Friday, November 4, 2011

Are we gearing up for a trial yet?



From WSB Channel 2 News:

A new indictment could put former DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis at the center of a school construction scandal.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne found out Lewis just got a ruling back from the Georgia Court of Appeals that reversed a lower-court decision disqualifying lawyer Mike Brown from representing Lewis in his corruption case.

But now the issue is will Brown be helping Lewis fight new allegations too?



Winne spoke by phone with Tony Axam, attorney for Pat Reid, former Chief Operating Officer of DeKalb Schools who oversaw construction projects for them.

Axam said the DeKalb district attorney's office has told him it intends to seek a superseding, or second, indictment in the DeKalb Schools case in which Lewis would become the central figure.

He said in the current indictment, Pat Reid is the central figure.

Axam maintains Lewis made Reid the central figure in the months leading up to the indictment through statements Lewis made to the DA's office.

Axam said Reid is innocent of any crime in the current indictment or in any that may come.

Winne talked to the district attorney Robert James and said it sounds like such a plan has not gotten the green light from him so far.

"I've not made a decision to seek a superseding indictment or any other indictment at this point. What I'm dealing with is what's in front of us which is the existing indictment," James said. 

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this why the Forensic Audit promised for SPOST III has not been posted on the DeKalb Schools website?

For the last SPLOST (SPLOST III) this is what was promised:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/splost/faq.html

See FAQ question....

“How can we be sure our tax money is being used efficiently?
As with the SPLOST II program, the DeKalb County Board of Education will appoint an independent Citizens Review Committee. Their purpose is to oversee and monitor DeKalb County School System SPLOST III projects in an advisory capacity. The goal of this committee will be to develop and foster public trust in the management of SPLOST funds.”

Click on the right hand menu bar “Forensic Audit Report Follow Up”.. You will be taken to a page that says:
“Page Not Found
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to locate the requested resource (web page, file, service, etc.).”

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

Taxpayers were promised a Forensic Audit 5 years ago before SPLOST III was passed, and nothing has been published.

Is DCSS not publishing the SpLOST III audit because of the court case?

Anonymous said...

OMG. The timing for all of this could not be worse. Regardless of anyone's opinion, I hate for the current SPLOST to be judged on the past actions.
Where is the oversight? How could so much occur and no one be aware? How much money was wasted or misused that could have been used for students and staff members. The teachers and school staff members do deserve a raise. Our buidlings do need to be repaired. I pray the people will not judge the current administration by the previous administration.
I think that the public is more aware now. It will be hard for things to occur without people asking some hard questions.
Do you think that anyone involved will stand up and tell the truth for the good of the students and the staff, so that his "long night mare" can come to an end.

Cerebration said...

I know they paid quite a lot of money for SPLOST II audits. Not sure about III. Maybe they've all been declared 'evidence'?

And SPLOST money legally can't be used for teachers - teacher salary - or anything to do with instruction other than buildings and some tech equipment (which is very loosely defined in the referendum). Remember when Cobb bought laptops with SPLOST money for all the children in the system and then had to return them because they weren't specifically listed in their referendum? Voters must approve these SPLOST purchases. It's not flexible.

So SPLOST only has to do with education in that it will build new buildings. The state has lifted the class size requirements so teachers jobs continue to get tougher while they endure pay cuts in the form of furlough days. Also, the school system cut the system's matching contribution to their retirement plans. This is a heavy hit, as the board long ago opted out of social security (back when Paul Womack was on the board the first time).

No new "oversight" has been placed that appears any different from the last time, except that we have a whistleblower hotline now. So if there is corruption, we can only hope that someone reports it. There was an 'oversight' committee for SPLOSTS II and III and no one caught the corruption. In fact, I would wage that no one ever would have, had not Lewis been caught with illegal pCard purchases for trips with his hihg-ranking school system employee lover. During questioning about this with the DA, Lewis reported what he says he knew about Pat Pope (Reid)'s actions.

So no - SPLOST is not exactly about the children or education -- it's about buildings. We do need to rearrange, revamp and construct new buildings but personally, I'd like to insist that the board sit down with the new super and draw up a plan for these buildings that is driven strictly by educational goals and a sound vision.

Form follows function. I don't have a clear vision of the 'function'. Can you really say that you do? If you endorse this SPLOST, the board will think you are pleased with their 'vision'. If not, they will have to go back and create a solid vision that will drive the way we educate children for the next decade.

Anonymous said...

