try to "catch them in wrong doing". There is more than "wrong doing" going on here in DeKalb County. There is a total lack of anything constructive done for students.

Even if you clear up the questionable activities in DeKalb, we're still stuck with a "do nothing for students" attitude and administration. Just because you ensure honesty, you aren't guaranteeing competency.

Dekalbparent said...

Anon 2:12

Can't argue with anything you said.

I would slightly revise the Students' Bill of Rights:

1. Every child HAS THE RIGHT to be in a decent, clean, safe environment.

2. Every child HAS THE RIGHT to be in a classroom with a reasonable pupil teacher ratio.

3. Every child HAS THE RIGHT to highly qualified, competent teachers who are paid well and have schoolhouse support staff and technology.

4. Every child HAS THE RIGHT to have abundant access to state of the art science and technology equipment.

IMO, all the children deserve the very best, and they have the right to have all the conditions necessary to get what they deserve. Dammit.

Cerebration said...

Where is Internal Affairs you ask?

Well, let's see. Oh! Ron Ramsey, head of DCSS Internal Affairs, at an annual compensation of $112,120.37 under "legal personnel" AND additional salary of $3,261.00 under "miscellaneous activities" is away from the office for the next two months as he conducts his business as a Georgia State Senator.

As a state senator, Ramsey also earned $17,341 in 2008 in addition to his DCSS salary.

As a state senator, Ramsey made a very emotionally charged speech against the community of Dunwoody - calling them racists for incorporating as a city - and calling for a boycott of ALL Dunwoody businesses.

Are we to believe that this guy will treat the Dunwoody community with fairness when it comes to our schools?

Are we to believe that he will investigate anything that he isn't specifically told to investigate by Lewis?

Anonymous said...

Weasel might be harsh. But Lewis' interview with the DA sounds like a home with two teenagers: Dad, I'm sorry I dented your car, but sister did something even worse!

If Lewis didn't get interviewed by the DA, how long would he and Ron Ramsey sat on the Pope info. before they went to the authorities? They already sat on it for three weeks. What does it say about the ethics and credibility of a state senator, Ron Ramsey, who was sitting on the Pope info.?

This whole situation is unseemly. I agree with No Duh: Lewis is covering his butt and in over his head. That is simply unacceptable for a superintendent of one of the largest school systems in the Southeast.

Board of Ed, we need an adult as superintendent, and accountability. I'm hoping you Board of Ed members aren't very happy that DCSS administrators turned down a million dollars from the state. Now do something about it, please!

Anonymous said...

Ron Ramsey made this comment that was posted on the old GoDeKalb website:

http://godekalb.com/archives/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7100&Itemid=2800

"During the public comment portion of the meeting, Sen. Ronald Ramsey said, “I serve notice on the citizens of Dunwoody and businesses in the PCID, the consequences [of incorporation] will be dire, will be green. We will have an economic boycott against all the Dunwoody business community."

Here's Ronnie on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmovTZGrSv8

Can you imagine one of the top administrators in the DeKalb County School System having the unimaginable gall to call for a boycott of a city within the county, let alone a city that pays much more to DCSS in school property taxes than it gets back in return.

And hey Ron, you made an empty threat. Whatever happened to your economic boycott? If you're going to talk the talk, how 'bout walking the walk? You're a joke.

Cerebration said...

Thanks for posting the Ramsey info, Anon. There is also a very emotional video of him on the floor of the Capitol during the Dunwoody incorporation calling for a boycott. (That's where the actual quote is from.) It's no longer in the archives online.

Anonymous said...

NOW, can we finally quit saying "Premiere" DeKalb County School System......

Anonymous said...

....Premier

Ella Smith said...

Premier Dekalb School System is definitely the vision. However, with the School System and Super meeting only 46% of the objectives I still do not understand the raise or the Bonus.

Should the citizens of Dekalb also have a right to not be embarassed every week by an article in the AJC about wrong doing. School officials lets get back to educating our children in Dekalb.

Anonymous said...

Cere: Maybe I missed this in earlier discussion strings, but I just noticed that on the DCSS web site there's information on the Superintendent's Budget Plans A, B, and C.

