Monday, June 30, 2008

Dunwoody North resident Michael Rothenberg has withdrawn from DeKalb Superior Court race.

As shown in the announcement below, Dunwoody North resident Attorney Michael Rothenberg has decided to withdraw from the DeKalb Superior Court race over concerns that his qualification could be challenged on a technicality. Rothenberg currently serves the citizens of Dekalb County as a part time judge in the DeKalb County Recorder's Court and who knows, maybe the City of Dunwoody will be looking for assistance if a part time position were to come available.

June 30, 2008

Dear Friends:

On Wednesday June 25, 2008 I qualified to run for DeKalb Superior Court Judge. Since that time, I have heard from many members of the community who were interested in the race. While the issue of my qualification was thoroughly researched, many cases and statutes read, lawyers & the Secretary of State consulted prior to making the decision to run this time around, and while I am certain in the belief that our position regarding my qualification is correct, I do not want the debate about statutory qualifications to detract from the real issues in the election - which always should be about doing what is best for the court. Therefore, today I informed the Secretary of State that I am withdrawing my name from the ballot this time around.

It may sound trite of me to say, but for me the importance of the judicial races is far too vast to be bogged down in an admittedly fascinating legal argument about the history of judicial qualifications and statutory construction (it would actually make a great law review article) and its more important than me. I saw over the last few days that was the direction this was heading no matter what I did and wanted to end that direction now and shift the focus where it belongs - on the issues.

I appreciate all of the support that I've received and new friends I have made during this journey. For now, I will focus my attention on assisting the current candidates and working hard to get the word out to everyone about the importance of voting in judicial elections.

2010 is right around the corner. But for now, I wanted to let you, my amazing supporters, know.

Our campaign to be bring real change to our court continues on and we will be on the trail this year and next. Please feel free to contact us, share your ideas with us and work with us to bring that change to our county.

Whatever you do, vote this year for your judicial candidates! G-d bless you all,


Sunday, June 29, 2008

DeKalb County CEO Debate - June 26, 2008

Rusty Tanton co-founder of the Georgia Podcast Network took the time to record the June 26th DeKalb County CEO Debate and was good enough to share his work with us by uploading the video to You Tube. Although the debate is not specific to Dunwoody, the outcome is something that will affect all Dunwoody residents whether or not we become a city. Stan Watson did not participate in the debate.

Thanks Rusty.

Opening statements:

Question 1

"Police Chief Terrell Bolton has put forth a road map for success plan for the DeKalb County Police Department, which does have a $100 million price tag if implemented. Do you support the plan, and if so how do you intend to pay for it?"

Question 2

"As CEO, leading by example, how do you intend to improve relations between the county government and the DeKalb County school board? If elected, what plans will you put forth which are not just lip service, but action?"

Question 3

"In terms of water resource planning and conservation, what plans do you have as CEO?"

Question 4

"DeKalb County taxpayers are extremely concerned regarding how our tax dollars are allocated and spent. Why should the taxpayers trust you to handle this multi-billion dollar responsibility? How will you ensure accountability? And what experiences do you have in the area of financial management to rise to this role?"

Question 5

"What as CEO will you do to improve overall service delivery so that the kind of frustration felt by the residents and citizens of Dunwoody does not lead other unincorporated municipalities in the county to secede from the county?"

Question 6

"As Commissioner Ellis pointed out, DeKalb County has a $3 billion budget. There are numerous programs that are not entirely fully funded. As Joe Bembry mentioned, we have 800 vacancies in the police department. In light of the fact that there is a property tax freeze on homestead exemption on a number of homes, seniors have their property assessments frozen, are you willing to call for or support a tax hike while you are CEO?"

Question 7

"Two independent audits in the county's finance department have concluded millions of dollars were spent on technology consultants from 2004 to 2008, circumventing county law. Do you support the DeKalb County district attorney convening a special grand jury to look into this matter or not, and why?"

Question 8

"Unemployment insurance claims are up 25 percent in DeKalb County over the past year. During the month of May, 3,000 people filed their first-time claims for unemployment. As CEO of DeKalb County, how will you promote the creation of jobs and economic development in our county?"

Question 9

"As CEO, how will you better inform citizens in the event of an emergencies or crises such as the recent water main break or the tornado which touched down along DeKalb Avenue and the alarms did not go off?"

Closing statements

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chamblee celebrates 100 years of cityhood

100 Years! That is how long the City of Chamblee has been an incorporated municipality in the state of Georgia. And as we celebrate our centennial year, I am grateful to those individuals that had the vision and wisdom to start this great city.

There are many reasons that I feel compelled to be grateful to these visionaries of the past, and it is my hope that the people of Dunwoody will have the vision and courage to see what a city form of government can do for their community and vote in favor of incorporation on July 15.

Much of the history of Chamblee is a wonderful story of an evolving landscape. From an agricultural beginning, to Southern rail town, to the first home of Camp Gordon, and the industrial development of the 1950s, Chamblee has represented this past century’s greatest eras of progress.

Today, it’s forging into the next century by building on the foundations of the past. All of the challenges that come with this inevitable change are best served by the very local form of city government. Cities are absolutely not another layer of government, but rather a form of government different than that of a county that is often too large and too cumbersome to truly meet the challenges faced by a local community.

Cities provide heightened services and more responsive representation where self determination and self governance are truly the way we work. The Municipal Government Committee for the Georgia Municipal Association has a policy recommendation that reads, in part, “Recently, Georgia has witnessed a surge of interest by various communities in the benefits of municipal government. As the level of government that is closest to the people, municipalities offer home rule that gives citizens greater influence in the character of their community and the nature of services that they wish to receive. As an entity that supports home rule and the benefits that municipalities offer, GMA is supportive of their aspirations.”

Controlling taxes is an essential role that cities provide. In Chamblee we are able to provide a responsive form of government with enhanced services with a tax structure that is almost identical to the taxes being paid by our friends in the surrounding unincorporated DeKalb County neighborhoods. And as DeKalb County continues to raise taxes to pay for high priced attorneys to litigate things such as distribution of HOST funds and the incorporation of new cities, we are able to opt out of county bond referendums and focus on what is important to our citizens.

The things that are important to our citizens are too many to list here, but zoning has to be right at the top. Land use decisions are some of the most important decisions that a community can make. These decisions are best made at the local city level, not by a group of county staff and elected officials living and meeting several miles away from where their decisions will be felt the most.

In Chamblee we recently adopted a new zoning ordinance that promotes smart growth principles to better position our community for future growth. Chamblee now has the opportunity to re-develop even further into a modern village while maintaining that small town charm that has lured so many here in the past and will continue to draw others to this city in the future. The city is working hard to further create this sense of place, complete with bike and pedestrian trails, landscaped streets, and architectural designs that invite people to stroll down wide sidewalks and gather at festivals.

Community involvement is vital to the success of a community. Simply being able to drive a short distance to a city council meeting rather than trekking halfway across the county to attend meetings helps to get more citizens involved. There are other ways as well. In 2004, I was on the city council that started to plant the seeds of growing informed citizenry. The city started providing a yearly class called Chamblee101 that is designed to inform and educate citizens about local government. It includes discussions and interactive activities on topics such as Chamblee's history, form of government, city services, budgeting and finances, volunteer boards, and volunteer organizations and opportunities in the city. While we are fortunate to have several wonderful departments in Chamblee, public safety is our largest department. Not only do we have our own police force, we have our own 911 system where the average response time is less than four minutes.

