DeKalb Commissioners sound off about scathing corruption report

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Sharon Barnes Sutton is among several DeKalb County Commissioners taking issue with a scathing report compiled by former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers.

 "I know I haven't done anything wrong. In fact, an independent auditor reviewed my expenses and said I didn't do anything that violated county policy," Barnes Sutton told reporters Tuesday.

 Bowers released the report last week--spelling out allegations of unconstitutional and even illegal payments to churches, charities, booster clubs and political consulting firms. He says the payments and donations were made with tax dollars. Bowers' report names interim CEO Lee May and every commissioner except the two newest members of the board--Nancy Jester, who was elected in 2014 and Mereda Davis Johnson, who was elected in July 2015.

Whether or not there was intent..I can't say there was. I believe they just may not have known," said Johnson, who was elected to the District 5 seat after Lee May officially resigned.

At Tuesday's commission meeting, Board Member Cathie Gannon adamantly defended her contribution to an organization that supports DeKalb libraries and said the county has never clearly defined what kind of payments are considered illegal or unconstitutional.

At the first meeting since the report was released, Commissioner Jeff Rader suggested the Board ask Governor Nathan Deal to investigate the Bowers' would demonstrate the board's willingness to be transparent and cooperative. Governor Deal has already the GBI to review Bowers' findings. State Attorney General Sam Olens says the matter is out of his jurisdiction.  

Rader told reporters many of Bowers' conclusions in the 40 page report were drawn out of context.

"Every one of the my expenditures were for products and services that went to benefit taxpayers and should not be listed as charities," Rader said.

 Interim CEO Lee May did not attend the meeting, but also maintains he's done nothing illegal or unconstitutional since Governor Deal appointed him to the position two years ago--following the legal troubles that ultimately left former CEO Burrell Ellis in prison.