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/fy2011-budget.html

Now there's a "Board Member's Plan D" which has been added, complete with a 2 mill tax increase.

How odd!

Since "board member" is singular I wonder if each of the nine will get a chance to submit their own Plan (versions E,F,G,H,I,J,K,and L? I assume.). My confidence has never been higher that the board is working together, and that each as individuals are capable of putting together a budget for a billion dollar business.

What a travesty!

Cerebration said...

Interesting to note -- the fact that Vincent Pope and Co was the architect of record on the Columbia project has been right out in plain sight all along.

If you look at the Construction Progress & Status
Report dated October, 2008 and look at page 34 - right there for the world to see is Merit Construction as the contractor and Vincent Pope as the architect. Project Manager: Andreas Peeples

Why is this suddenly so "newsworthy"???

Cerebration said...

I'm pretty sure that "board member" with the "tax the people and never mind making cuts" plan is Gene Walker. Can anyone endorse?

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:35,

Remember this statement from the article:

“A document obtained by the AJC shows that Tony Pope’s company made at least $625,000 for the additional work.”

What if you were told the monies paid to Tony Pope for the ‘additional’ work was $52,000? Tim Eberly conveniently neglected to mention that the $625,000 was for the ‘original’ work. Remember as we read earlier, the hiring agreement was that Tony Pope could complete any existing projects he was involved in for the district and that included the Columbia project.

You can see this for yourself by looking at page 4 of the CIP Report for October 2009 (which was audited). The report can be found at:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/operations/projects/2002-2007/files/CIP/October%202009%20Bi-Monthly%20Report%20Rev%2002%202.pdf

There will probably be a correction to the article that appears on page 20. Residents will also probably find out that the money was not lost as the article suggests.

This trial can’t come soon enough…

Cerebration said...

And really, what did happen in the end to the original questions asked of Lewis? Did he abuse his pCard? Did he buy a car on the cheap? We don't know - he successfully deflected attention away from himself and onto Pat Pope.

Cerebration said...

My theory -- as long as they continue to employ Pat Pope, she is under obligation not to comment on the situation. This is why they extended her contract. As soon as they let her go - or file a single charge against her - she is free to sing like a canary!

Just do it, Pat! End the misery! Do it for the kids so that we can get back to focusing on them!

Anonymous said...

I read in the ajc.com a oouple of months ago that Patricia Pope is the god-daughter of one of Crawford Lewis's children.

Anonymous said...

I meant godmother.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly Dr. Lewis has paid the additional money for the car and that is now closed. The same thing is said to be true about the Pcard, he paid for the gas charges that were for his personal vehicle.

Anonymous said...

The Board Member's budget is from Gene Walker and I am guessing he wants it out there for folks to see that he is all about the teachers/employees etc.

Nothing wrong with that. However, what he has failed to point out is that this is it.. we increase the property taxes 2 Mils and that is all we can ever do. DCSS will have tapped out the property millage rate per GA law.

Does that matter? Maybe not, except that per the latest report, there may be even less state funding this time next year, so then what?

Are we delaying the inevitable?

Anonymous said...

This gas and pcard business should have never happpened to begin with. They are greedy and self serving...I say they should be fined and never allowed to serve in anhyh capacity of authority especially with taxpayers dollars.
Last time I checked theft by taking is a crime and that's exactly what both these folks have done...stolen taxpaers dollars and claimed them as theor own...they receive a high enough salary that there is no need to be greedy....fire all of them...they were wrong and still are wrong. How can anyine accept this behavior or support them doing wrongful acts. How about some accountability from the folks we entrust our children and taxes to.

Demand.Integrity.Now. said...

@ Anon 2:12 and Dekalb Parent ...

Where is DCSS Internal Affairs? Good question. Rom Ramsey, who heads up DCSS Internal Affairs is spending 40 days away from DCSS as a state senator.

Paid time off? Unpaid? Who knows? There are no answers coming from DCSS.

Who does Ramsey's job while he is away? Who knows? There are no answers coming from DCSS.

No answers from CLew-less, either.

