Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Update on Dental Insurance

Still don't have it as of September 1, 2015.

Retiree lives matter!

Officer Shot

A DeKalb County police officer was critically injured, a homeowner injured and dog killed in a shooting Monday night.

Three officers were responding to a report of suspicious person, but instead went to the wrong home in the 1500 block of Boulderwoods Drive, near Bouldercrest Road, Cedric Alexander, director of public safety, said late Monday. Officers weren’t given a street address, but went to a home matching the description given by a 911 caller, Alexander said.

When officers got to the rear of the house, they found an unlocked screen and unlocked door and believed an intruder was inside, according to police. Officers announced their presence, but it wasn’t known how it escalated to gunfire.
Officer, homeowner shot when DeKalb police respond to wrong house photo
Both an officer and a homeowner, whose names were not released, were shot and a dog was killed inside the home, Alexander said. But officers determined it was not the correct home.
“The residence that these officers responded to is the wrong residence that was in question,” Alexander said.

The officer, shot in the thigh, was in critical condition and underwent emergency surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital. The homeowner was also being treated for injuries, but his condition was not known, Alexander said. At least one officer discharged his gun, but no information was released on whether the homeowner also had a gun.
Officer, homeowner shot when DeKalb police respond to wrong house photo
“A lot is yet to be determined here as to what and when shots were fired, how the officer received injuries, how the homeowner received injuries,” Alexander said. “But we did respond to the wrong residence tonight.”

The GBI was called to assist with the investigation, Alexander said.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out the homeowner,” Alexander said. “And our thoughts and prayers go out to the officer who suffered a severe, critical injury here tonight and lost a lot of blood. We just hope both of them recover well.”
Officer, homeowner shot when DeKalb police respond to wrong house photo
A next-door neighbor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he heard sirens and was shocked to learn his neighbor had been shot. A resident on the street since 1971, Bob Gilman said the neighborhood is a high-crime area.

“This is the southeast side of town, so we do have a lot of crime over here, robberies, burglaries, shootings,” Gilman said. “Southeast Atlanta is relatively high-crime area that I live in.”
The officers involved were placed on administrative leave, Alexander said.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Prayers for Retired Lieutenant Wayne Henck

The Same People Who Continously Elect Corrupt Commissioners Will Now Determine If a Police Shooting Is Justified. This Is Just Plan Frightful!

.DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James is leading a national trend in Georgia that uses civil grand juries to consider evidence in cases where a police officer shoots and kills a civilian in the line of duty.
Unlike criminal grand juries, civil grand juries can not issue criminal indictments, but James and some other DAs around the country are using them for public guidance as they weigh whether to seek charges against an officer, even in cases where the evidence overwhelmingly supports the officer and his or her justification for pulling the trigger.
“The main reason that we’re doing this is because we want to give the public input,” James said. “We want the process to be transparent and we want the citizens as much as legally possible to have a vote.”
Police officers are rarely charged with a crime when they shoot someone in the line of duty, even in questionable cases where a citizen was unarmed, shot in the back or the shooting ignites a public outcry for justice.
In DeKalb, police have shot and killed at least 22 people since 2010, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation. Two recent fatal shooting cases include those of Kevin Davis who was killed after he dialed 911 for help in December and Anthony Hill, a mentally ill veteran, who was shot in March while naked and unarmed in his apartment complex.
James will take their cases and several others to DeKalb grand jurors in coming months for review as part of a policy shift implemented this spring. James says he will now take every officer-involved shooting before a civil grand jury so that citizens can recommend if his office should seek an indictment with a criminal grand jury.
The first round of cases was presented to a DeKalbcivil grand jury in the March-April term. Grand jurors recommended that James not pursue an indictment in five of the six cases. The grand jurors “strongly” recommended that James move forward with an indictment in the case of Avondale Police Sgt. Lynn Thomas, who shot and killed Jayvis Benjamin in January 2013. James said he would bring the case to a criminal grand jury.
Six more cases have been presented to the current civil grand jury, but the results will not be published until July 2.
If the new policy goes well in officer-involved shooting cases, James said he will bring other police use of force complaints to the civil grand jury as well.
“Often times people are disillusioned and upset because they feel disconnected from the process and that’s what’s going on out there,” he said. “I want to give citizens their say and the only way I can legally do that is through the grand jury.”
Chuck Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said DeKalb’s approach reflects a broader trend across Georgia and the country as prosecutors reconsider how officer-involved shooting cases are handled.
He said prosecutors in these cases have traditionally weighed the evidence and then decided whether to pursue an indictment through a criminal grand jury. After a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last year and other recent high profile police violence cases, the public is demanding more accountability.
An officer-involved shooting case in Laurens County is scheduled to go to a civil grand jury this week. And the district attorney’s office in Savannah started using civil grand juries in some cases involving law enforcement.
“It’s becoming a pretty common practice,” Spahos said. “It’s a good way to vet the evidence to the citizens of the county and get their input. The prudent thing to do is present to a civil grand jury and allow the citizens to make a presentment and a recommendation and a true airing of facts.”
In Savannah, District Attorney Meg Heap turned to a civil grand jury after the fatal police shooting of Charles Smith last fall drew public scrutiny. Heap said she had watched unrest in other communities across the country and believed a more open process would help Chatham County avoid those problems.
Smith, who was black, had been handcuffed, but was trying to escape custody when he was fatally shot. After a civil grand jury heard from more than 40 witnesses and listened to days of testimony, the group found the officer was justified in using force. The grand jury’s findings and evidence it heard was made public after it reached the decision. The openess helped build public confidence in the final decision not to prosecute the officer, Heap said.
“People want transparency,” Heap said. “They want to believe their elected officials are doing their jobs. They want an explanation” of the decision. Heap said she plans to use the civil grand jury process in other cases, if warranted.
Unlike the criminal grand jury, the civil process does not require a prosecutor to present the grand jurors with an indictment, which, in some cases, the prosecutor may not think the evidence supports.
In DeKalb, James said he plans to “put everything out there” to help civil grand jurors reach a decision. They will be given access to all the evidence in his files and any witness they want to call. His office is allowing family members of those killed by police to go before the grand jury to tell their side of the story, and he will allow the officer to testify, if they wish.
Kevin Davis’s family plans to go before the grand jury when his case is presented in August. His sister, Delisa Davis, said they want justice for her brother and hope the civil grand jury is the first step.
Davis, who had no criminal history, was killed by a DeKalb Police officer after he called 911 for help on Dec. 29 after his girlfriend had been stabbed by another man.
Officer Joseph Pitts responded to the call. When he arrived at the apartment, he shot and killed Davis’s dog. Thinking his girlfriend’s attacker had returned, Davis grabbed his gun. The officer shot him while Davis was still on the phone with the 911 operator, according to his family.
Delisa Davis said James told the family he is open to listening to all sides and will give the case a thorough look. She hopes the civil grand jury will be the first step in the family’s path to justice.
“I would want them to know that he did not deserve to die the way he did,” she said. “He called 911 for help…I think this officer needs to be held accountable for the murder of my brother.”

Monday, August 24, 2015

Retired Captian Jim Rowell Dies

Retired Captain Jim Rowell died earlier this morning from long time health issues.

Funeral arrangements pending.

Go in peace brother.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Obama Administration Justice Department: Corruption in DeKalb County Is Rampant

This from the Obama Administration Department of Justice:

"Corruption in DeKalb County is rampant, and its residents are frustrated and disheartened," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Davis in federal court. "There are real and severe consequences for violating the law and the public trust."

This from Commissioner Nancy Jester:

It is time for everyone, at every level, to accept reality, acknowledge the government in DeKalb County is in crisis, and adopt a policy of full transparency, disclosure, and cooperation.
I call on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners and every elected official in DeKalb County to pledge to fully cooperate with the Bowers’ Investigation.

I will also motion that the Board of Commissioners fully fund the Public Integrity Unit in the Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney and motion that the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners invite the DeKalb County District Attorney to present to the BOC in public session his budget needs to do so.

Additionally, I will motion that the Board of Commissioners formally invite Mr. Bowers to present his report to the BOC in public session  - with no time limits - upon the release of the final report.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Retirees Dental Insurance Being Dropped Arbitrary By County

We are receiving complaints the county is arbitrary dropping retirees family dental health plans and converting them to "single" policies. All this without notice.

More to come.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Fix Is Always In

DeKalb: No One Watches The Watchmen

August 14, 2015 9:00 am
by George Chidi ·
 
You could see the moment Viola Davis’ heart broke tonight.
 
