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All six commissioners, interim CEO May face ethics complaints

Ken Watts | 7/11/2014, 6 a.m.

With the filing of three new ethics charges against DeKalb Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon and interim CEO Lee May this month, all of DeKalb’s elected local government leaders are now facing ethics complaints.

On July 1, Decatur resident Timothy Brantley accused Rader of influence peddling. On July 2, Decatur community activist Rhea Johnson accused May of overstepping his authority by establishing a chief integrity officer, and on July 7, Lithonia resident Monica Tarrott accused Gannon, who represents Super District 6, of misusing her county budget to buy votes and influence zoning decisions.

The DeKalb Board of Ethics is already hearing complaints against District 3 Commissioner Larry Johnson, Super District 7 Commissioner Stan Watson, District 4 Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, and District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer for misusing their county-issued Visa purchasing cards.

Its next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14.

In his complaint, Brantley said Rader used his elected position to benefit himself and his former employer, Jacobs Engineering, a global corporation based in Pasadena, Calif.

He said Rader, who was a Jacobs Engineering planner from 2007 to 2013, influenced votes on projects involving Jacobs, which was awarded county contracts worth more than $10 million.

He also said that Rader exerted his influence for Jacobs by “means and devices including … discussing the nature and terms of said contracts with DeKalb County commissioners and by currying favor between DeKalb County commissioners/DeKalb County employees and Jacob Engineering’s employees.”

Brantley also accused Rader of “conspiring with DeKalb County Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Stan Watson to provide monetary and other valuable consideration in exchange for their votes on contracts affecting Jacobs Engineering.”

The complaint said that between 2007 and 2013, Rader received compensation in excess of $266,000 from the county, while also receiving a salary in excess of $400,000 from Jacobs Engineering.

Brantley refused to provide information about himself.

In a July 10 email, he said he did not want to become the story.

“My complaint is one birthed out of the silent desires of a number of concerned DeKalb County residents who want to see openness, fairness and transparency in its government operations so that they can give their trust to their public servants beginning with their elected officials and clearly Commissioner Rader has jeopardized that trust by his actions over many years,” he said.

Rader calls the allegations unfounded.

“My response is that I was sensitive to the potential for conflict of interest when I was first elected to office, so I sought and received [an] opinion from the Board of Ethics, which has governed my conduct since then,” Rader said in a July 9 email to CrossRoadsNews. “In particular, I can state categorically that the conduct alleged [regarding contract vote influence] is false, unsubstantiated, and in my judgment, slanderous.”

Rader said the Ethics Board opinion that he received when he joined the board in January 2007 said that there would be no ethics violation if he “absents himself from BOC meetings which discuss county business with Jacobs Engineering” and recuses himself from voting on matters concerning Jacobs.