It is with great honor and pride that I serve as mayor of the city of Chamblee. So as we in Chamblee celebrate our first 100 years in existence, I can’t help but think how remarkable it would be for the future citizens of Chamblee to be celebrating their 200th birthday, while their friends just to the north in a city of Dunwoody, will be celebrating their Centennial year.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Is Money Magazine able to tell the future? Dunwoody Crime is up and rising but people in DeKalb are dying on a very regular basis.

Dunwoody Crime is way up.

In April of 2006 (wow, I've been doing this for a while), I received an e-mail from a woman who lived out of state and was going to be moving to the Atlanta area. She wrote me to ask about the rabid crime in Dunwoody as it was being shown in Money Magazines 2005 index of the best places to live; as being a very, very high crime affected area. I viewed the data, replied the best I could to disavow the claims and then copied the DeKalb North Precinct, DHA and the Dunwoody Crier for assistance. The police department explained that Dunwoody was not a city and that crime rates were not kept for just that small section of DeKalb County, in fact the crime rates being reported were the total crime rates for all of unincorporated DeKalb County. The Crier ran a nice article explaining the situation and even had Money Magazine retract the data off the website because of the error.

Fast forward two years where the current DeKalb Police Department is in complete disarray, crime is up and the number of police officers is way down with no quick fix in sight. Money Magazine is again trashing Dunwoody by saying that our personal crime stats are 6 times worse then the other places on the survey and 3 times worse than the average property crime statistics. This again is probably based on the entire unincorporated crime statistics which if accurate is just another reason for all the citizens of DeKalb to demand better from this Administration then they are currently receiving.

Then again, the demands of the citizens are ignored every day in this administration. I have witnessed citizens lining up to speak at the County Commission meetings asking for improvements to the police department, a Grand Jury has made recommendations for change and even the police officers themselves are revolting by airing their concerns over department mismanagement in public; yet Vernon Jones and the County Commissioners take no immediate action to correct the situation.

Those most affected by crime are ignored while the CEO is guarded by a large entourage of officers in order to protect his own personal safety from the people that he himself has the responsibility to protect.

The Citizens for Dunwoody police task force has been exploring the police needs of the future city and they were able to piece together Dunwoody's crime statistics for the last six years that show that serious crime has almost doubled in that time period. I'm sure it was no easy task in getting this information since the DeKalb County Police Department website has no county wide statistics, no drill down tool to see what happens in your neighborhood; no crime information at all? Is it purposely done this way to keep the citizens of DeKalb feeling sheltered up to the day that crime finally happens to them?

In 2007, DeKalb County set a new homicide record of 99 murders yet with it being less than half way through 2008, the DeKalb Officers site reports that the County is again on a record pace with already 59 homicides so far this year. That statistic isn't publicized anywhere officially because if it were someone might ask...

Vernon Jones & Terrell Bolton, what are you doing about this situation?

People are dying to know.

Monday, June 23, 2008

DeKalb Democratic candidates are coming to Dunwoody North on July 6th.

Meet & Greet Ellis, Gannon & Danese on July 6th.

Some of the candidates who are running in the Democratic Primary on July 15 are Burrell Ellis, for CEO, DeKalb, Kathie Gannon for Super District 6 (ours) and Larry Danese for District 1 (ours). These three will be at Bobbi Sedam's house, 4615 Stonehenge Drive on Sunday, July 6 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. for a "meet and greet the candidates". This is a chance for citizens to ask the questions that may concern them such as: Pluses and minuses for City of Dunwoody, government responsiveness, government efficiency, zoning, taxes, roads '"What have you done and what will you do for DeKalb County?" "What's your resume?"

As you know in the Primary Election on July 15 you may vote either the Republican or Democratic ticket but you can't vote in both parties. In the general election you can vote both Republican and Democratic even if you have chosen one or the other party in the Primary. The vote for City of Dunwoody will be on both Democrat and Republican ballots in the July 15th Primary. In this coming Primary Election, choice of party is important. There is no Republican opposition for the CEO spot so whoever wins in the Democratic Primary will be our next CEO.

Please come for the hour and enjoy a cool drink and interesting conversation.

Directions for 4615 Stonehenge Drive, Atlanta, 30360 in Dunwoody North should be easy to find on a Google map, or just call Bobbi at 770-986-7776 and I'll tell you how to get here.

This event posting has been requested by our neighbor Bobbi Sedam and is not being sponsored by the Dunwoody North Civic Association.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Creating a Walkable Dunwoody. Is it possible?

(zoom in, very detailed map)

For the last several years I have harped on speeding vehicles through our neighborhoods and with the help of (pedestrians educating drivers on safety), I have passed out free slow down signs to those who wanted them. Now with the City of Dunwoody looming, what changes could be made that would encourage our residents to get out of our cars to walk and bike for exercise and to get us to where we would want to go?

Improved sidewalk availability with accessible ramps where there are properly designed crosswalks, along all the major thoroughfares of the city would be a good first step of what would be a long and ongoing process. The Citizens for Dunwoody, Roads Committee that I Chair has been exploring this issue and we have conducted a sidewalk inventory of what we currently have, as well as where we believe future sidewalks and assessable ramps are still needed. This inventory will be presented to the Mayor and the City Council in order to assist our elected officials in budgeting for the future needs of the community.

The new City of Dunwoody will be a rather compact city with just 12 square miles of total area, which makes it ideally suited to transition to a walkable community. Once our City leaders are in charge of providing capital infrastructure improvements for the community, they will need to set design policies that would shift the paradigm away from a vehicle centric society to one that also provides its citizens the viable option of walking and biking to where they want to go.

Development of a long-range strategic plan will allow us to encourage re-development that supports live/work/play areas. We can establish zoning and land use ordinances that mandate development be designed on a scale that promotes walking. It isn't just sidewalks, the size and placement of parking lots has a big impact on walking, as does street lighting and having shops and restaurants near those sidewalks in commercial areas. These ideas aren't new, the Atlanta Regional Commission has been talking about them for years but if we decide to become our own city, it is my belief that we will be able to affect such positive changes easier & faster on the smaller scale that is the City of Dunwoody, Georgia.

The residents of Dunwoody can dream of the future, but voting yes on July 15th can start to make it a reality. Please vote.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Butterfly Festival at the Dunwoody Nature Center, June 27 & 28

Don't miss the BIGGEST weekend event of the DNC year!

Monarchs & Margaritas - Friday, June 27, 2008

The butterflies arrive on Friday, in preparation for the Butterfly Festival. Grown-ups get a sneak peek at our tent full of butterflies during the festive Monarchs & Margaritas! Join us from 6 to 9 pm for Mexican food, cold margaritas, silent auction, and a stroll through our enchanted park and butterfly tent. Proceeds benefit Dunwoody Nature Center. Must be 21 or older to attend. $25 Members and $30 Non-members. Tickets are limited; advance purchase recommended. Call 770-394-3322 for purchase and will-call.

