Wednesday, June 17, 2009

8. No Board member shall hold another county public office. Is Dr. Walker violating this policy? Should Dr. Walker Be Voting on JUNE 18th?

Does Dr. Walker hold another county public office because the DeKalb County Commissioners appointed him to the Development Authority? However, in reality, is it not true that particularly from time to time many political offices are appointed? Someone could have possible been appointed to Dr. Walker’s current school board position, instead of him having to run for the position for remainder of the term. Elected officials make the appointments and they are elected officials. Since this is not an elected office does it apply? Let’s look together at Black’s Law Dictionary, Abridged 6th Edition, p. 1230:

Public Office
“Essential characteristics of a ‘public office’ are:
(1) Authority conferred by law,
(2) Fixed tenure of office, and
(3) Power to exercise some of the sovereign functions of government.
(4) Key element of such test is that “officer is carrying out a sovereign function’.
(5) Essential elements to establish public position as ‘public office’ are:
(a) Position must be created by Constitution, legislature, or through authority conferred by legislature.
(b) Portion of sovereign power of government must be delegated to position,
(c) Duties and powers must be defined, directly or implied, by legislature or through legislative authority.
(d) Duties must be performed independently without control of superior power other than law, and
(e) Position must have some permanency.”

[Black’s Law Dictionary, Abridged 6th Edition, p. 1230]
63C Am.Jur.2d, Public Officers and Employees, §247
“As expressed otherwise, the powers delegated to a public officer are held in trust for the people and are to be exercised in behalf of the government or of all citizens who may need the intervention of the officer. [1] Furthermore, the view has been expressed that all public officers, within whatever branch and whatever level of government, and whatever be their private vocations, are trustees of the people, and accordingly labor under every disability and prohibition imposed by law upon trustees relative to the making of personal financial gain from a discharge of their trusts. [2] That is, a public officer occupies a fiduciary relationship to the political entity on whose behalf he or she serves. [3] and owes a fiduciary duty to the public. [4] It has been said that the fiduciary responsibilities of a public officer cannot be less than those of a private individual. [5] Furthermore, it has been stated that any enterprise undertaken by the public official which tends to weaken public confidence and undermine the sense of security for individual rights is against public policy.[6]
[63C Am.Jur.2d, Public Officers and Employees, §247]

The above definition indicates that Dr. Walker must be delegated to position. According to Wikipedia® delegation the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person (normally from a manager to a subordinate) to carry out specific activities. I believe Dr. Walker’s position as Chairman of the DeKalb Housing Authority Board definitely is a county appointed office.

Do you feel the undertaking by Dr. Walker in his public official capacity as school board member and Chairman of the DeKalb Housing Authority Board weakened the public confidence and undermined the sense of security for individuals’ rights against public policy decisions he is making? Why does Dr. Walker need counsel from the DeKalb County School Board Attorney currently?

What do you all think? The DeKalb Development Authority will meet tomorrow Thursday, June 18, at 8:00 a.m. at 150 East Ponce de Leon Avenue, Suite 400, in Downtown Decatur. Maybe we all should show up and demonstrate outside or just show up for the meeting. This is very sad and Dr. Walker should not be voting tomorrow but I suspect he will be. Why can he just not step aside and not vote on this issue? Is it the $18,000 he received? He says he was not bought by this donations so if this is the case then why will he just not vote on this topic so no one will question if his vote was bought. Would this not be the correct thing and moral thing to do?


Anonymous said...

I think Gene Walker attended the Rod Blagojevich School of Gov't Ethics.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Walker is a smart man. One would want to believe he sought a legal opinion before running for the school board position and keeping his position with the authority board. It is hard to believe this has not already come up.

He probably should recuse himself from the vote regarding Sembler.

Cerebration said...

This has come up. Somewhere along the way, some lawyer deemed the double-dipping legal. Burrell Ellis had the opportunity not to reappoint Walker to the Authority - yet he did. It's a slippery slope.

Ella Smith said...

Cerbration you are correct. It did come up and the school board attorney said it was legal. By looking at the definition I question her judgement but legally things can be interpreted in different ways and that is the reason for judges.

