Well, here it is:
And please forgive me if this seems petty and whiny. I actually enjoy watching The Georgia Gang. But the situation with Jeff Dickerson has far-reaching consequences in terms of shaping public opinion on the performance of the DeKalb Board of Education and the DCSS Central Office administration.
The non-response response by Dickerson regarding my post last week on his failure to disclose that, while he frequently comments on the show about the DeKalb and Atlanta school systems, almost always in support, he is/was actually paid tens of thousands of dollars by those school systems.
This is what fired me up originally:
Making comments that support both of their embattled administrations while he has contracts with them is not the behavior of a practicing journalist, and when The Georgia Gang presents Dickerson each week, it is as "Jeff Dickerson, The Atlanta Tribune". Despite that the AJC often has quotes in news stories regarding DCSS listing him as a Jeff Dickerson, DCSS spokesperson", not "Jeff Dickerson, Media Consultant". His profile on the show's website has not been updated since June 2009, and has no mention of his fat DCSS consulting fee (the profile does mention his Atlanta school system work).
The Georgia Gang is THE premier tv show in the state on politics. That they took the time to address this issue shows that this blog has arrived as one of the most important blogs in the metro Atlanta region. Cere, you rock!!
AND KUDO'S TO DICK WILLIAMS AND JEFF KENT!!
Dick Williams is a longtime DeKalb County resident, a top high school basketball referees in the metro area, and is the editor of The Crier, which does a fine coverage of covering Dunwoody, with a little Doraville, Chamblee and DeKalb news too. Although some would say the great Cathy Cobbs is the brains behind The Crier ;) !!
Dick addressed the Dickerson issue head on. He didn't press much, and of course the highly compensated Dickerson shifted the subject to "The Demand", Ramona Tyson's push for a $240k salary even after she's no longer Supt., plus an insane $2,000 in personal expenses and a $500 stipend per month for "transportation". But big prop's to Dick for being upfront to the show's viewership. Respect is earned, and Dick earned it.
Jeff Dickerson is a master spinmeister, and instead of addressing the ethical issue of whether he should make comments on the show supporting Beverly Hall, Ramona Tyson, the DCSS BOE, etc. when he has been paid tens of thousands of dollars by them, he switched the topic to Tyson's compensation. H evene threw in the very disingenous figure of $240,000k, even though Tyson is now being compensated $270,000 (salary, expenses, transportation stipend) through 2012.
Dick, and then Phil Kent, the show's resident conservative Republican, quickly brought up repurcussions of "The Demand", that it may cost taxpayers an EXTRA million dollars over the courseof her retirement package. Kent even questioned whether she deserved the huge raise in the first place. Kent was adamant, his view was one looking out for the taxpayer. He even said the word "taxpayer" a few times.
Kent can be overly idealogical; he rarely acknowledges anything positive orginating from any local or state Georgia Democrat in elected office, or from any heavy Democrat-voting city or county like DeKalb, Clayton, Decatur, etc. But he does seem to look out for Joe Taxpayer (accept when Sonny Perdue is fleecing us via Oaky Woods). Thanks much Phil for pressing hard on what had to be an uncomfortable situation on set!
Jeff Dickerson seemed ready for it, and brought up some nonsense that a bonus would be illegal. Even though other supt.'s in Georgia has received similar benefit awards.
Alexis Scott, the show's resident liberal Democrat does what she always does: parroting Dickerson's every comment and always supporting anything Atlanta and DeKalb political leadership/school system-related. More money for Tyson? Of course. Is Beverly Hall the bee's knees despite the cheating scandal? In Alexis' world, of course she is. A big property tax increase and huge bump in our water bills? Hey if the DeKalb's Democratic CEO and County Commison want it, then of course it should be passed with no tough questions asked by a journalist, or the public. She's not one for deep thought.
Anyway, Dickerson never addressed the original topic. He has been paid tens of thousands of dollars by the DeKalb and Atlanta school systems for spinmeistering, uh, "media consulting" and "crisis management", but hasn't disclosed it this calendar year on the show, even while he has made a number of comments supporting Beverly Hall, Ramona Tyson, the embarassing DeKalb Board of Education, etc.
Heck, Jeff Dickerson was/is a major supporter of Vernon Jones despite the too numerous to mention scandals by Jones personally and professionally, and Jeff still throws in comments on how well DeKalb Countywas managed under the morally/ethically corrupt, and just plain creepy Jones.
Dickerson and Alexis Hall earlier this year wee both were praising and defending Crawford Lewis during the initial scandal mess, but even they eventually backed down with their support when the District Attorney's RICO indictment went public and gave an overwhelming picture of a lack of control and leadership by Lewis, along with trips to resorts with women not his wife on DCSS p-card, even a Bahamas trip with a current high ranking Central Office administrator. Yep, Dickerson and Scott had Lewis' back for a while after the DA's indictment, but moved on whe it was clear the public was justifiably outraged.
Am I being too hard of Jeff Dickerson, who seems to be a very likeable guy? Heck no.
Taxpayers pays hundreds of millions to DCSS, whether by property tax, SPLOST penny sales tax, federal taxes, etc. The number of mistakes, poor decisions and scandals by the Central Office and Board of Education were and are unacceptable.
Jeff Dickerson is in an extremely unique and powerful position to sway public opinion in favor of the DeKalb Board of Ed. and DCSS Central Office.
His failure to disclose his paid relationship with the DCSS Central Office and BOE (and the Atlanta school system) was a professional ethics failure on his part.
One has to ask, did the DCSS Central Office and Board of Ed., along with their Atlanta counterparts, seek out Dickerson specifically because of his perch on The Georgia Gang? He is paid by our tax dollars, so it's a valid question.
Thanks much to Dick Williams and Phil Kent.
To Jeff Dickerson: You expertly deflected the issue at hand. Not much has changed after today's show, and your credibility on any comments you make on The Georgia Gang related to the DCSS Supt. and Central Office, the DeKalb BOE, DeKalb property taxes (and the Atlanta school system) will still be in question.