Butterfly Festival - Saturday, June 28, 2008

Members-only from 9:30-10:30 am; gates open to all from 10:30 - 2 pm.

Bill Grant Homes is proud to sponsor this years Butterfly Festival. Bring family and friends to meet butterflies, ladybugs, honeybees, and more. Kids enter a HUGE tent to meet and hand-feed over 500 colorful butterflies. WOW! New this year: we'll have a members-only early entry to the butterfly tent before the gates open to the general public.

2 butterflies.Kids also make butterfly crafts, wear hats with moth or butterfly antennae, complete a scavenger hunt by learning something at each discovery station, and get their faces painted as the prize for finding all the answers!

There'll be storytelling, and kids dancing the waggle dance with the bees. Visitors will also enjoy many butterfly craft stations, face painting, the monarch puppet show, lemonade and hot dogs sold from the little playhouse, and a festive good time. Picadilly Puppets will bring their Butterfly Ballad, and Judy Leonard will serenade us with kid-favorite music. It’s the biggest event of the DNC year, a super fund-raiser and friend-raiser.

Discovery Stations for the Festival may include:

Butterfly Tent of live butterflies; Dancing the Waggle Dance of Bees, Termites; Moths vs. Butterflies; Monarchs; Compost Critters ; Butterfly Gardening ; Hummingbirds; Gardening information; Honeybee Hive with information; Dragonflies; Ladybugs, with a release of ladybugs in the gardens; Unfriendly insects ; Insect Mouths and Eyes ; Games in the Meadow.

Young festival-goers can take part in the release of live ladybugs into the gardens.

Butterfly Boutique

Items for sale at the Festival may include: Butterfly books; "Buggy" kids' clothing; Caterpillar kits; Honey; Shade-grown Coffee, Hot Dogs, Sodas, and Water.


Come to the Dunwoody Nature Center Butterfly Festival to earn your Council's own Butterfly Badge. Stop by the booth and get a checklist of your requirements and then visit the different stations. We have crafts, storytelling, nature information, puppet shows, games and a hugh tent filled with live butterflies.

Come with your troop or your family!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What would you do if you had 165 acres of prime real estate ITP and it was tied to MARTA?

The City of Doraville is looking for developers with deep pockets and a vision. If this is you, check out the sales pitch and the college project for ideas.

Atlanta Business Chronicle article

General Motors Corp. officials said the automaker has received at least 1,000 inquiries, including interest from international firms, about redeveloping its Doraville Assembly plant.

GM officials, speaking at a June 19 press conference in Doraville, Ga., said the company would probably narrow its list of developers to three-to-five candidates by August. It wants to name a developer as early as October to remake the 165-acre assembly plant -- a landmark in Doraville since 1947 -- into what could be the largest transit-oriented mixed-use development in metro Atlanta. A MARTA train runs adjacent to the plant and Peachtree-DeKalb airport is a few miles away.

The plant stands next to Spaghetti Junction and borders the city of Chamblee. GM said it's looking for a developer with experience redeveloping brownfields, or tracts of land previously developed for industrial uses and that often contain pollutants.

The automaker wants a developer that has deep pockets, especially in the current lending environment in which financing is often more difficult to obtain. And it also wants a developer that shares the vision of the city of Doraville and DeKalb County, GM officials said.

Dunwoody Homeowners Association sponsoring Thursdays forum on City of Dunwoody

For the Dunwoody residents who have not yet attended a City of Dunwoody presentation, I believe that this will be the last big informational forum prior to the vote on July 15th. This link includes my recap of the last informational meeting sponsored by the Dunwoody Homeowners Association as well as a news piece that was copied to YouTube.

Informational Forum
City of Dunwoody

Dunwoody United Methodist Church, Fellowship Hall
Thursday, June 19, 2008
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Sponsor: The Dunwoody Homeowners Association

Panel Participants:
Citizens for Dunwoody, Inc.
Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID)

Also Invited:
DeKalb County Administration
DeKalb County Commission

Moderator: Superior Court Judge Cynthia J. Becker

The panel will provide answers to frequently asked questions as well as written questions from the audience.

Nonprofit in Honor of Meredith Emerson Launches with Fundraiser at area Applebee's honors Meredith Emerson

Right to Hike, Inc. will kick off its programs by hosting simultaneous fundraisers at all 40 metro Atlanta Applebee’s on June 25 – five days after Emerson’s birthday – where participants dine any time during their local restaurant’s business hours to donate 15 percent of the total bill to the nonprofit...

To celebrate Meredith Emerson’s life and passions, friends, co-workers and concerned Georgians have joined together to create Right to Hike, Inc., a nonprofit that promotes not only hiking safety, but also other causes that were dear to the young woman. Right to Hike, Inc. will kick off its programs by hosting simultaneous fundraisers at all 40 metro Atlanta Applebee’s on June 25 – five days after Emerson’s birthday – where participants dine any time during their local restaurant’s business hours to donate 15 percent of the total bill to the nonprofit.

The money raised will go toward funding Right to Hike, Inc.’s three initiatives:

* To provide hikers and outposts with GPS devices that allow emergency personnel to locate hikers in distress;
* To offer added security to people with pets by providing micro-chipping for domesticated animals at Right to Hike events;
* To help other students study abroad in France, as Emerson did, through The Meredith Hope Emerson Memorial Award for Study Abroad which was created by The University of Georgia.

“We want to ensure other hikers can feel safe while doing what they love by giving them access to Satellite Personal Outdoor Trackers, known as SPOTs, so they can send messages for help and be located if lost,” says Julia Karrenbauer, Emerson’s co-worker, close friend and board member for Right to Hike, Inc. “Meredith’s dog Ella’s micro-chip played a key role in helping us find her, and it’s so important to make sure all pets have one in the event they’re ever lost.”

To participate in the fundraiser, visit and print out your invitation before visiting Applebee’s to ensure 15 percent of your bill goes toward helping Right to Hike, Inc.

Watch the video announcement from 11 Alive.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dunwoody dog owners ask to expand the dog park into the back of Brook Run.

The Henry Jones off-leash dog park, named after DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones' dog Henry, is located in a back corner of Brook Run Park in Dunwoody. If you own a dog it is a wonderful location with ample parking, friendly people who share a common bond, nesseled under shady trees with the brook running through it which gives the dogs (and the owners) a great amount of joy. The users of the dog park formed their own association named "Just a Walk in the Park" to protect and maintain the area and with their dedication the dog park is one of the biggest attractions in Brook Run.

Now this group is trying to do something that I haven't been able to get the county to comment on for months and that is to answer the question, Why are the back 30 acres of Brook Run park still closed to the public? JAWITP has written a letter to the DeKalb Parks Department asking to expand the dog park into the closed area and with Henry Jones as a supporter of the idea, how could Mr. CEO and the parks department say no?

All 102 acres of the park need to be used on a regular basis because it is this use by everyday citizen's that keeps the facilities in working order and keeps those who would otherwise be up to no good, away. A good example of this would be the building being used by the handball athletes, they may not have fulfilled their promise of handball lessons to the community but because they were there; that building has been maintained with running water & electricity and there is little or no graffiti in sight.