I think Thurmond should make a legal opinion on the topic. I am sure this would be interesting as he is from Dekalb County. I do believe he is a good honest.

Ella Smith said...

Maybe this is the reason Dr. Walker wants legal counsel from the school board attorney. Maybe this has become and issue and he used the school board attorney for legal advise and now he wants her to represent him. I know some politicians are hot on his trial and this will be looked into as it should be.

Cerebration said...

Well - this could explain his disagreement with Dr Lewis regarding who exactly the system attorney directly reports to - the Board or Lewis...

Ella Smith said...

I was curious about all of this coming about and wondering if the two were connected. I do remember that the school board attorney did tell Dr. Walker that it was legal for him to do both jobs. I questions this at the time. Sometimes I question her knowledge on certain things. By looking at the definition I provided I do think it is a legal question to be answered if Dr. Walker is serving on boards at one time which could be a conflict of interest. I do not think our current school board attorney is qualified enough to make a judgement like this. I think this is a question for the state attorney general to answer. Maybe we should ask for his legal opinion? We can write him and ask for it.

The current attorney still has too many friends on the school board and she will continue to represent the school board because of her friends. I scratch your back and you will scratch mine.

I thought it was interesting to hear the school board talk about the new policy regarding use of the school board attorney. IMO, I do not feel that individual the school board members should be calling the school board attorney. She said she did not charge them but I suspect she does. First of all why would any of them being calling her unless they are micro-managing the school district. Dr. Lewis and a few of his top officials should be the only ones who contact her besides the chairman of the school board who might have questions about procedures that need to be answered. Second of all it would be cheaper to email her than call her on the phone I would suspect if they are going to be able to contact her individually. It is easy and fast to answer a question by email. This would take care of some of the long winded individuals on the school board who probable do have many questions (because of their lack of knowledge about education and legal issues in general) who probable get on the and take 30 minutes to an hour to get their question answered. I am sure we get billed for this.

School board members should ask questions in meetings to the counsel when she is there and is being paid to answer their questions. I think this does need to be stopped. NO wonder our attorney fees are what they currently are. But, if we had IN-House counsel and pay someone a reasonable salary then they could email and call and ask all the questions they wanted without being billed for the time. It is really sad that the school board does not have IN-House counsel as Shayna has recommended. It would save us so much money.

Anonymous said...

I know why Gene Walker didn't run for office after four terms at the Gold Dome. Ask some old-timers who know state politics. It's not an uncommon reason but still pretty disturbing.

Ella Smith said...

I keep hearing this from the old-timers from the state capital but I never get the specifics. I know that the old timers are very opposed to Gene Walker representing this county in any position at all.

I am assuming it is not good and maybe the public needs to know.

Ella Smith said...

I think it speaks for itself with the school board writes a statement in apparent opposition to the moves of Dr. Walker when Dr. Walker is a member of the school board.

Anonymous said...

Let's just say the four term state senator couldn't keep his hands to himself and was strongly encouraged by the state Democratic Party to hang it up.

Anonymous said...

Why DeKalb Taxpayers Should Be Screaming Mad !

A Message from StandUp DeKalb

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The following is an email from Bill Draper, a resident immediately behind Sembler Brookhaven, who has been involved from Day 1 with the Brookhaven LCI Overlay and trying to make Sembler and DeKalb County follow DeKalb's own zoning laws. Bill has been threatened with lawsuits by Sembler and yet keeps on trying to prevent them from getting away with the equivalent of armed robbery. Please read this and share with friends and neighbors.

Go to for the rest!

Ella Smith said...

Does anyone know what happen this morning? I tried to go but could not find the address. This is the second time I have tried to find this address and did not. I ended up both times on W. Ponce and their did not appear to be this address and I could not find it on Lawrenceville Hwy that turns into Ponce also. I guess I need to use mapquest the next time before I attempt to find this location. The last time was about 4 or 5 years ago I believe and I did not find the location either time.

pscexb said...

Per a report on AJC.COM, the vote was postponed.

Updated: 11:58 a.m. June 18, 2009
Decision on huge tax break for Sembler postponed


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In the face of heated public opposition, the DeKalb County Development Authority voted today to postpone a decision on an unprecedented 100 percent tax break for developer Sembler Co.

