indicted Bob Lundsten last month on nine charges of theft and making false statements, accusing him of using his government-issued purchasing card for buying things for personal use, and then lying about it. Lundsten was arrested Thursday and is out on a $15,000 bond.A DeKalb County grand jury
Lundsten, former chief of staff to disgraced DeKalb Commissioner Elaine Boyer and a long-time player in Dunwoody politics, is not the sort of man who shies from a fight, whether fighting the extension of the DeKalb municipal airport’s runway extension almost 30 years ago or calling an ethics board member a lying son of a bitch at a hearing last month.
So I can’t say right now if he’s going to fight the criminal charges or cut a deal. Lundsten did not return a request for comment and has gone dark on social media. What I can say is that the charges puncture and punctuate a long career in the public eye. They’re probably a period, and perhaps an exclamation point.
“If you are someone entrusted with public funds and you misspend them, and steal, it carries a penalty of up to 15 years per count,” the district attorney, Robert James, told 11 Alive.
James did him a favor when he charged him.
Or, perhaps the U.S. Attorney did. Lundsten’s charges of theft using a P-Card are the same that Boyer pleaded guilty to in federal court. Never mind that she also stole about $80,000 using fake invoices to a shill vendor. P-Card abuse by a government official can be charged as a federal crime.
Either the feds didn’t want him or the district attorney wanted him more. Probably the former. Boyer got off relatively light in federal court because she had gifts to give a federal prosecutor – state’s evidence against other criminals. The FBI has been collecting cooperating witnesses Pokemon-style for months now. (Patrick Jackson, I choose you!) While Lundsten has been around for a very, very long time, he may not know enough dirt to aid any of the many federal investigations swirling around the county.
Nothing to offer means nothing to bargain with. And federal sentencing guidelines means doing most of a 20 year term. Were I to have to choose to face a federal jury in Atlanta or one of DeKalb County’s mercurial juries, I’d take DeKalb.
It’s worth noting that commissioners Sharon Barnes-Sutton, Stan Watson and others had equally-questionable spending on their P-cards. Barnes-Sutton has more than $60,000 in expenditures without receipts, while Watson put his campaign website on the county dime – an unambiguous no-no. Every single commissioner had at least some unaccounted-for P-Card spending last year.
Nonetheless, it’s a stunning moment – at least as stunning as Boyer’s crimes. Lundsten is a marketing executive and fundraiser with a long history of philanthropic endeavors and community activism around Dunwoody. He was an early member of the Dunwoody Homeowners Assocation, predating the city’s incorporation. He raised money to get defibrilators into Dunwoody police cars, and has worked closely with the refugee community in Clarkston – much to the disgust of anti-immigration activists including Tom Owens and Joe Newton.
In a previous interview, describing his reaction to ethics charges related to the spending, Lundsten told Jodie Fleischer at WSB “to have my integrity challenged, it was disheartening and upsetting.” He said the policies were never fully explained to him, and had worked with interim CEO Lee May to craft new policies for P-Card use.
This is not to excuse criminality, of course. If administrators at Georgia Tech can catch a 10-year sentence for P-Card abuse, one would expect Lundsten to serve jail time if convicted.
But it speaks to the damage the county is taking. More than one person has told me that Lundsten would have been the natural heir to Boyer’s commission seat, had Boyer not gone down the way she did … and had he been untainted. We’re running out of leaders.