To let everyone in on a secret that hasn't been kept very well, the back of the park is open with walking trails leading directly back and there are numerous holes in the fences that anyone could slip past if they really wanted to. At one point even the construction gate leading to the back was ripped from it's hinges and months later hadn't been replaced by the county. So to say that the back is closed is a misnomer, it's open but not patrolled by the security officer who is usually stationed at the front guard shack and the County probably wouldn't want to be liable if you were running on the rocky soil they used as fill dirt and got hurt because of the rough terrain. Other than that, it's open and I am guessing that it is being used on a regular basis.

I am really interested in seeing the reply from Ms. Marilyn Boyd-Drew, Director of DeKalb Parks because the demolition contract is over, site restoration has been completed and the County has even signed off that all of the asbestos was cleaned up properly.

So what is the hold up? I'm not sure but I have been asking for quite a while, June 3rd, 2008, October 17, 2007 and September 12, 2007.

Below is the letter from JAWITP requesting the expansion of the dog park.

Marilyn Boyd-Drew, Director
Parks and Recreation Department
DeKalb County
1300 Commerce Drive, Suite 200
Decatur GA 30030

Dear. Ms. Boyd-Drew,

This note is in response to our discussion at the May meeting of the Citizens Advisory Board.

Immediately after the off-leash area at Brook Run Park opened in January, 2006, CEO Vernon Jones responded to privacy concerns from a neighboring subdivision and ordered the size of the original area reduced by nearly half. His commitment at that time was to expand the off-leash area across the creek and up the hill to where the hospital building stood. Now that that area has been cleared, and with the increased traffic with warmer weather, carrying out Mr. Jones’s commitment would be appropriate and timely.

Forty percent of households have dogs. What the off-leash area at Brook Run has afforded those DeKalb citizens is the opportunity to use the public green space for all the reasons those green spaces exist. Dogs are “socialized,” which is beneficial for them as pack animals, and they get the exercise they need. Much more importantly, the park serves the people of the community. Users of the park get outside much more than they would otherwise. They can walk with their dogs in a beautiful green space rather than the street. And the park has offered a wonderful place for DeKalb citizens to make new friends and to meet with old friends.

The off-leash area occupies about two acres in a hundred acre park, but accounts for much more than two percent of the park’s use. An expansion to double its space seems reasonable. Four percent of the park’s space to serve forty percent of the community seems very reasonable.
When we at Just a Walk in the Park adopted the park, we made a commitment to help the county keep the area clean, healthy and enjoyable to use. We have done that to the best of our ability. Our commitment to the park is demonstrated by the activities we have performed:
  • We have twice provided a FREE seminar on dog behavior and dog park etiquette.
  • We have twice provided FREE six-week sessions of basic dog obedience training classes.
  • We used our own money to purchase an additional bench for visitors' seating within the dog park.
  • We continually clean the park of both human trash and dog waste. Volunteers gather every single month to maintain this, a county property. Maintenance workers tell us that ours is the only park in the county that has such a support group, and they admire our diligence in maintaining the park ourselves. We call upon the Maintenance Dept. only when absolutely necessary.
  • We have taken it upon ourselves to bring in fill dirt to repair holes dug by dogs.
  • Our volunteers recently devoted three hours of a Saturday morning to clear away more than two years’ worth of debris that was causing damage to the fence line. In addition, we planted both monkey grass and grass seed which not only beautifies the park but contributes to the protection of the grounds.
The commitment shown by 200 JAWITP members would of course extend to an expanded area. We will do whatever we can to maintain this most needed space, including fund raising for any expenses beyond the county’s budget restraints. The enclosed petition with 350 signatures, collected almost casually in a weekend, indicates the depth of community support for the park.


Laine Sweezey, President
Bill Goss

AJC reports that DeKalb Commissioners ask for criminal probe of purchases

The AJC By TY TAGAMI, 06/17/08

Three DeKalb County commissioners are calling for a criminal investigation of purchases that violated county and state policies intended to ensure competitive bidding and spending oversight.

Recent audits found that contracts for technology services in the administration of Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones routinely violated purchasing rules. None of the reviews found any wrong-doing, which was beyond their purview.

Commissioner Jeff Rader noted that the auditors lacked the power of a grand jury to subpoena witnesses under oath and that the grand jury that ended in March issued a report calling for further investigation. The grand jury's report recommended that a subsequent grand jury investigate "piecemeal" and "no bid" purchases and that the accounting firm KPMG, which conducted the audit for the county, be retained to advise them.

Rader said a criminal investigation would "clear the air." He said he will send a letter to District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming and the Superior Court chief judge asking that a special grand jury be empaneled. He said two other DeKalb commissioners — Elaine Boyer and Kathie Gannon — have signed the letter so far.

Asked about the letter, Jones issued a written statement through DeKalb spokesperson Kristie Swink that said the district attorney needed no "political persuasion."

"I have full confidence that her office will do what is proper, appropriate and in the best interest for the citizens of DeKalb County," the statement said.

A spokesperson for the district attorney said Keyes Fleming is not investigating the matter but has talked with county commissioners about it. Jada Hudspeth said Keyes Fleming told the commissioners she was reviewing "all of the documents that I currently have before deciding the next course of action."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Open Records requested on Dunwoody Academy & Womack Road

After being put off by the DeKalb County School System in obtaining answers to my questions or documents that I have been requesting for about the last month, I have finally filed open records requests regarding the new school and the possible needed traffic improvements on Womack Road.

On June 10th, I visted Ms. Pope's office and observed the school blueprints where I found nine of them worth obtaining and posting on line. I requested them on the 10th but I guess it wasn't an "official" request therefore I am asking again for these electronic documents.

Sheet Number L1.01 Landscape 1
Sheet Number L1.02 Landscape 2
Sheet Number L1.04 Landscape Details
Sheet Number A1.11 Composite First Floor
Sheet Number A1.12 Composite Second Floor
Sheet Number A1.21 Life Safety 1st Floor
Sheet Number A1.22 Life Safety 2nd Floor
Sheet Number C-06c Site Grading ½ Final
Sheet Number C-06d Site Grading 2/2 Final

I also asked both the DeKalb County School System and the DeKalb County Public Works Department for the following documents since I still have concerns over the traffic on Womack.

  1. All correspondence between the DeKalb County School System & the DeKalb County Public Works Department (including their contractors) as it relates to Womack Road in Dunwoody, GA between the dates of January 1, 2006 and June 16, 2008.

  2. All blueprints and drawings of required or suggested improvements to be made to Womack Road as it relates to an engineered traffic site plan or road, striping & signal improvements.

  3. Copies of any traffic studies or impact analysis that was conducted for this school location.
We'll see what comes back and I will update then.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Is it possible to take local politics out of road maintenance? We can only dream.

In my last blog entry, I guess I hit a nerve? Rep. Jill Chambers sent me an e-mail stating that I was attacking her and then she went on a blog entry to call me paranoid. The entry also raised a number of comments regarding the inadequate infrastructure improvements in the community and a neighbor summed it up well in saying that at times it “seems the politicians do more work for each other, then the residents they are suppose to serve”. In reality I was only highlighting the inequity of the CEO form of government in DeKalb County as it relates to this administration and used the example of Ms. Chambers newly paved street and her close and personal relationship with Vernon Jones as a possible example of such inequity.