There are very few "new" people in place... for the most part all of the people are the same... only the 4 under indictment have been replaced. There are a few new board members but they are still not a majority of the BOE --they can't be too effective until those who are not part of "business as usual" actually constitute a majority of the BOE (whether that's 5 of 9 or 4 of 7). Until there is a real overhaul of how the system really does things and only when real checks and balances are put into place (e.g. an online check and pcard register and regular, trust worthy audits and a BOE whose priority is the education of kids rather than employment of the privileged) will trust be re-gained in how the system does things.

Anonymous said...

Correction Cere. Faye Andresen caught the corruption when she served on the oversight committee -and specifically as it related to Columbia High School which is at the center of the Heery Mitchell case. She could get NO ONE to answer her questions and found no one willing to pursue investigatign it. An oversight committee means nothing. Audits have meant nothing. Anyone voting for this SPLOST because they have been "re-assured" by the establishment of an oversight commitment has been fooled again. Shame on you!! Has anyone seen the names of those that will serve on the oversight committee......I didn't think so. So who exactly do you think you will be trusting with this oversight??

Anonymous said...

Buildings do not make high student achievement. Henderson Middle, Lakeside, Chamblee High, and Fernbank (who according to the SPLOST supporters syaing they have a rotting building tha tneeds replacing) and Druid Hills High and Chamblee Middle before they received new facilities, are proof of that. High student achievement in less than great facilities...Excellent teachers with small class sizes and excellent principals managing and supporting their staff make successful students/schools. DeKalb needs to spend the next year focused on assuring student achievement, not on building projects. Make DCSS show us they can positively impact student achievement this next year when not distracted by building projects and then maybe the tax payers can support them with tax money for building projects the next year. Until they do, we have to VOTE NO to SPLOST!!! Buildings do not make a great school system -it is the day to day interaction with a fabulous teacher that hits the homerun!

No Duh said...

Anon 8:25 said: "I think that the public is more aware now. It will be hard for things to occur without people asking some hard questions."

The public has been asking hard questions for YEARS!! DCSS is run by a mafia who snubs its collective nose at the public and the taxpayers at every turn. That is, when it's not playing them for fools to do their bidding (i.e. FODE).

To Anon 10:18's point. Some very smart, very attuned, very caring people have been appointed to former "review boards," and once the BOE found out these people really could read and understand a spreadsheet and really would ask OUT LOUD the questions that the BOE itself should have been asking, these smart people were systematically demonized (easy to do in DCSS, simply call them racists).

Go ahead a give them the money if you want to on Tuesday. But, the buildings will still be falling down, leaking, overbudget cesspools of waste -- whether they are two years old or 40.

And BTW, the "good" schools in North DeKalb that everyone is driving their kids to have been sorely in need of repair for YEARS and somehow a good bit of learning has taken place in them. Another year or two of cruddy facilities isn't going to affect the quality of education going on inside them.

Anonymous said...

Good hard jail time for Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope will be the best medicine for this BOE, who enabled their criminal enterprise. Tom Bowen should have resigned the day the indictments came through.

Anonymous said...

@ No Duh You are correct, it's the DCSS way to call those that ask questions about policies and spending names of one sort or another. Racism and name calling are the DCSS way of those that question authority or perceived authority. Usually because those that are asked the questions don't know the answers or realize that the person asking the question knows more than the person who is asked the question.

Anonymous said...

Hello,
I am anon 8:25. My comments were not to say that I support or are against SPLOST and I know that SPLOST money cannot be used for salaries.
IF there are allegations that money was misused in one area, it makes you wonder if it could have occured in other areas. Voting is so important. I meant that I hope that past actions will not turn people off from voting. I also hope that Dr. Atkinson and her team will not be judged on the actions of others and given a chance. The trial will be hard on her, the staff, students and all of the people who love and live in DeKalb County. None of us want the name of DeKalb to be linked to all of the things that have occured in the past. There are so many good things about our county. They will be lost in the news of the trial. There needs to be justice and I do hope that the trial will start soon.
As far as oversight, I think that the blog has been a useful means of sharing information and keeping people informed.

Cynical in Chamblee said...

We need to push our District Attorney, Robert James, to get these trials scheduled and on the court calendar in early January 2012. The longer we wait, the more it costs the tax payers--in dollars and aggravation. Also, the "players" and witnesses memories will get foggier and foggier. We have had enough foggy.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 11:50:

I have no doubt that money dedicated to teachers' salaries was used for other purposes--some for nefarious activities and some to pay to defend DCSS for its nefarious activities.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 12:03

Wow, you are accusing the Federal and State government of being involved in a conspiracy to defraud DeKalb teachers. Audits are conducted by agencies such as the Inspector General's office to ensure money provided for the general budget is spent as intended. An audit is what uncovered the bookkeeper at Stephenson's activities.