Demand.Integrity.Now. said...

@ Anon 5:59 PM and Anon 8:20 PM

I work for a Georgia state agency. Using the P-card for anything other than approved official expenses is an offense for which anyone in my agency will be fired. Regardless of whether or not the person pays back the money.

Further, using a P-card tells the seller to not charge sales tax. So, even if the person "pays back" personal expenses charged on the P-card, they have still committed tax fraud -- a criminal offense.

It is time to fire CLew-less and charge him with tax fraud. That goes for his cronies who have done the same thing.

Ella Smith said...

Very interesting comments this afternoon and tonight.

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in the Dekalb County School System. The only thing I am proud of is the job my colleagues and I do each day to educate your children, oftentimes under difficult circumstances, and the job my administrative team does to encourage and support us. There is nothing to be proud of outside our schoolhouse. The people in charge are not even close to being role models for your children. Please do whatever it takes to replace them. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

@8:14PM do you know what the real limit is? I thought DeKalb's tax millage assessment was already beyond the State law limit, but I think there was some sort of weirdo exception. If so, raising it is even more nutso.

Cere -- A healthy discussion in another thread is the Robin Hood "local fair share" contributions DeKalb taxpayers pay to support rural school districts without a wealthy tax digest. Recognizing DeKalb's needs, how can you justify peeling off so many dollars to send elsewhere when DCSS taxpayers are subject to a 22%+ millage rate, and many of those receiving the funds from DCSS have a tax millage rate considerably less then half of that?

Read up on the issue, then talk to those you voted into the legislature and then raise hell.

Cerebration said...

Great idea, Anon! This is a community blog, so if you write something up and send it to reparteeforfun@gmail.com - we will post it. Sounds like you are familiar enough with the subject to enlighten the rest of us.

Really --- if anyone has something they'd like to write up in an article that they think would be good for our readers - we'd love the contribution!

Anonymous said...

I'm terribly fascinated at what appears to be the stubborn will of the administration and the passe stance of an enabling board -- see this evening's article on the AJC re: C.D. Moody chairing the very citizens committee charged with reviewing SPLOST projects. There may be nothing at all to the 'scrutiny' he faces with the investigation right now, but that the administration and board is willing to fail another smell test is amazing.

As for the millage rate allowable and the Robin Hood method of siphoning out funds from larger districts to help pay for rural districts, that's been going on for years. I believe it was the foundation for the QBE legislation (Quality Basic Education Act). That's one reason why some argued that it was wise for DeKalb to join the lawsuit where smaller districts sued the state for more equitable funding. Had the suit been successful, DeKalb might have had a say in a new formula for district funding (and keep more of its dollars). Of course, the smaller districts enjoy an incredible stay in la-la land when they have small neighboring jurisdictions but won't consider consolidating. Stupid politics is universal, you see. No one wants to give up anything.

And since we're discussing state funding anomalies, please look at the dollars which are negotiated away in incentives -- I believe Maureen Downey's post made mention of it. It's money school districts never see. When employers look to Georgia as home base, state officials, in their glee to attract them, give away the store. The tax abatements, as they're called, are HUGE. Kia, NCR and others have deals so sweet as to avoid paying corporate and if memory serves, property taxes -- for YEARS. State officials argue that if the employers don't come or expand, there won't be much to fight over anyway, so they're justified in giving away the store. There was once a website dedicated to examining the abatement consequences -- Google the NEA Study on Public Education Funding.

I apologize for the fragmented post. Will do better next time.

M G said...

Demand.Integrity.Now., so in Lewis' new contract when he doesn't have to account for his $30,000 expense account, wouldn't that also be tax fraud? And isn't the school board in effect an accessory since they approved the contract that stipulates the lack of accountability to show the purchased are for school system expenses? Interesting.

Cerebration said...

Apparently, Sarah Copeland-Wood was not at the meeting where the board approved the raise. She has not publicly stated how she would have voted had she been there, but she does point out in response to email complaints that attempts to state that the entire board approved the raise are "fallacious". She was not present on January 4 or 11th.

Anonymous said...

Weasels everywhere are gathering in protest of what they consider an unfair comparison!