The company asked for a 20-year tax abatement worth an estimated $52 million for the unbuilt retail portion of its Town Brookhaven project on Peachtree Road near Oglethorpe University, saying it needed help because of the declining economy.

But the County Commission and county CEO Burrell Ellis today echoed residents who have voiced opposition to the deal.

Commissioner Jeff Rader said he and four of his colleagues signed a resolution opposing the deal. And, in a memo to the authority delivered this morning, Ellis asked that the authority board not approve the tax break. He also asked the authority to develop a comprehensive new tax abatement policy for all developers “that takes into consideration best practices and current market conditions.”

Ella Smith said...

Thanks pscexb

Ella Smith said...

I am happy but I do believe the county commission had this coming as many of us requested that they consider not appointing Dr. Walker because we felt there was a conflict. The only commissioner who was concerned was Jeff Raider. The other commissioners did not want to upset the apple cart with Dr. Walker. I think this is sad for the taxpayers of Dekalb County. Decisions should be made on what is the best decisions for the taxpayers and not to scratch the back of politicians. This is a perfect example of how political favors can hurt the taxpayers.

Paula Caldarella said...

Interesting. I'll bet the next BOE meeting is a doozy!!

And, though no one on the authority board mentioned it, the DeKalb School System late Wednesday went to DeKalb Superior Court to seek a temporary restraining order against a vote by the authority.

Among the school system’s legal claims was a charge that Walker, who is both a school board member and the chairman of the development authority board, has an “inherent” conflict of interest between his duties to the schools and to the authority because the authority can divert money from the schools.

The legal complaint also cites the money Walker accepted from Sembler for his school campaign last year. Campaign finance reports show that he accepted $18,000 from Sembler executives and their relatives.

“The campaign contributions by individuals affiliated with Sembler, which stands to gain from the vote by the Development Authority, appear to create an objectively reasonable probability of actual bias,” the complaint contends.

Ella Smith said...

How interesting Dunwoody Mom. This is what we have been saying for months about the situation. I did notice that Dr. Walker was pretty upset at the last school board meeting. In Dr. Walker's defense. The Dekalb County School counsel did tell Dr. Walker that this was not a conflict of interest to do both jobs. Maybe she was not aware of his contributions at that point as the rest of us were but she made it very clear at the school board meeting that there was nothing wrong.

Again, I am not please with some of the advise I have seen our legal counsel give like this. As a citizen that loves to research law cases from time to time I knew this had to be questionable with the donations that Dr. Walker received from Sembler.

The school board attorney should probable not have been giving legal advice on a personnel matter to Dr. Walker. Now that there is a problem and she did give him advice then I am sure he wants her to defend him. He does not want to hire his own attorney and pay someone $200.00 an hour. He wants to get these attorney fees free because of the advise he received previously.

pscexb said...

I gotta ask Dunwoody Mom, what is your source for what you posted?

Anonymous said...

Dunwooody Mom - it is in the updated article in the AJC.

Anonymous said...

I mean pscexb, not Dunwoody Mom.
sorry for the mistype.

Cerebration said...

oh wow. this is getting really ugly - much worse than I had imagined. Gene Walker needs to do the right thing and step down from one position or another. Even though what he's doing "could" be legal - it couldn't look more improper.

An aside - there may be much more than $18,000 involved. One report, at "Atlanta Unfiltered" found a bit more - another $1200 or so from another Sembler connection.

Beyond that - apparently Walker did see fit to "recuse" himself from the vote -- a day late, but certainly not a dollar short..

Walker said suggestions that the donations had affected his judgment would distract the county's attention from deciding Sembler's application on its merits. "Gene Waker does not need to be a focus of that," he said.

He noted the law does not require him to disqualify himself. "But," he said, "out of an abundance of caution, to keep from tainting the work of this body that I respect so much, I'm going to recuse myself." He then left the meeting room, "so the cameras won't focus on me and my every motion whenever a point is made."

Cerebration said...

Allow me to reprint our original post questioning Gene Walkers ethics. We've been watching him for almost 7 months now...This info has been publicly available since Walker was elected.

Monday, January 5, 2009
Dr. Eugene Walker - Someone to Watch...

