Monday, October 29, 2007

DeKalb - Lack of Open Records regarding Brook Run Park, Dunwoody

Funny how in my earlier entry Rep. Jill Chambers would make it felony offense to deliberately violate the state’s Open Records Act and just yesterday DeKalb Commissioner Kathie Gannon informed me that in DeKalb County, it was the responsibility of the DeKalb Department heads who report only to the CEO, therefore the CEO and his legal staff are ultimately responsible for these open records requests.

Below is an e-mail I sent late Sunday evening to Ms. Marilyn Boyd Drew, Director of DeKalb County Parks and Ms. Viviane Ernstes, Asst Deputy County Attorney; expressing my frustration at both DeKalb Counties disregard for Georgia’s Open Records Act but also the way the $500,000.00 contract extension was added to the DeKalb Board of Commissioners agenda without public notice. What is not published below are my three previous requests, dated September 23, October 2, October 14; all asking for basically the same information. I am hopeful that they will provide me the basic records for which I am asking for since I am sure the Commissioners reviewed the exact same documentation in order to quickly approve a contract extension of $500,000.00.

Dear Ms. Boyd Drew & Ms. Ernstes,

On September 23, 2007 I made an open records request for correspondence between the demolition contractor at Brook Run Park & the DeKalb Parks Department. On October 2nd I was forced to make a second request because the County failed to even acknowledge my initial request and Mr. Billups then stated that he would have to talk to Ms. Kristie Swink for guidance. On October 5th, I met with Mr. James Stamps of the Contracting Office who provided me contracting documents, mostly documents from the final completion of the Skate Park and change order number 1 for an additional 60 days to complete the rear of the park at no additional charge to the County. Mr. Billups was not available to meet at that time and neither were the documents available that I requested from his Parks Department. Mr. Stamps informed me during our meeting of October 5 that Mr. Billups would be getting back in touch with me in the near future. On Oct 14, I again send another request asking for documents and several days later (Oct 17th?), when I still hadn’t heard from Mr. Billups, I called him at his office and he stated that there were no other documents or reports available regarding the work at the back of the park.

When I reviewed the published Board of Commissioners agenda for the October 23rd meeting prior to the meeting, item E11 Change order number 2 for 07-900545 with Dore & Associates was not listed. It appears that this item was placed on the agenda the day of the meeting, most likely not allowing the Commissioners an ample amount of time to review the details of the contract and the related documentation, nor did this last minute addition allow the public to have input of any type.

This is the point I really do not understand. How is it that on October 17th, the County Parks Department had no construction / demolition reports, or any correspondence between the Brook Run contractors & the county. Yet on October 23rd, the county approves a $500,000 contract extension on a project initially bid for $1.3 million dollars. Why do I have the feeling that I was possibly mislead regarding the lack of correspondence between demolition contractors & the DeKalb Parks Department? Maybe it is just me, but if no documentation existed on October 17th, and the CEO who sets the initial BOC agenda a week prior wasn’t aware of the need to change the contract, the County must have had extensive documentation provided to them just prior to the BOC meeting in order for them to spend $500,000 dollars so quickly. (I guess that will just come out of the 11.5 million dollars promised for Brook Run Park in the last Bond Referendum.)

Why did DeKalb fail to place a $500,000 addition to an existing $1.3 Million dollar contract on the Board of Commissioners agenda until the morning of the meeting? Was it because someone was trying to hide this fact from the public? Where is the proof that this asbestos now found on the site actually exists and is that a fair price for the work involved? Was a detailed environmental assessment completed and where was that report when I asked for public records on September 23rd, October 2nd & again on October 14th?

This evening I met with Commissioner Gannon and I asked who in County Government was ultimately responsible for Open Records Requests and she replied the various Department heads who report only to the CEO, therefore the CEO and his legal staff are ultimately responsible. Ms. Gannon asked if I copied the DeKalb legal staff on my e-mail? I stated that I had and as you see Ms. Viviane Ernstes name is visible on the messages below. I hope that Ms. Ernstes or Mr. Linkous of the Legal Department will be able to assist the Parks Department to finally fulfill my renewed request for public information regarding the back of Brook Run Park so that I may post all of the documentation to my website as a service to the community.