Anonymous said...

Great analysis.
Regarding Ron Ramsey--the flip side of all internal affairs offices is one of "internal security"--in other words cover-up pros.

Remember Grisham's "The Firm"? Ramsey essentially does what the security director for the law firm did.

Ramsey can do this because he knows who knows who in the state power structure. That way, he knows what the GBI and FBI knows--how to contain investigations so that the cases only go so far...and he knows where thepressure points can be for anybody with a loose tongue.

Cerebration said...

This eve's online AJC has given us further insight into the Lewis "interview" in which he turned on Pope.

DeKalb County schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis told authorities in 2008 that school officials had uncovered a pattern in which those close to now-embattled school official Pat Pope were making money off the school system’s construction program.

“What we are finding out is that anybody that Ms. Pope has ever worked with . . . ,” Lewis told an investigator, “in some form or fashion, they are architects now for the system, they are contractors doing work for the system, they are with management firms doing work for the system.”

Pat Pope has declined to talk to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the investigation. She formerly headed the school’s construction program, but was removed from that post and given special projects while the criminal probe continues.

Her attorney, Manny Arora, called Lewis’ allegations about Pope “self-serving” and said they are without merit. “These slanderous comments about Ms. Pope were made by Dr. Lewis to try and deflect any alleged impropriety on his part, which was the basis for his interview with the DA’s office,” Arora said Tuesday in a written statement.

The District Attorney’s Office had called Lewis in to answer questions about the superintendent’s purchase of a school-district vehicle and gas purchases on his district credit card. Prosecutors say they are still looking into those matters.

But, midway through the interview, Lewis switched the subject to Pope.

He described losing trust in his then-chief operating officer, whom he hired to clean up a construction program saddled with delays and cost overruns.

“I just feel like Ms. Pope gives you half truths,” Lewis said. “And now I see that this is a pattern of behavior.”


Click the AJC link to this article for the rest of the details -
Dekalb schools chief: Pope associates made money off of system


As you read, take some of his comments and replace the context with more of a description of Lewis himself -

a pattern in which those close to (her) were making money off the school system

“I just feel like Ms. Pope gives you half truths,”

In Lewis’ interview, conducted on Nov. 26, 2008, the superintendent said he had just learned the previous day that Tony Pope worked on the McNair project.

“Now, Ms. Pope didn’t tell me that her husband had been working for 14 months or so as a consultant. And, while technically it’s not against the law, it’s a conflict of interest and it doesn’t look good to the public.”

Lewis described Moody as “one of Ms. Pope’s good friends” in his interview.

And Crawford Lewis’ signature is on the $17.6 million contract, dated May 2008 — six months before his interview with the DA’s Office.

“I wish I had caught it, but I did not,” Lewis wrote in his statement.

During his interview, Lewis said several different school system attorneys “all believe that we have enough, as I speak to you today, to let Ms. Pope go.”

Instead of parting ways with Pope, Lewis renewed her contract in February, giving her a salary of nearly $200,000.

Lewis justified extending her contract in his statement.“We were concerned that not renewing her contract at that time might jeopardize the progress of our construction program,” he wrote.


Doesn't sound like his story is air-tight, does it?

Anonymous said...

Someone should direct the AJC reporter to Ms. Littlejohn -- she had a lot of this informaiton a long time ago and people were actively trying to prevent her from bringing it into the open and kept clouding her character with the cheerleading uniforms, which may have obstructed some valuable and accurate information about taxpayer fraud in the use of funds.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if i am wrong, but am i understanding these statements that lewis in november 2008 he knew all this and gave her new contract and he also let her lay-off all those people knowing that she and her husband were taking money. How could he even let her continue to work. So to make her budget look good and to make up for the missing money she just cut those positions. Every one that was in the lay-offs you need to file a suit against the school system. I hope you all have already did so. She should not have been able to have that can of power WITH THAT CLOUD OVER HER HEAD.

Cerebration said...

No correction needed. You are correct - it's not stated - you have to infer -- but I love this quote -

"“I wish I had caught it, but I did not,” Lewis wrote in his statement."