Roads cost a lot of money and if they are not maintained properly and adequately, the subsurface of the street will eventually be compromised whereby the entire street will need to be dug up and replaced, instead of just being repaved. The county road engineers are well aware of this situation and there is a grading system whereby every street is to be analyzed every year. I’m not sure if this really happens every year or how reliable the numbers provided are but I have attached the 2007 street ratings for District 1 of DeKalb County so you can take a look at them for yourself and find your street (though some seem to be missing). Anyway the entire County road rating list is not available on line without an open records request; therefore the road repaving program cannot be evaluated or tracked by the citizens of the county without putting forth some effort in order to do so.

In doing research for the transportation needs of the future city, I found that the City of Sandy Springs has a wonderful system for tracking the infrastructure needs of the city as it relates to the road ratings. First & foremost they hired a contractor with a special piece of equipment which has a GPS device and several lasers analyzing the surface of the street and the depths of the potholes. The data from this analysis is then fed into a computer and overlaid on a map of the city so that it can quickly show accurate information for every street. Sandy Springs then publishes this same map to the web so that all of the residents can have access to the information and the politicians would have a harder time doling out street repaving to their friends. I really like this system and would hope that DeKalb could somehow find a way to improve their current method of tracking and providing the information.

If nothing else they could publish the annual road ratings on a county wide basis so that our limited road improvement budget goes to those roads that need the most assistance.

I started this blog with the belief that transparency in government breeds self corrective behavior and no matter who gets upset at me, I am just doing my part to bring such issues to the table.

It's either that or I'm just being paranoid.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Odd that Rep. Jill Chambers' street was repaved last year by DeKalb County when there are 45 miles of roads in Dunwoody, rated as poor quality?

Rep. Fran Millar asks a number of public questions directed at Rep. Jill Chambers in this week’s Dunwoody Crier, but he forgot one that I would like to ask.

Ms. Chambers why was your little cul-de-sac which receives a very limited amount of traffic, repaved prior to the 45 miles of Dunwoody’s roads that are rated as poor with a score of 30 or higher? Records obtained on road repaving from the county showed that Shelborne Drive was repaved, but your adjoining street of Stonington Circle was not listed as being done. None the less, both you & I know that your adjoining street has been resurfaced and it’s now as smooth as glass.

I wonder why this expense wasn’t listed in DeKalb’s maintenance records, maybe someone was just sloppy, or maybe it was a purposeful oversight to hide the fact that this could be an unwritten perk for politicians who “carrying water” for the CEO. Vernon Jones under the CEO form of government personally runs all county departments and therefore probably has the ability to dole out such political perks. It’s funny how Ms. Chambers little street jumped to the front of the line in 2007, while the rest of us just continue to bump along on our barely patched infrastructure. How do you think that happened, Ms. Chambers? I guess the roads in your district are in pretty good shape, otherwise you probably wouldn't have allowed such special treatment for yourself?

(Did anyone else hear a rumor that Mr. Jones recently picked up the phone and personally made the same offer to a nearby, newly elected public official? I wonder who else in DeKalb has a freshly paved street; maybe some enterprising reporter should take a drive around town? I’ll even provide a preliminary list (scroll down to the bottom), but a thorough review of donor lists and known FOV, might actually make it more interesting.)

I had the pleasure to serve on the Citizens for Dunwoody, transportation committee where we created this map of possible needed infrastructure improvements to assist the future city council in setting priorities. It is my belief that the citizens of the future City of Dunwoody will not allow these types of political games to be played with our tax money as they currently do in DeKalb County; and that is just another reason why I will personally be voting for the city on July 15th.
Be sure to zoom in as the map is quite detailed.

Rep. Millar has a few questions for Rep. Chambers in Crier Editorial

As many of you know, Representative Jill Chambers continues to raise the same old questions about a City of Dunwoody. This week she will try to rehash the legislative session at Perimeter College since the League of Women Voters and “neutral” DeKalb Chamber of Commerce will give her a microphone for her re-election campaign.

I agree that DeKalb County could always bring a lawsuit against the State of Georgia on HB264 (HOST Bill that Chambers voted for). However, why would DeKalb County want to prevent the Perimeter CID (business community) from receiving $1 million to $1.5 million for transportation improvements which is one of the primary purposes of the bill? A large portion of the Perimeter CID will remain in unincorporated DeKalb (inside I-285 where major expansion is planned). Finally, DeKalb County will continue to receive all of the sales tax revenue and at least 90 percent of the property tax revenue from business properties located within the city of Dunwoody. If the commissioners have any sense, they will not take any legal action and to date they have not.

After two years, I have some questions that Representative Chambers needs to answer:

Why did you sponsor legislation allowing people in unincorporated DeKalb to become part of the city of Doraville ($200,000 anticipated deficit) and yet you are opposed to people in Dunwoody voting to become a city with a possible surplus? UGA did both fiscal studies. We both know Representative Watson (DeKalb delegation chair) kept his word to me and let the Doraville bill go forward.

Why didn’t you draft the annexation bill for all of Huntley Hills to become part of the city of Chamblee when you said you would?

Since you represent Doraville and Chamblee and both cities passed resolutions supporting the Dunwoody incorporation, why are you opposed?

Isn’t it true that you and your seatmate are the only Republicans to vote against the legislation which allowed people to vote on incorporation in Dunwoody (98-2)?

How did you know Roy Barnes was hired by Vernon Jones for a potential lawsuit and yet none of the Commissioners were aware of this action?

Isn’t it true that over the years your campaign donors include CEO Vernon Jones, Richard Stogner (Vernon’s Executive Assistant), former MARTA head Ed Wall (Vernon Senate supporter) and HJ Russell & Company (big Vernon supporter)? I was also one of the donors, but never again.

Anyone can vote for or against the creation of the City of Dunwoody. I have no problem with opposing viewpoints. When I see an elected official trying to create a re-election issue or carrying someone else’s water, then it needs to be exposed. This is particularly true when this elected official cloaks him or herself in the mantle of transparency and open government.

Further, factual information can be obtained June 19 at the next forum at Dunwoody Methodist. I urge everyone to get informed and vote July 15.

State Rep. Fran Millar

Dunwoody Nature Center - Concert Series


Bring your chairs, blankets, and picnics for a family-friendly evening of music in the meadow. FREE To DNC Members & Kids under 3; $3/child & $5/adult for non-members.

Dunwoody Nature Center
5343 Roberts Drive
Dunwwody, GA 30338

Check out the performers at the links below.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

PCID reports Ramps Meters are coming to I-285 at Ashford Dunwoody Road

Ramps Meters are Coming to I-285 at Ashford Dunwoody Road, Peachtree Dunwoody Road and Glenridge Drive

Beginning Monday, June 16, ramp meters will begin operation at all Perimeter Business District interchanges off of I-285. During the first week, GDOT will be adjusting meter speeds, etc to better serve commuters and residents.

Ramp meters have been used effectively to reduce traffic congestion in more than 20 cities nationwide for more than 20 years. Recent studies show the effectiveness of ramp meters in reducing congestion, travel times and accidents.