I then asked Kathie if the County Government had an independent auditing arm which followed up on and investigated instances of waste, fraud & abuse and she said that they did not. With a budget of $625 million plus various other bond revenues, I can not understand why the county does not? From the video of the BOC meeting, I remember someone stressing the fact that the lowest bidder was chosen for this project therefore this $500,000 dollar addition was acceptable and still within budget. It is this type of thinking that upsets residents watching good money being wasted if this project is going to be done hastily with no consideration of the price of the project.

I understand the reasoning to go forward with the project if it needed to be done, but I hope that due diligence was conducted in allowing this huge increase in the price of the project.

I have attached an open records request for records concerning the back of Brook Run Park and I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future.


John Heneghan, President
Dunwoody North Civic Association


Trackboy1 said...

Ignore. Stonewall. Resist. Fight transparency & access to records and budgets. Fire longtime staff for no cause despite the potential for litigation. Screw the public.

The standard operating procedure of Marilyn Boyd-Drew and Marvin Billups of DeKalb County Parks & Recreation.

Trackboy1 said...

(Becky Kelley is currently head of the Georgia State Park system)
"The suit was brought by former parks director Becky Kelley, deputy director Michael Bryant, assistant director John Drake and former deputy director Herbert Lowe. Lowe, the only black plaintiff, claims he was fired for refusing to discriminate against white managers."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/02/07

DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and his top aides created a hostile work environment through intimidation and humiliation to bring a "darker administration" to the county, a lawyer told a federal appeals court Friday.

The executives decided they would not fire white managers and replace them with blacks because that would be blatantly illegal, attorney Chris Anulewicz said. Instead, he said, Jones and his top aides did "whatever else it takes to make them quit."

Anulewicz asked a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a judge's ruling a year ago that allowed a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit to go to trial. The suit was filed by current and former parks employees against Jones, executive assistant Richard Stogner, parks director Marilyn Boyd Drew and assistant administrator Morris Williams. The court is expected to issue its ruling next year.

Lawyers for the county defendants urged the court to throw out the lawsuit.

Brent Wilson, who represents Jones, disputed the plaintiffs' allegations and said the DeKalb CEO's conduct was not unconstitutional. Jones, who is running for the U.S. Senate, did not directly supervise any of the plaintiffs, Wilson noted.

Even if the court were to assume Jones's actions rose to the level of a constitutional violation, Wilson argued, the CEO should be shielded by qualified immunity. This doctrine protects public officials from liability unless it is shown they violated clearly established laws or rights that a reasonable person should have known.

Rob Remar, a lawyer for the other county officials, said the allegations "simply do not rise to the level of a hostile work environment."

But Judge Lanier Anderson noted that the plaintiffs' allegations "paint a picture there was widespread racial motivation to eliminate white managers and promote black managers." That might give rise to a hostile work environment, Anderson said.

Anulewicz said there is overwhelming evidence to show there was a plan to harass and discriminate against white managers. "There is evidence that each and every one of these people knew what was going on."

The suit was brought by former parks director Becky Kelley, deputy director Michael Bryant, assistant director John Drake and former deputy director Herbert Lowe. Lowe, the only black plaintiff, claims he was fired for refusing to discriminate against white managers.

Anulewicz said what happened to Kelley was particularly demeaning. In 2002, she was removed as parks director and reassigned to the Greenspace program.

Kelley, who once oversaw a $20 million budget and more than 600 employees, was relegated to a position with no budget and no oversight over any employee. "She did what my 2-year-old does in pre-school — coloring maps," Anulewicz said.

rosie said...

I usually do not leave comments, but I thought this was a great post!

Public Records