A $17.6 million contract that clearly shows Vince Pope as a player - and knowing that Pat had approached him and asked - and gee -- he didn't "notice"...

Yeah. Right.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Board members knew of relatives working on projects because of a request by Ms. Littlejohn to make that information transparent. This happened in the Fall of 2008 and was recorded.

As for the layoffs, that was a directive by the Board once again. Can anyone really argue that the Sam Moss Center is bloated? The layoffs there probably did not go far enough.

This article goes at the character of Dr. Lewis. Employees should watch their back as they may also get thrown under the bus as the investigation gets closer.

Anonymous said...

So Lewis and all the DCSS lawyers missed it on a $17.6 million contract? Heck, it was only $17.6 million dollars.

Cerebration said...

Yeah, who really reads those?

Anonymous said...

"Lewis described Moody as “one of Ms. Pope’s good friends” in his interview."

TEHN WHY IS DAVID MODDY STILL THE HEAD OF THE CITIZEN SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION COMMITTEE????

Crawford Lewis has displayed incredibly poor judgement time and time again over the past few years. It is long past time for him to retire. I would say he should retire with a shread of dignity, but he doesn't have much left.

Kim Gokce said...

... let the leaks begin ... startling excerpts from investigator interview with Dr. Lewis:

DeKalb schools chief: Pope associates made money off of system

Kim Gokce said...

Oops - sry folks... didn't catch Cere's post last night of the same article.

How about this excerpt: "Lewis also said a school district attorney put his opinion on the matter in writing, saying “that technically it’s not a violation of the law, but it doesn’t pass the smell test.”

You got that right! But the job of an executive isn't just to ensure compliance with the law, right? In hindsight, I hope Dr. Lewis realizes going against his directive was grounds for dismissal and that would have been the best course for the system in the long run.

Kim Gokce said...

@cere: "Yeah, who really reads those?"

Very, very funny! Especially when it's a paltry $17m, right? Wow.

Anonymous said...

What makes me the absolute angriest about this whole Pope/Pope situation is that community members raised these concerns when Pat Pope was hired. These concerns were addressed by DCSS officials saying that Vincent Pope would finish the Columbia High project and then would do no more work for DCSS. I believe though, that what was put in writing, was that Vincent Pope would not directly be hired by DCSS.

So, while, yes it may be legal for Vincent Pope to serve as a subcontractor or a consultant hired by the contractor, it certainly wasn't what was expected to happen.

At some point, our Board of Ed is going to have to grow a pair and hold Lewis accountable.

Will it happen? Nah.

Anonymous said...

Crawford Lewis tells the District Attorney in 2008 that he ha a Cheif Operating Officer who tells "half-truths" and steered ethically questionable contracts to her husband Vince Pope and friend Dave Moody, yet he keeps her on, allowing her to continue to make decisions regarding HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of OUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS!!??!!

This is insane. How is this guy still in charge of a billion dollar a year operation when he has no judgement.

Another example: He says the system is $56 million in the hole, and he goes off and hires an "Executive Director of Corporate Wellness". Way to tighten the belt and show taxpayers you're serious about spending their hard earned tax dollars, C Lew.

Kim Gokce said...

"These concerns were addressed by DCSS officials saying that Vincent Pope would finish the Columbia High project and then would do no more work for DCSS. I believe though, that what was put in writing, was that Vincent Pope would not directly be hired by DCSS."

I am not a lawyer but I don't think that will hold up in the courts. It simply makes it worse in the eyes of the law - not only did "you" ignore the spirit of the law and ruling by DCSS by using a relative as a sub-contractor, you are now conspiring to circumvent the law and the ruling by DCSS ... not good.

This sort of thing comes up all the time in the private sector and private company lawyers know you can't get away with pushing the inappropriate relationship out via a "middle-man" ... it doesn't change anything, I believe.

Anonymous said...

But Kim, aren't most contracts reviewed by lawyers before presenting them for approval and signature? If it was known that Vincent Pope was a sub on this contract, wouldn't the lawyers, Dr. Lewis, and the Board be culpable? If there were concerns, anyone could have requested that the prime contractor use a different architect or put the project out to bid again. By the same token, can you legally exclude someone from working as a sub?