Ramp meters are essentially traffic signals located on freeway entrance ramps, designed to reduce disruption to interstate traffic by controlling the flow of merging traffic and alleviating bottlenecks. Benefits of ramp meters include:

  • Reduce back-ups on the interstate caused by merging entrance ramp traffic
  • Reduce congestion-related accidents, such as rear-ending and side-swiping
  • Decrease idling in traffic back-ups resulting in fewer vehicle emissions

DeKalb County Police Department in Disarray

I have many friends on the DeKalb County Police Department and I can tell you that the problems of the DeKalb police force outlined in an editorial in todays Dunwoody Crier are well documented as being true. I have included a few links to highlight the problems mentioned and some of the sources even come from the DeKalb Police Officers themselves from their "Anonymous" blog.

These officers who contribute to this site are probably risking their livelihood in doing so, but they must feel that by not speaking as they are, that they would be continuing to risk so much more then just a job.

The Dunwoody Crier, June 10, 2008

The DeKalb Police Department is in horrible disarray. Turnover is at an all-time high and morale is at an all-time low. CEO Vernon Jones appointed Chief Bolton over several more qualified candidates, who were actually recommended by the selection committee. Bolton came to DeKalb after being fired by the Dallas, Texas, police department.

Bolton did not buy a house in DeKalb when he moved here from Dallas. He was living in an RV in Stone Mountain Park until it was reported on TV news. Meanwhile, the 911 call center is under-staffed and emergency 911 calls are now routinely put on hold. At peak time, 911 hold times of up to 17 minutes have been reported.

Dunwoody is at the northern reach of the county and when shifts are under-staffed, Dunwoody suffers the most because our beats go unfilled. DeKalb police officers report to us that Dunwoody's three beats are almost never fully staffed. Veteran officers are leaving by the dozen to seek jobs in departments with better morale and management. Yet for those three understaffed beats, the Dunwoody tax digest contributes more than $11 million per year to the police budget.

While the line officers are very dedicated and professional, they are stretched far too thin. There are some facts that Dunwoody citizens should know regarding the performance of the DeKalb Police Department and how your tax dollars are spent:

  • DeKalb County has had four police chiefs in five years.

  • A grand jury is currently investigating spending on CEO Jones’ security detail; this entourage cost the taxpayers $600,000 in a recent year.

  • CEO Jones’ driver was recently promoted to Deputy Chief.

  • Poor morale has led to 43 officers leaving the DKPD since the beginning of 2008, including 19 in one month.

  • Chief Bolton has either forced into retirement, demoted, or reassigned 12 senior command staff since 2007. This includes one assistant chief and five deputy chiefs.

    A city of Dunwoody Police Department is clearly the answer to this extraordinary mess. We can create a professional force focused exclusively on Dunwoody, a force that provides the kind of police protection and crime prevention we need as our community becomes more densely populated and subject to increased crime. We can easily provide significantly higher police coverage and establish agreements with surrounding police forces for some specialized services (like SWAT and Search and Rescue) which we rarely need.

    Three days prior to your vote on cityhood, the DeKalb PD will have a huge display at the North Precinct. Specialized equipment such as the “mobile precincts” will be shown off. This is done at huge taxpayer expense in an attempt to influence your vote on July 15th. While the display will certainly be impressive, ask yourself, “when is the last time you saw a police officer in a school zone or proactively preventing crime in Dunwoody?” You know the other 364 days a year count too.

    Vote "Yes" on July 15th if you ever want to improve police protection, personal safety and quality of life issues in Dunwoody. Have a local voice in how your tax dollars are spent on police services. Who do you want spending your tax dollars and managing your police department: DeKalb County or your fellow citizens?
  • Monday, June 9, 2008

    Academy Update & Meeting June 21

    Yesterday afternoon I received a reply from Ms. Pope of the DeKalb County School System in response to my previous inquiries, inviting me to review documents and I will be taking her up on her offer later this afternoon.

    On a related subject, I received an e-mail from concerned "Dunwoody Parent" regarding the new 4th & 5th grade academy announcing another meeting for the community to discuss options to the academy plan. Below is the text of the e-mail.

    To: Dunwoody Area Parents

    Despite numerous objections raised by area parents, and without vetting their plan with the community, the DeKalb County School Board voted (on May 12th) to implement the 4th & 5th grade “Academy Plan”. The school Board has stated this academy plan was selected without concern for academic achievement and does not relieve the overcrowding at the elementary schools. This decision has numerous significant logistical and scholastic implications that have not been addressed. As concerned parents, we should discuss this issue and determine which solution is best for all of our children.

    We are looking for volunteers to address the concerns of the parents, community, and needs of the children. If you want to get involved, please write with your name, address and phone number.

    If you are concerned about the School Board's plan to break up the existing schools, then please join us for a meeting on Saturday June 21 @ 1:30pm at the Dunwoody Public Library in order to explore this matter further and plan next steps. (Your RSVP would be helpful for planning purposes.)

    Location: Dunwoody Public Library “Williams Room A”
    5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd
    Dunwoody, GA 30338

    Most recent update: Construction has begun on a new Dunwoody public school beside Georgia Perimeter College (Dunwoody Campus) at Womack Road, set to be ready for the fall of 2009. The yet unnamed New School is intended to relieve serious overcrowding at the Austin, Chesnut, and Vanderlyn schools.

    The Redistricting Plan was touted for almost two years as the sensible solution to our schools’ overcrowding problem. Most people in the community assumed this plan or some variation would be implemented. However, a new plan was recently proposed which has completely surprised the community. This new plan, the Academy Plan, permanently relocates 4th and 5th graders from three schools to the new school. As a result, the current 2nd and 3rd graders at Austin, Chesnut, and Vanderlyn would not finish their elementary years at their neighborhood school, but instead would be bused to the 4th & 5th grade “New School”.

    (If you cannot see the chart above please view it here:

    As shown above, the there are other plans that provide more practical allocation of children among the schools. As shown in the chart above, the Academy Plan would distribute the children in such an illogical way as to cause two schools to operate beyond their capacity!

    In addition, the Academy Plan creates an experimental and untested arrangement to replace the proven capabilities already functioning at the existing neighborhood schools.

    Please forward this to any Dunwoody parents who may be unaware of these proposed changes.

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    AJC reports that 200 request absentee ballots for City of Dunwoody Referendum

    Sample Ballot for Dunwoody
    The other day I received an e-mail from a board member of the Dunwoody North Civic Association titled, "WooHoo, I already voted!" As it turns out, I believe it was the first recorded vote for cityhood and it came from our neighborhood.

    If you are interested in voting early please call the DeKalb County Voter Registration Office at 404-298-4020, or click here to go to the DeKalb County Voter website.

    By DAVID MARKIEWICZ for the AJC: 06/06/08

    Dunwoody's bid for cityhood appears to be drawing early voter interest.

    As of Friday morning, 200 voters in the proposed city had requested absentee ballots from the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections office for the July 15 elections.

    Last Monday was the first day voters could ask for absentee ballots to be mailed to them, as well as the first day they could go to the elections office and vote in person on electronic machines.