Also, it would be tough to conduct a forensic audit on SPLOST III given the program is still collecting money and projects are ongoing. The collection for SPLOST III is scheduled to end on June 30, 2012.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 4:26 pm

"Also, it would be tough to conduct a forensic audit on SPLOST III given the program is still collecting money and projects are ongoing. The collection for SPLOST III is scheduled to end on June 30, 2012."

Your post is confusing and quite upsetting for taxpayers. According to your calculations, if we vote for SPLOST IV, we will not see a Forensic audit until at least mid- 2017. So you are saying this is what Dr. Atkinson means - that we would have to wait until SPLOST IV is over in June, 2017 to have a Forensic audit of SPLOST IV? That should be stated in the news. Most taxpayers believe it is an ongoing audit to ensure tax dollars are not spent illegally.

Anonymous said...

Why is Dr. Atkinson not asking for the SPLOST III audit o be published like we were promised 5 years ago? She simply needs to ask who is in charge of the audit and ask for it to be posted. There is even a webpage for this audit. If the data is confiscated to use I the SPLOST III fraud trial, why not say where the audit is. Taxpayers deserve more than a blank webpage.

That begs the question - was an audit of SPLOST III really conducted as promised 5 years ago? If so, where is it?

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 5:04 pm

Audits are conducted annually of SPLOST by law. Following is a definition of forensic audit from the business dictionary:

The application of accounting methods to the tracking and collection of forensic evidence, usually for investigation and prosecution of criminal acts such as embezzlement or fraud.

Perhaps one has been conducted up to the point of the allegations against Lewis and Reid yet is not being released due to the pending trial. This is a guess only.

Dekalbparent said...

From what is in the news story and the narrative, the answer to the question is: NOPE

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps one (annual audit required by law tor SPLOST III) has been conducted up to the point of the allegations against Lewis and Reid yet is not being released due to the pending trial. This is a guess only."

So why haven't taxpayers been made aware of this SPLOST III audit they were promised 5 years ago?

Lewis was not indicted until 2009. What happened to the SPLOST III annual audit for 2008 and 2009? These were never published for taxpayers. Can they be obtained via Freedom of Information? Why should taxpayers have to resort to this to get the information promised to them?

Why does anyone believe it will be different with SPLOST IV?

For the last SPLOST (SPLOST III) this is what was promised:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/progress/splost/faq.html

See FAQ question....

“How can we be sure our tax money is being used efficiently?
As with the SPLOST II program, the DeKalb County Board of Education will appoint an independent Citizens Review Committee. Their purpose is to oversee and monitor DeKalb County School System SPLOST III projects in an advisory capacity. The goal of this committee will be to develop and foster public trust in the management of SPLOST funds.”

Click on the right hand menu bar “Forensic Audit Report Follow Up”.. You will be taken to a page that says:
“Page Not Found
We apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to locate the requested resource (web page, file, service, etc.).”

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/forensic.audit.follow-up.html

Anonymous said...

Don't forget this small part of the Lewis/Pope mess: Pope gave Lewis tickets from a construction company - FRONT ROW TICKETS to a Hawks game (approx 41000 per seat).

It's bad enough that Pope passed on the tickets, and that company did not face criminal charges for bribery, but the worst part is Lewis accepted them, and didn't freaking ask where they came from? What kind of judgement was that from the head of one of the biggest school systems in the state??

Anonymous said...

$1000 per ticket

NOT Waiting for Superman said...

"Also, the school system cut the system's matching contribution to their retirement plans. This is a heavy hit, as the board long ago opted out of Social Security (back when Paul Womack was on the board the first time)."

This is more than a "heavy hit." Much more. It can lead to serious financial hardship.

Thanks, Paul! But, you wouldn't know anything about "financial hardship," would you, Paul?

Read this closely: When DCSS teachers and other DCSS employees who are part of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) retire, any other monies they might be getting from Social Security (if they had worked elsewhere for the minimum of 40 quarters to qualify for Social Security) or from a spouse's Social Security will be significantly reduced by as much as 2/3 of the monthly gross dollar amount from TRS. [Source: Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), www.socialsecurity.gov; passed by Congress during the Reagan Administration.]

Further, when a teacher turns 65, if s/he has retired, s/he is removed from the State Health Benefits Plan and put into a "Medicare Advantage" plan that costs MORE than the State Health Benefits Plan, plus s/he must also pay for Medicare, which is more costly than you might think.

It becomes even more costly if the teacher still must carry health insurance on another family member who is not eligible yet for Medicare.

Anonymous said...