This may come down to what did they know and when did they know it. The real question is was there ever an attempt to hide Vincent Pope's involvement with any projects.

Cerebration said...

It certainly does not appear that the Popes attempted to hide the fact that Vince Pope was working on some of these DCSS projects. They have Dr. Lewis' signature on one of the contracts to prove it.

BTW - wasn't this back when Josey Alexander was Dr. Lewis' attorney? I'd sure LOVE to see the document he says he had the attorney draw up stating that he disapproved of the contract that he himself later signed.

Should he fire himself for insubordination?

Anonymous said...

I really think that Ms. Littlejohn was really trying to get alot of this into the open at the time it was happening... she was being fed "inside information" and was being eaten alive for daring to ask too many questions.

Anonymous said...

If she had inside info., why didn't she pass it onto the District Attorney, the AJC, or how about us, the public? Cassandra is tough. So what if other BOE members were mad at her. If she had info., she had a duty to present it.

Cerebration said...

I've reached out to her in the past, but it's been a long time. Cassandra, if you read this - please send a letter for posting to the blog, I will post it for you! Tell the public what you think we need to know. Stop the madness.

Send a letter to
reparteeforfun@gmail.com

Justice In DeKalb said...

@ Anon 1/24/10 5:59

Crawford Lewis paying for the SUV has nothing absolutely nothing to do with the DA, Gwen Keyes Fleming, prosecuting him. Cronism at its Best. They are both graduates of Leadership DeKalb and it is my contention that this "friendship" has impeded Ms. Keyes Fleming from doing the job that she was elected to do. MS. Keyes Fleming is showing preferiential treatment to her "Elite & Powerful" Friends.

Flip the Script...Let's just say for arguments sake that someone wrote bad checks over $1,000 dollars....would they get a free pass too? Would ms. Keyes Fleming look the other way and set the Defendant up on a "Re-payment" plan and NOT give them a criminal record?

This is precisely why I have gone outside of DeKalb County to report on Gwen Keyes Fleming and her Abuse of Power and her Collusion. Pretty soon, Ms. Keyes Fleming may be facing charges herself!

Justice In DeKalb
Justiceindekalb@mpta.us
Blackboardcorrupt@mpta.us

Justice In DeKalb said...

Our DCSS Superintendent is A DESPICABLE WEASEL!!!

Need I say more?

To those who say that this is too harsh.....uhhhhh...NOT!

Too Harsh is the DCSS Bus Drivers made to take a pay cut!

Too Harsh is the Other Competent Non-Minority Construction Companies and Architect Firms who were DENIED Business due to Bid-Rigging thanks to C Lewis, Popes, Ramsey, et al

Too Harsh is the DCSS Employees who ere layed off in the midst of the Humongous Senseless Waste and Blatant Dis-Regard of the needs of the students.......

Anyone out there who is interested in joining a possible Class Action Lawsuit, please email - justiceindekalb@mpta.us

Anyone interested in joining in a RECALL of DCSS BOE, please email - blackboardcorrupt@mpta.us

Pre-Order the book - BLACKBOARD - CORRUPT!

Justice In DeKalb

Justice In DeKalb said...

@Demand.Integrity.Now - 1/24/10 @ 9:04pm

Need Not Fear, Justice Is Here!

I have reported the lot of 'em to the IRS!
Yes Siree! I most CERTAINLY DID!

Justice In DeKalb
Justiceindekalb@mpta.us

Please Pre-Order the book - BLACKBOARD - CORRUPT!

Justice In DeKalb said...

A Thief is A Thief is A Thief! Here's Looking at 'Cha Anon 1/24/10 @ 5:47pm

The Tim Eberly article concerning $52,000 vs $625,000 -

Look, allow me to go on the record and say that $1.00 or $1,000,000 is all the same especially when referring to Bid Rigging, Racketeering, Mail Fraud, Construction Fraud.

Tim Eberly is doing an Outstanding Job with basically recycled information. He has brought a new fresh eye to the mess that DCSS Mafia has created.