Commissioner Stan Watson had just been found guilty of three counts of violating DeKalb’s ethics code, despite comic attempts by new ethics board appointees to squirm out of their duty to vote. But the board’s six members — including its stalwart chairman Jon Ernst — had unanimously declined to remove Watson from office for the sin of voting to award a million-dollar contract to a company he worked for.

Still, the board has the power to suspect a commissioner for 30 days without pay. It’s a small punishment, but a material one. Ernst voted for a suspension. And then four commissioners voted against it.

The result, after a year of staccato steps and legal maneuvering was a mere censure. Stan Watson: you suck. The end.

Davis’ bright eyes went dead.  

Davis has been leading watchdog efforts in DeKalb County for at least a decade through the Unhappy Taxpayers and Voters group, and a victory was in her hands. The investigator presented three years of W-2 forms showing payments of thousands of dollars to Watson from APD Solutions. Watson’s vote is on record and on tape, and he told investigators he was employed by APD when he voted.
Watson, naturally, did not present himself to the ethics board Thursday, and why would he? If he were later charged with a crime for violating his oath of office, anything he said to the board would be evidence in a trial. Instead, he sent a criminal defense lawyer to blow as much smoke as possible in the face of the board while limiting legal blowback later.

The ethics board itself has been in a state of intermittent turmoil for years, by design. While on paper it has sweeping powers to subpoena and remove public officials from office, in practice its budget is beholden to the commission it watches, staffed with appointees from commissioners eager to avoid censure. Only in the face of federal charges on a commissioner and a wroth state legislature have county politicians allowed some semblance of functionality to re-emerge.

A month ago, commissioners finally appointed two new board members, permitting a routine quorum again. Nicole Forman is a former communications aide to the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and a junior marketing staffer for DeKalb Medical … which depends directly on the commission for its budget. Christopher Bruce is a workers compensation attorney who worked briefly for DeKalb Solicitor Sherry Boston.

Both had to know the job when they took it. But Forman pleaded ignorance throughout the meeting, ultimately voting against all measures to punish. Bruce tried mightily to wriggle out of having to vote at all, asking at first to abstain, then to recuse himself … without citing a valid justification … before voting for a guilty finding. He then voted against all subsequent punishments.

A board stocked with appointees from the commission, asked to hold the commission accountable while itself beholden in indirect ways to that very commission, did what might be expected.
Ernst’s patience has been worn away. “I don’t believe the ethics board went far enough,” he said after the hearing. “I don’t think it helps solve the crisis of confidence in DeKalb.”

Davis was somewhat less reserved. “You can be three times guilty, but if you have cronies, you can break every law because you’re above it,” she said to the board, exasperated in the face of another continuance.

She and her crew have spent the equivalent of $100,000 in man-hours pursuing ethics charges, using the system that’s in place, she said. She shows up to hearings, and meetings, and town halls. She sends documents to the ethics board, and the district attorney, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, looking to stop bid rigging and a pay-to-play contracting system.
“This spit in the face of the taxpayers of DeKalb,” she said. “If the most you’re going to do is a reprimand while vendors come to us to say that they don’t want to pay kickbacks … it’s obvious to you that our time isn’t worth a dollar.”

Joel Edwards, with Davis’s group, agreed. “I don’t have time for new board members to learn the process they’ve been to class for. The evidence is here. You’ve been shown the evidence. And he’s guilty.”

For those relying on the formal processes of county government to stem corruption, Thursday’s vote was a knockout punch. The commission cut funding for Mike Bowers internal investigation in its budget last month. It also refused a $200,000 request from the district attorney to hire more investigators and prosecutors in its public corruption unit, which will assuredly contribute to the relative dearth of county-level corruption prosecutions.

The DeKalb commission held a vote without public hearings or public comment to give $12 million in public funds for a private sports stadium last week. And now this: an ethics board stocked with members who will not punish wrongdoing by elected officials.

We are left to wait for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI to step in. The internal mechanisms have failed.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

DeKalb CEO Deliberately Left Half The Commission Out Of Stadium Negotiations


August 13, 2015 17:28 pm
by George Chidi 
Peach Pundit 

If Nancy Jester, Kathy Gannon or Jeff Rader are your commissioners, you are not entitled to representation in DeKalb County government any more.

