Update on the Fight Against Corruption

Pat Reid and Tony Pope
The jury was selected this week, and in opening statements yesterday, the defense attorneys for Reid and Pope said the defendants will testify about the racketeering and theft charges against them. Pat Reid was vice president of Tony Pope’s construction company which had millions in contracts to DeKalb Schools. According to the AJC, “These two defendants, along with others, manipulated the DeKalb School District and took money they were not entitled to,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Kellie Hill told jurors in her opening statement. ” While [Reid and Pope] were married, they were partners. They were partners in life and they were partners in business.”
Three weeks ago Crawford Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction. Facing 65 years in prison, Lewis traded his testimony in the Reid/Pope case for a maximum 12 months in jail. In 1977 Lewis was hired as a physical education teacher and later promoted to principal at Montgomery ES. In 1997 he moved to the central office and was named superintendent in 2004.
CEO Burrell Ellis
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted back in June by a grand jury on 15 counts that accused him of trying to pressure county contractors for campaign contributions, among other allegations. Paul Champion, listed as an un-indicted co-conspirator in nine of the 15 criminal counts, broke his silence yesterday on WSB-TV. He is speaking out for the first time about his role in the case, his testimony before the Special Grand Jury and allegations that a county official asked him to pay a kickback. Walton is expected to be a key witness against Ellis.
Ellis’ indictment claims that all the dirty work was done “at the offices of R.L. Brown”. R.L. Brown and Associates is an architectural firm that contracts to school districts. Robert L. Brown and Brad Bryant were appointed liaisons to the Governor for the appointment of the new DeKalb board members. Prior to selecting the new DeKalb Board, R.L. Brown was a board member at Grady where his architectural firm received millions of dollars in contracts for a major expansion of Grady Hospital.

8 responses to “Update on the Fight Against Corruption

  1. ..and yet RL Brown goes untouched, nearly unmentioned.

  2. I’m perplexed as well why Robert Brown selecting the new board didn’t raise more eyebrows. DSW and Dunwoody Talk wrote about it. Robert Brown wasn’t exactly germane to this post, but I mention it as an aside whenever possible.
    At Nancy’s Coffee With Friends, Dunwoody Rep Tom Taylor said, “I was disappointed, when the Governor removed the DeKalb Schools board, out of 23 members of the DeKalb Delegation, only 6 of us stood with him and supported that. Which means the other folks were satisfied with the status quo, which was failing. That’s unacceptable.”
    I understand most people have lives and don’t follow these things closely. But, those 17 members of the DeKalb Delegation know. It’s hard to be part of a county where a majority accepts the old board as well as R.L. Brown.

  3. Rep Taylor–what’s unacceptable are people who know better over simplifying a complex issue (the constittuionality of replacing locally elected officials) for political gain. It’s also not terribly courageous to do this (nor enlightening) considering the tenor and amount of publicity (misinformation) over the issue–and resultant mob behavior.
    If I was a legislator:
    (1) I’dpay much more attention to the intricacies of the power bases of people like RL Brown–and the reasons the press ignores them if I was a leader down at the state house.
    (2) I’d question the premise of any issue that generates an overwhelming plurality that calls for public official’s heads on a spike. I’d use a 75% figure to measure whether a more judicious leadership is needed (don’t support or foment mob behavior).
    (3)I’d tread very carefully changing (threatening) the state Constitution, not making individual circumstances the basis of an amendment–such as what is happening in DeKalb and Fulton on many fronts.
    Note: Now that SACS has been used as the rationale of potential public officials’ removals, the law will now be changed due to the questions being raised about the state’s reliance on the agency. (That’s what hapens with bad law with expedient motives–change after change after change). This of course follows criticism nationally over the agency’s attention on school boards and policy, rather than individual school performance.

  4. Why do you say the law will be changed? To what?
    OCGA 20-2-73, relating to suspension and removal of local school board members, doesn’t rely specifically on SACS. DeKalb Schools could be accredited by GAC who relies more on outputs than inputs.

  5. Thanks for the reminder Stan. That’s reasonable, but perhaps should even consider other organizations. To your question, the law would not necessarily have to be changed (my unfortunate assertion), but certainly should be considered for results only. But the most significant changes would be to eliminate reference to accreditation agencies altogether–and not even ALLOW the unilateral (and arbitrary) removal by the Governor. The furthest the law would impose that a recall potetion be initiated by the public. Really man, the usurpation of Home Rule cannot stand–the precedent is scary.

  6. I think Georgia should accredit their own schools using benchmarks that are clearly delineated, objective and based on results for students. Virgina’s DOE, for instance, accredits its own schools.
    “School accreditation ratings reflect student achievement on Standards of Learning Assessments and other tests in English, history/social science, mathematics and science. Ratings are based on the achievement of students on tests taken during the previous academic year and may also reflect a three-year average of achievement.”
    The punishment for not meeting these standards should be a state take over or withholding of state funds. Agreed, it’s scary that an elected official could be removed without due process or recall election.

  7. Cherylpaulmiller

    Stan, why is Brad Bryant mentioned in the txt about RL Brown? We’re they business partners? I wonder how Taylor and others justify statements that they stood in support of the Governor’s actions and yet are working toward a separate school system for Dunwoody. the report clearly said that the divisions in the county are what need to be fixed. All the politicians are doing now is trying to create larger, more severe divisions. We are not out of hot water, yet. Thurmond cannot do everything alone.

  8. Hi Cheryl.
    Why are Brad Bryant and RL Brown mentioned in the same sentence? They were appointed as the liaisons to the Governor for the appointment of the new DeKalb board members.
    HR 486
    I view Rep. Taylor’s support of the Governor’s actions and his support of independent school districts as completely consistent with one another. Given the implications in the accreditation issue, he recognized that measures needed to be taken to protect the children of the district and supported the intervention by the Governor. By supporting HR 486, Rep. Taylor is addressing the fundamental causes of problems in the district. Until these fundamental issues are addressed, DeKalb is likely to continue to produce poor results academically and fiscally. There is ample evidence that small districts work better for children and are less expensive to run on a per pupil basis than the larger districts. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to perform better in smaller districts than their peers in larger districts. The cityhood movements are also evidence that DeKalb has a variety of communities that prefer self-determination rather than have the county government provide services to them. The cityhood movement and HR 486 are telling us that communities want more control over the services and schools for which they pay. These realities aren’t changing, and are not going to, no matter who sits in the superintendent’s chair. Keep in mind, HR 486 also has sponsors from Fulton and Gwinnett.