    Although several political offices will be contested July 15, including county chief executive officer and three county commission seats, the key ballot item for most residents of Dunwoody likely is the referendum that, if passed, would grant the north DeKalb community status as a city.

    According to elections officials, 120 voters requested a Republican ballot across Dunwoody's 13 precincts, 76 requested a Democratic ballot, and four asked for a nonpartisan ballot.

    So far, elections officials said, only four people have actually returned their ballots: Two were from the Peachtree Middle School precinct who mailed in their Democratic ballots, one was from the Dunwoody High School precinct who mailed in a Republican ballot, and one voter from the North Peachtree precinct voted in person by machine on the Democratic ballot.

    Most absentee ballots were mailed Monday, an elections worker said.

    The Dunwoody question voters face reads: "Shall the Act incorporating the City of Dunwoody in DeKalb County according to the charter contained in the Act and the homestead exemptions described in the Act be approved?"

    To vote absentee, citizens must provide a reason they can't vote in person July 15. Among the reasons: The voter will be out of the voting precinct all day on election day, is 75 years of age or older, or has a physical disability.

    Lack of oversight on Dunwoody Academy - Skylights were removed from the project.

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote an e-mail to Ms. Pat Pope the Chief Operations Officer at the DeKalb County School System looking for some information and access to public records which were recently taken off the school system website. Ms. Pope attended a meeting in Dunwoody that evening and a friend of mine also hand delivered the letter to ensure that she received my request.

    Unfortunately I have not received a reply from Ms. Pope or her staff therefore I may be forced to file an open records request in order to get the records that I believe the community deserves to see.

    As Chairman of the Citizens for Dunwoody, Road & Transportation Task Force, I have been tasked to review the infrastructure needs of the community and set a preliminary draft transportation budget in order to prepare the future city for a smooth transition from the County. If road and signal improvements are required to be done in front of the new school by the City, we need to be informed of these improvements ASAP. Unlike the Peachtree Intersection fiasco the City of Dunwoody would like to budget and install the proper traffic infrastructure for the school but we would also expect that the engineering and design plans needed for the improvements would be handled by the County government currently in place.

    The new school has broken ground and is already under construction. Yet the community is being kept in the dark as to the construction & design of the school and I would have to believe that they are operating with little regulatory oversight from the County.

    I have not been to the site since ground was broken but someone should be ensuring that a proper buffer of trees are protected in order to shield the nearby neighbors. The records I originally found on the web mentioned a change in the tree protection fence, but was it a positive or negative change? I saw that the school was originally designed to have lots of natural light in order to reduce energy consumption, but a recent change to the design ordered that all of the skylights were to be removed from the school and replaced with florescent fixtures. Why? Wouldn't natural light be more conductive to learning and more energy efficient?

    Since there is no PTA established for this school, I believe that someone needs offer guidance to the school system as to ensure the desires of the community are communicated. The Dunwoody Homeowners Association might be able assist with the design features or maybe a subset of the feeder schools PTA's could form a special committee to assist with this matter? As my eight year old son Riley is scheduled to be one of the first students enrolled into the school in 2009 and I will have children in the facility for four years straight, I am willing to serve on such a committee. Who else would like to join me?

    Until that group is formed, I will continue to push to obtain the documentation that I originally requested from Ms. Pope. My request was as follows:
    • Please inform me if the attached site plans are the most recent and if a comprehensive traffic study was conducted on Womack for this project?
    • Has a final engineered traffic site plan been developed for the site which would show all needed road, striping & signal improvements?
    • If neither a traffic study nor a final traffic site plan has been developed, I would like to request that both be conducted in the very near future so that the information can be presented to the community in order to alleviate their concerns over the location of the school and the related traffic patterns.
    • As my committee is also looking into storm water compliance, we are also interested in obtaining these plans and other technical drawings / reports on the construction of the new school.
    • At the meeting at Peachtree which initially introduced the Academy concept, you stated that all drawings and construction plans were and would remain available on line. That evening I reviewed your website and downloaded everything which was available but just recently the documents were taken off the web. Could you please return the documents to the web and provide me (as well as the community) the internet address to continue reviewing these documents as they become available from your shop, the DeKalb County Government and/or the construction contractors?
    The DeKalb County School System's motto is that "The school cannot live apart from the community." and maybe they should really try to live up to their end of the bargain.

    Thursday, June 5, 2008

    3rd Grand Jury deems Vernon Jones' security detail excessive.

    At least two prior county grand juries deemed Vernon Jones' security detail excessive and this will make it at least number three. I guess "protecting" the CEO with a large entourage of officers is more important than picking up known criminals off the streets of DeKalb?

    DeKalb County Officers – Officers Serving Outstanding Warrants: We strongly recommend that virtually all of the county’s law enforcement officers, currently assigned as part of the large entourage which rides with and allegedly “protects” the DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer as published in reports, on a daily basis, be immediately reassigned away from the County CEO and instead be added to the ten Sheriff’s officers which presently are trying to carry out the daunting task of serving the county’s 20,000 outstanding arrest warrants. As much as the County CEO may feel he needs the “protection” of these officers, we deem that the citizens of DeKalb County need their “protection” far more.

    We urge that such resources be reallocated and that immediate action be taken to reallocate manpower to serve these outstanding warrants. Defendants should be speedily brought in for arraignment, the wheels of justice could proceed, and the streets of our communities would become safer. DeKalb County would be a better place for our families and children to live.

    Grand Jury doesn't believe Vernon Jones "internal investigation" of improper spending discoveries.

    The DeKalb County Grand Jury report just released is must reading for all citizens of DeKalb.

    Video from 3 months ago

    1. Investigation of DeKalb County “no bid” and “piecemeal” Purchasing Practices: We strongly recommend that the May-June (or subsequent) Grand Jury, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 15-12-71 (b)(2) and (b)(4), conduct an investigation of both the “piecemeal” and “no bid” purchasing practices of DeKalb County Executive Assistant Richard Stogner and those individuals under his direction. We recommend that the Accounting Firm of KPMG be retained to assist the Grand Jury in this investigation. KPMG is the public accounting firm who, at the request of the DeKalb County Commissioners, originally discovered these practices. We publicly commend those DeKalb County Commissioners who approved this audit for their stewardship and attention to the proper use of taxpayer funds.

    The aforementioned audit by KPMG documented widespread violations of DeKalb County’s purchasing rules. Companies that were paid millions of dollars either lacked contracts or received more than their contracts stipulated. DeKalb County executive assistant Richard Stogner approved purchase orders and contracts without bids.

    As an example, per published reports, EMA Inc., a computer services company, was given 11 orders of $49,000 apiece on one day. That amount was just below the $50,000 threshold for a competitive selection process. In total, almost $3.7 million was paid to this entity. Another company, ISPA Inc., received six purchase orders for over $268,000, all on one day. No contract existed. These orders were approved by county Executive Assistant Richard Stogner.