Commissioner Nancy Jester revealed today that other commissioners signed a letter to open negotiations with Arthur Blank in April for a new soccer training facility, and that she wasn’t informed of it until about a week before the vote. I suspect commissioners Rader and Gannon will say the same.

One week ago, interim CEO Lee May said this on Twitter:
"There were no back door deals. I personally spoke with each individual Commissioner the day that I received information concerning this deal "
Confronted with Jester’s revelation on WABE’s “A Closer Look” this afternoon, May said that none of these commissioners were informed because the land on Memorial Drive isn’t in their districts. Never mind, it seems, that Sharon Barnes-Sutton was apparently worthy of being informed, since the territory isn’t in her district, either. Nor that the $12 million public “investment” in a private company’s sports facility comes from taxpayers across the county.

I have questions. Many, many questions.


The first, of course, is whether this kind of communication violates open meetings and open records law. Three other commissioners plus the CEO constitutes a quorum; I suggest that triggers the law.
I recognize an exemption to open meetings law with regard to the disposition of real property … although it’s worth noting that the use of the land as a usufruct in the stadium deal may provide challenge that term. I do not recognize an exemption to open meetings law with respect to informing other members of a legislative body about official actions under consideration.

When did Mereda Davis Johnson know about this? Given how gung-ho she’s been about the deal, one might infer that she’d had enough time to digest details. Was she informed about the negotiations before she was elected? Before she announced her candidacy? Were other candidates?

With four months to consider the deal, why then was there such a rush to vote, other than the desire to limit public discussion? How can Lee May tell the public with a straight face that there should have been a public hearing when there was plainly ample time for one?

Why, if discussion began in April, was the site development plan and economic analysis presented to the public as weak as it was, given how much public money was put on the table? What staff resources were made available to the commission to evaluate the propriety of the deal in terms of economic payoff and feasibility? Were actual analyses done and then buried? Did people ask to do cost-benefit analyses and were rejected?

What kind of time pressure was placed on the commission by Blank? What did he say to justify a quick, no-public-input vote? When did he say it, and to whom? Why would that threat be considered credible?

And where’s the letter? I have an Open Records Act request out for it now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

"Investigators:DeKalb Is ‘Rotten To The Core"

  
Bribery scheme, abuse of tax money, property theft are alleged.

Read AJC article here.


  

 

Arthur Blank Taps DeKalb for $12M, Because He Can

So much for a raise.

August 3, 2015 9:10 am
 
The public’s natural reaction to government plans for sports stadium “investments” is inchoate incandescent rage. Taxpayers could have been convinced, once upon a time, before Russia’s winter Olympics, before the FIFA scandals, before John Oliver’s weekly rants went viral. Not anymore.
Stadiums as bad government policy are cliché sports bar conversation fodder today, especially as we contemplate traffic on Braves game days in 2017. The idea should be dead on contact.
And yet, here we are. Again.

DeKalb County’s commission will vote Tuesday to turn over 40 acres of public land for the use of a private sports team for 30 years, tax free, spending (they think) $5 million to prepare the property and paying a billionaire $7 million for the privilege.

Arthur Blank wants to build Atlanta United’s $30 million soccer training complex behind the DeKalb County jail, near MARTA’s Kensington Station. It would be the perfect place to stage a re-enactment of “Mean Machine” or “Victory.” Which commissioners should play which prisoners’ roles is something I’ll leave to your imagination.  

I’ll tune my rage back into the visible spectrum long enough to consider the rationale for putting public money on the line here. The station at the intersection of Memorial Drive and I-285 is a New Urbanist nightmare, a giant parking lot surrounded by blight, underused office space, low density neighborhoods and a jail.

Arguably, the county needs to see healthy commercial districts develop in areas that cities can’t annex or incorporate. Building around MARTA stops makes long-term sense, and Kensington may be the best candidate.

Consider how well downtown Decatur works, with MARTA in the middle of a vibrant commercial district. Lee May, the county’s interim CEO, wants to duplicate that at other MARTA stations.
The irony. The county budget anticipates about $24 million more, net, this year. Disproportionately, that money will come from city property owners. Property values rose much faster in cities than in unincorporated DeKalb this year, and the county changed how it duns cities for county services, raising their taxes.

