In a report released Wednesday, the Special Purpose Grand Jury impaneled to investigate the county’s handling of Watershed bids and contracts, recommended a series of changes to the county structure and called for the elimination of the CEO position.
According to the report, “The current system, with its over-reliance on county staff and departments who ultimately report to an elected official, provides too many opportunities for fraudulent influences and fosters a culture that is overly politicized and in which inappropriate business relationships are created.”
The report urges the DeKalb County legislative delegation to step in and revise the county’s organizational act.
The grand jury also took issue with the part-time nature of DeKalb’s county commission posts and recommended a full-time county commission. The report indicates that a full time commission would be less likely to have conflicts of interest due to outside business interests.
Interim DeKalb County CEO Lee May, along with the board of commissioners held a press conference Thursday to address the report and its findings.
"Those findings were concerning to me," said May. "We in DeKalb County are a team and we are concerned about the integrity of our government."
May went on to insert his personal feelings, saying that he believed they ought to change from the current form of government.
"This is Lee May talking," he said. "Our form of government allows politics to enter into business. People are yearning for a change. We have to act swiftly and be measured in our approach."
The county's Chief Operating Officer, Zachary Williams, will review all of the recommendations in the findings and bring back a report within 30 days, said May.
District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer agreed with May on the possibility of restructuring the county's form of governance.
"Personally I believe this form of government doesn't work," she said. "I'm the only member who has served under three CEOs and its flawed. It's the form of government, not the people. The people have been empowered by it and abuse it -- but it's the form of government. I don't want to see DeKalb County in the news everyday."
Other organizational changes recommended by the grand jury include the elimination of the Director of Public Safety position, reorganization of the Purchasing and Contracting Department to include employees who are experts in the procurement process, revisions to how the county awards contracts and changes to how county employees are trained.
Ethics reform is also a high priority in the report, which recommends the county maintain a registry of lobbyists and consultants working with vendors who do business with the county.
“The county needs to adopt policies and practices to monitor and enforce the access and influence afforded these lobbyists and consultants,” the report said.
The grand Jury took aim at the county’s code of ethics and board of ethics, calling the board “inept” due to the fact that its members are political appointees.
In June, the grand jury indicted county CEO Burrell Ellis on 15 counts related to allegations of soliciting campaign contributions from county vendors.
But Ellis was not the only DeKalb CEO under fire in the grand jury’s report, which also calls for the investigation of former CEO Vernon Jones for alleged bid-rigging and theft.
According to the report, the Special Purpose Grand Jury was originally impaneled Jan. 20, 2012 to investigate “reports of incompetence, patronage, fraud and cronyism within the Department of Watershed Management that emerged during the Vernon Jones administration.”
The grand jury was dissolved Monday and the report was made public Wednesday.