The cityhood movement in DeKalb County – and the annexation efforts of existing cities in response to it – have two themes that keep coming up: securing strong tax bases and providing good schools.
Both issues are creating challenges for the small city of Avondale Estates.
With just 3,000 residents, Avondale Estates has long been a sleepy little enclave in DeKalb County. Now, a potential city is trying to form near its borders, and county seat Decatur is also trying to expand. So Avondale Estates wants to annex some land while there is still land to be had.
Members of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics (shown here) have tabled complaints against former county staffers Kelvin Walton and Nina Hall. Walton resigned and Hall was fired after their testimony in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
The DeKalb County Commission has freed up $90,000 in funding for the county ethics board, which was reconstituted just last year to deal with mounting ethics issues.
DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May very publicly announced in June he was getting his fellow commissioners to allocate money for a Chief Integrity Officer, an investigator and an assistant, three full-time employees to help clean up the county’s ethics problems.
After three weeks of testimony, attorneys for both sides in Burrell Ellis’ corruption trial delivered their closing arguments Monday. Whether Ellis goes to prison or retains his position as DeKalb County CEO is now up to a jury.
Ellis faces charges of extortion and bribery, the latter of which carries a sentence of up to 20 years. Three county contractors testified Ellis shook them down for campaign donations. Another contractor testified Ellis wanted a bribe of $25,000.
Ellis denies all wrongdoing and his lawyers claim the charges are politically-motivated.
Suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis and DeKalb District Attorney Robert James squared off for the first time Thursday in Ellis’ corruption trial. James grilled Ellis over allegations he shook down county vendors for campaign contributions.
Under cross-examination, Ellis denied strong-arming vendors and insisted any issues between him and vendors were over poor customer service and unreturned phone calls, not donations.
A major commercial player in DeKalb County says he does not want his business to become part of a city – either new or existing.
Robert Blazer keeps a low personal profile despite the high profile of his business. Your DeKalb Farmers Market, on East Ponce de Leon Avenue, paid nearly $300,000 in property taxes alone this year, and a major expansion project is underway.
The state’s star witness in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis testified for a second straight day Wednesday.
On the witness stand, DeKalb purchasing director Kelvin Walton, who for months wore a wire for prosecutors, said he and Ellis discussed shutting out county vendors who didn’t respond to Ellis’ phone calls for campaign donations.
During one exchange, Walton said Ellis told him to phone a county vendor that had been unresponsive to his calls for campaign contributions.
A key witness in the state’s corruption case against suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis testified Tuesday. Kelvin Walton, who was in charge of vendor contracts for the county, described Ellis as a bully who used him to help pressure county vendors for campaign contributions.
On the witness stand, an emotional Walton apologized to DeKalb residents for his actions. He said he had “nothing left to lose” and wanted “to come clean.”
DeKalb County Commissioner Larry Johnson was one of the co-sponsors of the proposed partnership between the County and the South DeKalb YMCA. Commissioner Johnson did not return WABE's repeated calls for comment after the deal fell through.
The controversial partnership proposed between DeKalb County and the South DeKalb YMCA is dead ... or is it?
According to Curtis Winston, the South DeKalb Y’s executive director, “Because of the demands or the requests, we’re just not able to do it. And the last meeting we had, it’s done, it’s dead, we’re not revisiting it.”
DeKalb County Commissioner Kathie Gannon has a slightly different take, telling WABE, “We would like to continue to talk about a partnership so that the YMCA can provide services to everyone.”
Lawyers in Burrell Ellis’ corruption trial delivered opening statements Tuesday in a DeKalb County court room. It comes 15 months after the suspended DeKalb CEO was indicted on felony charges of bribery, extortion, and theft.
Speaking to a jury of ten women and two men, DeKalb prosecutor Lawanda Hodges said Ellis used his position as CEO to solicit campaign contributions, retaliate against those who didn’t give, then lied about it afterward.
"Power. Punishment. Perjury. That, members of the jury, is what the evidence will show you this case is all about," said Hodges.
Throughout Georgia – and the nation -- this morning, church bells rang, names were read, and most of all, there were moments of silence.
WABE was at DeKalb County’s 9/11 ceremony in Tucker.
The ceremony's centerpiece: a sculpture that includes metal from one of the twin towers.