May floated a plan earlier this year to move some county offices to the facility across from the county jail — and a five-minute walk from Kensington — as a catalyst to redevelopment. The stadium deal looks like a piece of that plan, by moving the Parks Department to the facility.
On top of that, DeKalb County’s shifting demography, driven in part by immigration, makes soccer an attractive sport for public support.

That doesn’t make spending money on a sports complex less stupid in this case. But it’s the argument we’re going to hear and I want to give it an honest airing. None of that gets past the obvious: the financial profile induces vomiting.

The county plans to spend $7 million for the privilege of moving its Parks Department to a 6,000 square foot facility at the new complex. That much Class A office space around here sells for about $600,000; most is under a million. The extra $6 million? Gravy.

I can understand lending land for development, and spending money to prep it for development. Tax breaks can be debated. But an extra $6 million to Blank — and to whichever politically-connected developer gets the construction contract — on top of all of that? Insane.

Six million dollars. That’s what we spend on the county’s summer recreation programs. For thirty years.

The memorandum of understanding calls on Blank to cover his end of operation and maintenance costs. But the document doesn’t say what those costs might be. The county will be generously allowed to host a limited number of special events at the facility during the season. It doesn’t say how many. Will DeKalb’s school soccer teams be allowed to regularly use the facility for games? It doesn’t say. What would that cost? It doesn’t say.

Blank pays DeKalb 15 percent of naming rights revenue, which I suspect will be minimal. All of the other revenue (except for the county’s generous allotment of special events) goes to Blank. The county gets no share of ticket revenue.

The agreement calls for at least 10 percent of the jobs related to building maintenance and operations be reserved for DeKalb County residents. My reading of the documents shows that the first 83 jobs have an average salary of about $200,000. The second tranche of 40 jobs has an average salary of about $55,000. I suspect most of the construction, maintenance and facility operations job fall in that latter slice. The agreement doesn’t say.

The agreement requires Blank to keep Atlanta United’s practice facility there. It does not require Blank to keep operating Atlanta United. If the league goes the way of the USFL, DeKalb’s only bankruptcy protection is it taking possession of the facility at the end of the term … along with all of the upkeep costs of a single-purpose structure.

Six million dollars. I contemplate the long list of extremely pressing needs in DeKalb County that could be met with $6 million. The county festers with blight that it can’t afford to condemn and tear down. Emergency shelter space remains extraordinarily tight, especially for women with children. Road repair and infrastructure maintenance has a backlog of years if not decades. Even funding for an animal shelter — and I note that the current facility must be torn down, according to this agreement — appears unstable. Animal activists in DeKalb are complaining about a broken deal over that funding.

That touches on the second problem. Trust.

DeKalb County government has had a bad couple of weeks, even by the degraded standards by which we’re left to measure such things.

Last week, commissioners passed a mid-year budget that cut spending requests for corruption investigations. The DeKalb district attorney’s office asked for $200,000 to hire investigators and an assistant DA in its public integrity unit. Denied. The CEO wanted to continue $500,000 in funding the Bowers internal investigation — a preliminary report is due sometime in August, by the way. Denied. (The CEO says he’ll find the money somewhere else.)

A few days later, we were left to boil tap water for days because the water department apparently doesn’t know how to find the right valve to turn anymore.

And now, Blank decided that the nine-figure concession he managed to squeeze out of Atlanta wasn’t enough. He’s chasing DeKalb for a few million more.

The design and construction of the sports facility will be done in partnership with Decide DeKalb. That’s the newly-rebranded DeKalb Development Authority, headed by Vaughn Irons.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve come to respect Irons’ acumen as a businessman and an agent for economic development. I’m as shocked as anyone. But as I discovered listening to him at the debates to fill the commission seat, there’s a reason he’s been asked to take responsibility by civic leaders; he’s smart and experienced and understands the nuances and limitations of the government’s role in economic development. I respect the quality of his mind.

But he’s still under a cloud of ethics questions which limit his power to make the case to the public.
A skeptical public needs to know what it’s getting for its money. Barring that, it needs to know that if it doesn’t have all the data, it can trust the people who do. But now? Given all of this? The well of trust is too dry for this game.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

So, What Is The Outcome of The Pay Study?

So what's the hold up?

Click here for the outline. Click here for pay study timeline.

Friday, July 10, 2015