School System Shakeup
In February, the DeKalb County Board of Education approved the separation agreement with former Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson and approved Michael Thurmond as interim superintendent. Thurmond is the former Georgia Labor Commissioner. Also in February, Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order accepting the Georgia Board of Education’s decision to suspend six members of the school board. After a federal court hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Story affirmed Deal’s decision to remove the school board members. Six new members were appointed in March. This summer, the school board adopted the 2013-14 consolidated budget of $1 billion, and kept the millage rate at 23.98.
Former DeKalb schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis was sentenced to 12 months in custody after admitting to a misdemeanor obstruction charge by Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker. Patricia Reid and Tony Pope were also sentenced, with Reid getting 15 years sand Pope getting eight years. Lewis has appealed his charge and has since bonded out.
CEO Under Fire
On Jan. 7, DeKalb County police detectives executed a search warrant of former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis’ home and county offices. Ellis addressed the media a few hours later and said he was informed about the matter shortly after testifying before a grand jury investigating county watershed operations. Ellis was indicted June 18 on 15 counts by a grand jury relating to the January search warrant that include theft by extortion, making false statements and conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision. In July, Gov. Nathan Deal suspended Ellis and appointed District 5 Commissioner Lee May as interim CEO. A grand jury recommended a reorganization of the county government in August, and afterwards May made public his view that the county should get rid of its CEO form of government.
On Aug. 19, Andrea Sneiderman was found guilty on nine counts in her federal perjury trial, and not guilty on four counts. Sneiderman’s husband Rusty was gunned down outside the Dunwoody Prep Preschool by her former boss Hemy Neuman in 2010. Sneiderman was initially charged with perjury counts as well as murder charges, but the murder charges were later dropped by DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James. Sneiderman was sentenced to five years in relation to her perjury trial. DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Gregory Adams gave Sneiderman credit for her year under house arrest, as well as sentencing her as a first offender.
On Feb. 14, President Barack Obama visited College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, then spoke to a crowd of students, parents, residents and local city and school officials at the Decatur Recreation Center, where he discussed the importance of early learning programs for children. In August, 2012 U.S. Olympic gold medal winner Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas visited Stone Mountain as part of DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton’s youth empowerment breakfast. Another notable visit included the Dalai Lama, who spoke to a crowd at Emory University in October about the possibility of a secular ethic uniting and transcending moral differences.
Meals On Wheels
Both Dunwoody and Brookhaven hosted their first offering of food truck events in their respective cities. Dunwoody hosted its Food Truck Thursdays at Brook Run Park. Coordinated by Redbird and the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, the event featured several popular offerings like King of Pops, Hail Caesar and Pressed for Time. The Brookhaven Food Truck Roundup was offered at Blackburn Park in the city and continued through October. The city hosted the event in conjunction with Fork in the Road, a joint venture between food truck provider Happy Belly and the Atlanta Street Food Coalition. Both municipalities also offered a variety of entertainments during the food truck days.
As DeKalb’s newest and largest municipality, Brookhaven had quite the busy year in 2013. After forming in late 2012, the city’s first order of business was selecting Marie L. Garrett as city manager. Its first budget was set at $16.4 million and included operating expenses for administration, police, community development, parks and recreation, public works, legal and other city services. Gary Yandura was selected as Brookhaven’s first police chief in April, and the department officially launched July 31 with 54 officers. In June the Pink Pony filed suit against the city in response to its ordinance regarding sexually oriented businesses. That suit was dismissed in late December by a DeKalb County judge, who ruled it had no legal merit. Other Brookhaven milestones include its new city logo and a revamped website that debuted in December in coordination with the city’s celebration of its first anniversary. Brookhaven also set its 2014 budget at $26.3 million, which includes a 3.5 percent raise for its employees, which are majority police officers.