“So many of them went down that day,” remembered Mary Jane Shearer is from Tucker. “And going into those burning buildings, you cringed when you saw that. And when the buildings started to come down, it just made you sick. And I just think we need to remember and not forget.”
DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May has recommended early voting on Sunday October 26 at South DeKalb Mall. If approved by the County’s Board of Elections Thursday, the county would be among the first counties to let citizens vote on Sunday. But the lone state Republican Senator representing a portion of DeKalb says the move appears partisan.
Republican state Senator Fran Miller said May’s recommendation to place Sunday voting at the South DeKalb Mall ignores northern DeKalb and is clearly aimed at getting more Democrats to turn out in November.
Gov. Nathan Deal Wednesday weighed in on a state investigation into alleged voter fraud and a plan to allow Sunday voting in DeKalb County.
Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has subpoenaed the New Georgia Project, one of the state’s largest voter registration groups. Kemp says he’s received complaints from several counties of faulty registration forms.
Critics have blasted the move as a blatant attempt to suppress votes.
Deal dismissed the criticism and said any complaints of voter fraud should be fully investigated.
Former DeKalb County commissioner Elaine Boyer pleaded guilty today to federal mail and wire fraud charges.
Boyer looked composed as she appeared before U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans. A prosecutor read the charges: that Boyer entered a conspiracy with an unnamed advisor who billed DeKalb County for consulting services – authorized by Boyer but never performed – totaling some $78,000. The advisor then gave more than $58,000 of that to then-commissioner Boyer.
The judge asked Boyer if she knew what she did was wrong, and whether she knew she was cheating DeKalb County.
In announcing criminal charges yesterday against former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, U.S. Attorney Sally Yates confirmed DeKalb County has been under investigation for several months.
Law enforcement officials did not say much about the investigation. However, Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta Field Office, did say, “We’re very aware of all the very public allegations about the activity in DeKalb County, and we’ll be looking into all of 'em.”
The DeKalb County Board of Ethics took action Thursday night on each of the complaints against the county’s six commissioners.
Most of the complaints allege improper use of county purchasing cards: P-cards for short. The issue first surfaced in complaints against Commissioner Elaine Boyer and her staffer Bob Lundsten. The investigation into those complaints is now complete, and the board decided to schedule preliminary hearings for Boyer and Lundsten next month.
DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May talks with seniors about the delay in construction of three new senior centers. Some 50 seniors came to Tuesday's County Commission meeting to voice their frustration.
Three new DeKalb County senior centers, scheduled to open the end of last year, are still under construction.
The people who attend two of those centers brought those frustrations to the county’s Interim CEO Tuesday.
“If you go to any of the centers, you see that there is not work really going on right now,” acknowledged Interim CEO Lee May who had to contend with about 50 people at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.
DeKalb County Commissioners will take the next two weeks to interview the nominee to join them on the commission.
Interim CEO Lee May has nominated Lithonia resident George Turner to fill the District 5 seat temporarily. May chose Turner from twenty candidates, saying he believes Turner will fill the need for consensus building on the commission. “George has really shown that type of temperament in his work out in the community,” said May. “And I think he would do the same thing on the Board of Commissioners.”
The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners debated in June whether to approve a $4.95 million public-private partnership between the county and the South DeKalb YMCA. Under the deal, the county would buy the YMCA and lease the property back to the nonprofit for $1 a year.
Scott Callan, a consultant who is serving as DeKalb County's Interim Purchasing Director, holds the binders that held the county's previous purchasing policies. The new policy is less than 40 pages long.
DeKalb County is overhauling its purchasing policies in response to a grand jury report that cited abuse and corruption in the procurement process.
The report, released last year, recommended a complete restructuring of the purchasing department. It said it found problems with the procurement process reaching back to the administration of Vernon Jones as DeKalb’s Chief Executive Officer. It is the same report that led to the indictment of current CEO Burrell Ellis.
Residents in the Druid Hills neighborhood surrounding Emory University are beginning to consider breaking off from DeKalb County and joining the city of Atlanta.
For Anne Wallace of the Druid Hills Civic Association, the choice is becoming clear.
“Twenty years ago, the county was running smoothly, taxes were lower, and the city of Atlanta had its challenges. Today, I see the city of Atlanta in a renaissance and the county is in a dismal place," said Wallace.
Druid Hills is a mostly white, affluent residential area in unincorporated DeKalb.