Just imagine what he is going to do with the "Smoking Gun" info that I am going to forward to him!

Justice In DeKalb

BLACKBOARD - CORRUPT! aka Justice In DeKalb said...

Question For the DCSS Despicable Weasel of a Superintendent -

Why, Oh, Why is Zepora Roberts daughter an Assistant Principal of a certain High School when she has absolutely NO EXPERIENCE? What about the other more Qualified Candidates?

Supreme Abuse of Power!

Get the book, Folks! BLACKBOARD - CORRUPT!

Join the RECALL MOVEMENT!
Explore your options - join a CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT against Ronald Ramsey, Crawford Lewis, Pat Pope DCSS BOE!

Email me at justiceindekalb@mpta.us

BLACKBOARD - CORRUPT aka Justice In DeKalb said...

Transparency & The Popes is a JOKE! This posting is in response to Anon 1/24/10 @ 5:42pm

While the DCSS Construction Contract information is accessible for all and online via DCSS website. Let's Be Clear, My Friend, it is NOT Due to the Pope's Unabridged Enthusiasism to be Up- Front & Truthful!

The Online DCSS Construction information can be attributed to the GA State Auditors continuously finding and citing DCSS - also came out during the forensic audit. Pat Pope had no choice but to comply.

If nyone has been laid off or terminated by Pat Pope, Ronald Ramsey, Crawford Lewis, DCSS BOE and would like to join a Class Action Lawsuit, please email - justiceindekalb@mpta.us

BLACKBOARD - CORRUPT!

BLACKBOARD - CORRUPT! aka Justice In DeKalb said...

SPIN-MEISTER - @ Anon 2:12pm

Your. Posting. Reads. As. A Spinmeister!

If you are an attorney for the Popes, et al...get ready to make lots and lots of money because so far all of this is "Child's Play". I have not even gotten started with the Peachtree Connection and the Mail Fraud / Racketeering Claim!

If you are one of the Pope's.....PLEASE Dry Your Weeping Eyes, STOP e-mailing me...as they say, You Done Did the Crime, Now GO Do The Time! Have some Dignity, I Say!

But in all honesty, I will say this directed specifically at Tony Pope. With the info that I have,, yes yes yes, I can kinda sorta see why you would be upset with having to Fall On The Sword Publically! Yeah, Ole' Tony Ole' Boy! Only those that are REALLY REALLY in the KNOW....Know that you are probably the Baby in the Bunch! Yep. I know about the side deal that was given to Stanley Pritchett. I know that this wheel was already set in motion by The Powers That Be (RL BROWN and his Money Hungry Cronies). AND, I know MUCH MUCH MUCH MORE!

Too many people Pass Over the Obvious! For Instance, Check out the Board of Director's Of DEKALB COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS FOUNDATION. RL Brown, Jr of RL Brown Construction of the Southwest High Schol Debacle is the CHAIR of this DCSS Foundaton AND, RL Brown has the Foundation listed in his name with The GA sec of State! Also, Thomas Bowen, DCSS BOE is also Chair. Another one of their Cronies is Juanita Barranco...(that's a whole 'nother story!).

Yes, yes yes. Can you believe that my team and I all have bets as to which one of you (Construction/Architects) will throw the other UNDER the School Bus! Crawford Lewis has no REAL Power, which is why I never waste my time on him!

Tony Tony Tony. Pope. You are practicing what my team calls "Deceptive Intelligence"! You are playing the Helpless Naive Victim now and I must say that others on my team have you pegged to a "T"! However, I personally thought that you would go put in a Blaze of Glory! Ah, well, whichever!

This I do Kow For Sure....

YOUR. TIME. IS. UP! YOUR. REIGN. IS. OVER! Take your Medicine Like a Man....Or Crook!

Justice In DeKalb

Anonymous said...

Ms. Littlejohn went to the DA and had her head handed to her on a silver platter. She really did try.... the reporter needs to contact her and see what she knows.

Anonymous said...

I think that was the "investigation" that was just in the news that was "dismissed" reported by the AJC recently with an apology -- I can't be sure but I think so....