    We are not convinced by the “no ill intent” findings of the recently-completed “investigation” by a “consulting firm” headed by former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Wayne Hill. We commend the current DeKalb County CEO for at least attempting to have someone outside his Department look at the problem, but disagree that an investigation by “consultants,” led by a fellow County Commission colleague, provides adequate independence. Instead, as recommended above, we urge that the same Accounting Firm who uncovered the original irregularities—KPMG, be retained. As trained, Certified Public Accountants, and with the background and discoveries of their first audit, KPMG should specifically be asked to look for potential wrongdoing, something they were not hired to do during their initial Forensic audit.

    It should be noted that in accordance with a holding of the Georgia Supreme Court, we are not charging a public officer with misconduct in office. Rather, this general presentment recommends that a future Grand Jury, pursuant to the authority granted it under the above statutes, conduct an investigation. If that grand jury finds any misconduct, they can either return an indictment or a special presentment charging a county official.

    We deem the management, stewardship and judicious use of taxpayer funds by DeKalb County’s elected and appointed officials as amongst the highest entrustment of responsibilities such officials have. With so many needs in the County for both resources and personnel which such funds provide, and having heard cases during our Grand Jury tenure involving the misuse of finances, we consider the proper handling of taxpayer funds by those to whom they are entrusted to be of supreme importance.

    DeKalb Grand Jury demands Police compensation and equipment improvements

    The DeKalb County Grand Jury report just released is must reading for all citizens of DeKalb. As I have many friends on the DeKalb County Police Department, I will discuss the part of the report which highlights the problematic working conditions & the high turnover rate of the DeKalb County Police Department. Hopefully for the well being of the officers on the force and the stability of the County as a whole, these issues will finally be addressed after months of inaction by the County.

    Video from 3 months ago


    We had several interactions with officers regarding the high turnover rate in the DeKalb County Police Department (DKPD) pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 15-12-71 (b). This inquiry took place over several weeks during our Grand Jury term. We interviewed a number of DeKalb County police officers with work experience ranging from three to over 20 years. We conducted the interviews on a one-on-one basis under the promise of anonymity and without Police supervisors, county politicians, or other potential interference. What we heard were, we believe to be, candid and forthright statements regarding past, present, and hoped-for working conditions within the DKPD and great insight into the generally low morale and high turnover rate occurring therein.

    We discovered the following: Many problems generally start at the top of an organization. Most officers are frustrated by the seemingly endless political clashes, both between the DKPD and our CEO/Commissioners as well as some political infighting within the DKPD itself. DeKalb County has had four police chiefs in the last five years. Such upheaval has not been conducive to departmental operational plans, continuity, and other stabilizing influences which are important for the proper functioning of a Police Department. While several officers do not agree with all of Chief Terrell Bolton’s ideas, he is perceived by many of the rank and file as at least bringing a Plan to the department and trying to implement it. Several officers felt that Chief Bolton needs support from County Elected officials and urge that politics be set aside for the good of the county.

    A vast majority of officers support Chief Bolton’s plea for equipping them with Taser devices. The death of a Gwinnett County man from Taser devices a few years ago seemed to “scare” DeKalb officials and the devices were immediately removed form the DKPD for fear of lawsuits. Such a “knee-jerk” reaction by DeKalb County officials now appears both short-sighted and relatively foolish given the recently concluded Special Grand jury investigation into the 2006 shootings of suspects by the DKPD and the resulting uproar. Had the officers been equipped with Taser devices during that time and, more importantly, had the officers been empowered with the choice of such effective, yet almost always non-lethal devices, perhaps the 2006 results would have been different. The 2008 slayings of DKPD Officers Bryant and Barker may also have had a different result had these policemen been equipped with Taser devices.

    In many ways, Taser devices also seem preferable to police batons/clubs with regard to the immediate and long-term injuries that suspects may incur. As a Grand Jury, our observations from touring the Jail, from private interviews conducted with DKPD officers and from hearing ≈ 450 cases of Grand Jury testimony is that these men and women, who bravely serve the citizens of DeKalb County, are put in harm’s way virtually each and every day they go to work. They should be equipped with the latest and best technology that will protect them, protect suspects, and protect the law-abiding citizens of DeKalb County. Along this vein, several officers noted that, at a minimum, all law enforcement vehicles used in any traffic stop should be equipped with dashboard cameras to provide video evidence for both the protection of the officers and of the suspects/defendants.

    Of paramount concern amongst those we interviewed was the extremely high turnover rate within the DKPD. According to one veteran detective, 43 officers have left the DKPD since the beginning of 2008 including 19 in one month. Only a small number of those losses were due to retirement. While pay is always an issue, DKPD starting pay is actually commensurate with other metro Atlanta counties. It is the salaries amongst veterans on the police force and the lack of adequate raises which lead them to become discouraged and to look elsewhere. In some instances, relatively new police officers are making the same or more than veterans who have been on the force many more years. While we do not advocate the “union theory” that seniority should be the only criteria with regard to pay raises, we do think it is important that experience, along with other evaluative measures including merit, performance and competence should also be part of a fair and progressive pay scale.

    Our interviews revealed a critical problem with a shortage of manpower. Such a condition consequently leads to many other morale-deflating problems including canceled vacations, forced overtime, and increased stress. Add these factors to DeKalb County’s already-high crime rate and the dire situation quickly becomes calamitous. In addition, officers reported a shortage of squad cars with waits up to two hours for the previous shift to return cars so that the next shift could go on patrol. As in other areas, DeKalb’s training is generally first-rate but its facilities are perceived as lacking. Eventually among veteran officers, and with the extremely high crime rate in DeKalb County, surrounding county police departments often “cannibalize” DeKalb’s highly trained police force with the promise of less stress, less crime, and the same (or better) pay.

    The veterans pay and lack of manpower issues result in a “vicious cycle” wherein the lack of manpower leads to an extremely heavy burden on existing officers who suffer canceled vacations, low morale, and then leave the department in search of more favorable working conditions. This creates an even larger manpower shortage, with remaining veterans not being adequately compensated as the department must offer relatively higher salaries to new officers to entice them to join the DKPD and replace those who left.

    One other important item we discovered from our interviews dealt was the misplaced emphasis the Department has on writing traffic tickets rather than patrolling for criminal activity. Many rookies in the DKPD are perceived as “gung-ho” in their quest to write citations. There is an active competition amongst these younger officers to rack up ticket-writing “stats” to prove they are “doing their job.” Veteran policemen felt that using more discretion when writing tickets and instead, occasionally issuing warnings would build more goodwill within the communities of DeKalb County and lead to more joint Police/Citizen cooperation efforts in focusing on criminal activity. Veteran officers also suggested that DeKalb County would be much better served by generally having one policeman handle traffic in an area while the remaining officers focus on patrolling neighborhoods and businesses to spot potential crimes. Experienced officers noted that simply having a police presence patrolling an area and keeping a lookout for “bad citizens” (as such officers are trained to do), would likely act as a preventative measure for many crimes in the first place.

    We call upon the DeKalb County elected and appointed officials and other officers to address the compensation and equipment problems immediately. Some funding proposals such as those presented by Commissioner Ellis would enable the pay increase to take place without first rushing to the all-to-frequent politician’s “remedy” of raising taxes on the citizens of DeKalb County. We also have offered other remedies as stated previously and have made specific recommendations with regard to the DeKalb County Police Department in the “Recommendations to Elected and Appointed County Officials” section of these General Presentments.