Teaching is my second career. As someone who has contributed the required number of quarters to qualify for Social Security, I am not happy about this situation. I paid in, I should be able to collect the full amount. Since DCSS is not paying its share of Social Security taxes, they should be required to pay into the Board sponsored TSA. The money in my TSA account and the money I would have paid in SS taxes that is in another retirement account won't cover the financial hit I will take in lost benefits. At this point, I'd rather have Social Security.

NOT Waiting for Superman said...

VOTE NO! -- HELL, NO!! -- on SPLOST IV. Here's why -- and let's be clear -- very, very clear:

Cheryl Atkinson does NOT have a "team." She has hired a couple of unknowns who followed her from Ohio. Otherwise, Atkinson has retained the same bunch of thugs and thieves who were part of Crawford's Cronies and Pat's Posse.

These are the same people who, with the tacit approval of Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson, (one of Crawford's Cronies and a direct report to Crawford; handpicked by Crawford to be Interim Superintendent) ignored requests and refused to transparently provide requested financial information including an open checkbook. This information has been requested repeatedly for years.

Tyson, Crawford's COO, should have been indicted because she had to have known about Crawford's criminal activities. Tyson would have approved payment of Crawford's fraudulent P-card bills.

Tyson, with the approval of the corrupt DCSS BOE, is now directing Atkinson's daily activities.

So nothing -- NOTHING! -- has changed!

Atkinson MUST dump Tyson, along with Crawford's Cronies and Pat's Posse. Atkinson must prove herself before any more SPLOST money comes to DCSS.

Atkinson knew November 8 was coming. It doesn't take a genius to know what had to be done to gain the trust of DeKalb County taxpayers. That DOES NOT include PR-inspired, superficial "meetings" and 10-minute "school visits" accompanied by a coterie of insiders and a DeKalb Police escort.

VOTE NO! -- HELL, NO!! -- on SPLOST IV.

Anonymous said...

This has been pointed out before but there is information in the mid project assessment report. It can be found at:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/administration/operations/files/CIP%20Mid%20Program%20Assessment%20Report%20April%202009.pdf

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 10:07 pm

There is nothing like the in depth Forensic promised taxpayers 5 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the Finance Department in charge of the annual Forensic audits fr SPLST IIIMthat taxpayers were promised but never received? Has the BOE asked Marcus aturk or his boss Ms. Tyson why the SPLOST III Forensic audits were not done and published?

Dunwoody Mom said...

As the daughter of a CPA, I can tell you that financial audits are not or should not be performed by the people in charge of spending the money. Most companies will hire an outside firm to perform the audit.

pscexb said...

I do recall a forensic audit conducted on SPLOST II sometime in 2008 or 2009 as I was interviewed. I believe it was conducted by called Rubino & McGeehin. One point I recalled mentioned in the final report was that SPLOST money should not be allocated to BOE members for projects in their districts as it gives the perception of favoritism. It was on the website at one time though it I can't find it now.

There was a revenue analysis done by Merchant Capital, LLC in 2008. A memo appears in Assessment Report mentioned above Make of it what you will as it appears midway through that document. I do recall project delays were primarily due to not hearing back from the county office for inspections, plan approvals, etc. and that subsequently pushed several projects out. Cross Keys comes to mind.

Cerebration said...

Interesting you should mention that audit, psc...

Audit raps schools in DeKalb
Building program oversight criticized
By KRISTINA TORRES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/02/06

An independent audit released Thursday criticized both the DeKalb County school system and the management firm it contracted with for problems in the system's school construction program, including delays and probable overpayments for work.

The audit found no evidence of any fraud or theft, said Patrick A. McGeehin of the Maryland-based Rubino & McGeehin Consulting Group. He said the problems could be corrected.

The county school board commissioned the audit about four months ago in a move meant to reassure the public about the construction program. Board members plan to ask voters next March to renew — for the third time in a row — a special 1 percent sales tax that is paying for the construction program.

On Thursday, system officials said work began months ago to iron out obvious problems in the program, including bringing in new leadership with the hiring last fall of Patricia Pope, a construction industry veteran, to oversee it.

Other recommendations in the audit — including a better prioritized project list, more realistic cost estimates, revisions in contract language, and up-to-date, concise status reports on projects — are already being addressed, Pope said. The system also cut ties with Heery/Mitchell, the management firm, in April.

DeKalb officials also announced two audit-related hires:

• The powerhouse law firm King & Spalding will see what costs the school system might be able to recover from "any and everybody involved with our program," schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis said.

• The public relations firm Jackson Spalding will help get information out about the audit and what the system will do to address its findings, Lewis said. Auditors had criticized DeKalb's communications efforts related to its construction program.