Did you know…

Dr. Eugene Walker – our newly elected representative for District 9 on the DeKalb County School Board - has also served on numerous boards for the county – and currently STILL serves as the Chair of the DeKalb Development Authority?

Did you know that the DeKalb County School Board and the DeKalb Development Authority are not his only responsibilities? Eugene Walker currently serves as the Chairman of The Private Hospital Authority of DeKalb County and The Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly of DeKalb County as well.

Development Authorities were created by the Georgia General Assembly in for the purpose of promoting trade, commerce, industry, and employment opportunities for the public good and to promote the general welfare of the State. The Development Authority of DeKalb County was established in 1974 to promote economic development within DeKalb. It assists in financing business facilities and equipment for job creation and expansion. Do these goals align or conflict with the goals of a school system?

Did you know that the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia deemed the practice of using school taxes to fund developments known as TAD’s unconstitutional?

Did you know that the Georgia Legislature introduced and voters in November, passed an Amendment to the Georgia Constitution allowing School Boards to take part in funding these private developments using school tax dollars?

Did you know that one of the private developers with the deepest pockets, the Sembler Company – the people who tried to buy and develop school property at North Druid Hills Road also contributed at least $18,000 to the recent winning School Board campaign of Eugene Walker?

One more thing – did you also know – Dr. Lewis – Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools - was sponsored into the Commerce Club by Eugene Walker?

Think about it. Are these connections to developers good or bad for someone elected to serve our schools? We'll be watching...

Cerebration said...

There's more -- if you'd like to know Dr Walker's entire history, visit his own online bio -

Cerebration said...

Here's the latest commentary from the AJC on the subject - from our leaders -

Sembler was asking for a tax break worth $52 million, but Ellis noted in a memo that the authority had already given the company a 10-year tax abatement worth $20 million. He said he’d seen no evidence supporting the need for the larger abatement.

Ellis asked the agency to reconsider its policy on subsidies in light of the current economy. In an interview, he said the authority should study what other governments are offering, and develop competitive incentives.

He offered no opinions on how much the county should give, or to whom. But others did.

County Commissioner Jeff Rader said DeKalb County should only subsidize companies that bring money from elsewhere, such as factories and corporate headquarters.

Town Brookhaven would generate tens of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue, according to analysts. But Rader noted that no one studied where the shoppers would come from. He suspects most of those sales tax dollars would be diverted from existing businesses in DeKalb.

Others, including school board vice chair Zepora Roberts, were concerned with location. She said the new policy should foster development only in blighted areas and added that she doesn’t think Brookhaven fits that description.

Another school board member, Don McChesney, said government should not subsidize developers who lack cash. “If you don’t have the money to develop and open your business, then why are you doing it?” he said. “It’s not the taxpayers’ job to bail people out.”

Cerebration said...

We have serious issues to address - EDUCATIONALLY - and we now have a school board member who looks like he has been placed in his seat by a developer seeking political favors. I would think that the voters who elected Dr Walker would figure out the method required to recall him - and put someone in his place who will not usurp all the attention away from the students - to himself.

We need a Board Rep who is there for the students - and only for the students. There is much work to be done - and giving tax breaks to developers will not improve our schools.

Anonymous said...

Just got an email that Dr. Walker with be on the Stan Watson show on
Tuesday, July 7th on Comcast 25. The show runs from 7:30 to 8:30 and allows viewers to call in. Those who may want to ask him questions could have that opportunity.

Cerebration said...

I actually caught the "interview" - it was complete, total pandering.

Stan: "Sit down, my good, old friend. Tell us all about your two different jobs."

Eugene: "Well, we're implementing a dress code in the schools and that's going to make everything better."

Stan: "So tell us all about your troubles with the Semblers and I won't interrupt you or ask you a single tough question."

Eugene: "Wah, wah, nobody understands what we're trying to do here - we're SAVING Brookhaven. These people against us are all just anti-development."

Stan: "I know. I know. There, there, my good friend, now go and take a nice nap."

Cerebration said...

ps - Someone actually called in and asked, "What's Sembler?" geeez... do you think that was a plant or does Stan only have completely uninformed voters - ahem, viewers...