"Some of the information was somewhat of a disappointment," county school board Chairwoman Cassandra Anderson-Littlejohn said. "But much of what is in the forensic audit was what we know."

The audit did not give any figures on possible overpayments.

(cont...)

Cerebration said...

Among the major findings:

• Heery/Mitchell did not live up to its contractual obligations. Auditors said they could find no comprehensive, regularly updated program schedule or any documented evidence that the firm analyzed the need for or price of change orders. Required monthly reports "were not consistently prepared."

• DeKalb officials were late in voicing questions and concerns, and they aggravated the problems in the program by making a career educator — someone with no construction experience — their point person. That educator recently retired.

• The entire construction program should have been re-evaluated once it became clear original cost estimates were too low. "This would, in all probability, have avoided much of the continuing controversy," auditors said. They noted that board members approved more than $610 million worth of projects, even as revenue for the program from the sales tax was projected to be less than $500 million.

• Neither the management firm nor DeKalb officials systematically reviewed whether they were owed money back for problems and delays that may have been caused by contractors or architects. Examples cited by auditors include delays and rising renovation costs at Southwest DeKalb High School, which have riled parents and students.

"I know that they know they messed up," said Tracy McMeen, Southwest's PTA president. Work at the school is ongoing. "I still feel we're not doing everything we can."

Heery/Mitchell, a joint venture of Heery International and E.R. Mitchell and Co., had not been provided a copy of the audit Thursday, but Gregory Peirce, a senior vice president for Heery, said the firm feels "pretty strongly" that it did what DeKalb asked it to do and that it took its directions from the school board.

The firm had worked in DeKalb County since the start of the construction program in 1997. Since then, the system has addressed nearly $1 billion in building needs during the past decade. Officials estimate they currently have about $800 million worth to go.

© 2006 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cerebration said...

However, it is then very strange to find that there had been an earlier study conducted that found Heery-Mitchell quite competent. In fact, this earlier study was conducted by MGT of America - the same company recently hired by Ramona Tyson to conduct a study for SPLOST IV needs and redistricting...

"The [school system] is to be commended for hiring a competent agency representative," MGT concluded.

The above quote can be found in a reprinted article from the legal publication, The Fulton Daily Report.

DA: 'Bad faith' in schools case

So - which is it??? They were excellent, before they were deemed bad by Lewis, Pope and King & Spalding. It makes no sense.

Cerebration said...

Before MGT was dismissed by Dr Lewis and replaced with Rubino, MGT had this to report:

In 2006, Lewis asked the school board to vote to replace an auditor that had given Heery/Mitchell a glowing report the previous year, telling the board the move was "an emergency," according to the plaintiffs.

MGT of America in May 2005 reported that "an overall on-time and within budget completion in the face of a nearly 20 percent funding shortfall is evidence of the professionalism and experience of the Heery/Mitchell Joint Venture."

"The [school system] is to be commended for hiring a competent agency representative," MGT concluded.


Pat Pope was hired in October, 2005 I believe.

Anonymous said...

While I completely agree with the "buildings do not make high achievers" sentiment, a mold ridden, cold, poorly heated classroom, does not make it any easier to give this kids an education. The kids should not have to fight the elements to listen to their teachers. Extreme heat in one room, freezing temp in another. I get the flu just being around the school from the constant temp changes. I never know how to dress my kid.

Anonymous said...

I say we slam the phones today. Call the county board offices and email them till your fingers fall off. NO splost 3 audit posted today, means a no vote tomorrow!!!!

Anonymous said...

@ anon 7:03: If you think the building projects will solve the mold and HVAC issues, think again. Ask Lakeside staff and students how they like the new HVAC installed a couple of years ago with SPLOST dollars. Large structures in each room that take up space and make noise, can't control the temps individually like promised. Ask Henderson Middle - they got a new HVAC system 5 years ago. The HVAC system has been broken ever since and it leaks onto the ceiling tiles creating, you guessed it, mold!

You are right that cold, moldy classes are not good for learning. But SPLOST is not the answer. A complete overhaul of the facilities management dept. is needed so proper maintenance and repairs happen. The head of that dept. should be an expert in the field of construction/maintenance/renovation, not be a former principal!!

Anonymous said...

"You are right that cold, moldy classes are not good for learning. But SPLOST is not the answer. A complete overhaul of the facilities management dept. is needed so proper maintenance and repairs happen. The head of that dept. should be an expert in the field of construction/maintenance/renovation, not be a former principal!!"



Amen, Amen, Amen!!

Anonymous said...

The head of HR should not be a former principal either.