Monday, June 13, 2022

Phone call from L.A.? Political robocalls from DeKalb County's CEO and top prosecutor.

DeKalb County residents have been receiving political robocalls from DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, with the Caller ID showing a telephone number with the 323- area code, which is the Los Angeles area. The calls promote a Democratic Party June 21 runoff candidate for Georgia Labor Commissioner.

One resident wondered why a lawyer and county official needed to camouflage her unsolicited phone calls by using a telephone number from the other side of the United States. They received the call before 8 a.m. Pacific Time on a Saturday and wondered who would be calling them from the West Coast at that hour.

"While campaign calls and texts are exempt from the Do Not Call List requirements, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act contains specific rules they must follow," the Federal Communications Commission states.

The FCC says "all prerecorded voice message calls, campaign-related and otherwise, must include certain identification information." Specifically: 

"The telephone number of the calling party must be provided, either during or after the message."

However, no number was mentioned during the 51-second Boston robocall, according to a recording provided to PRISM DeKalb. 

Callers who received the Boston robocall also reported receiving one the next day from DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond, who did not provide the required number during his 55-second recorded solicitation.

The recorded call from Thurmond displayed a local Atlanta number, with the Caller ID "Amy Roney." When called, that number does not identify its owner or provide any information.

At least one telephone filter has classified the phone number used by Boston as spam. Calling the California number back reaches a voice mail answering as "[candidate's last name] For Georgia."

The FCC encourages the public to file complaints about political robocalls that violate the rules at fcc.gov/complaints. There is no fee for filing an informal complaint.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Feds order DeKalb County to pay damages, adopt anti-discrimination policies and training

DeKalb County must adopt new anti-discrimination policies and training and pay $190,000 in damages and lost wages to a former employee to settle a federal lawsuit alleging county officials retaliated against a woman who complained of sexual harassment, government prosecutors said Friday. 

Federal prosecutors filed the lawsuit earlier this year, alleging that DeKalb County retaliated against Cemetra Brooks, who said she was the subject of unwelcome sexual advances, comment and conduct by the deputy director of the county's Facilities Management Department. 

A month after she filed a sexual harassment complaint with the county, the deputy director's supervisor, the director of Facilities Management, asked the county's human resources office for information that would help him to fire Brooks during her initial six-month probation, federal prosecutors said.

DeKalb County certifies May 24 primary election results

DeKalb County election officials voted on Friday to certify the results of the May 24 primary election and deny any requests for recounts.

The 4-1 vote by the DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections Board dismissed any recount requests that had been made by any candidates or political parties. The board is not legally required to grant them.

The vote came after executive director Keisha Smith assured the board that ballots "have been accurately tabulated to the assigned candidates of their choice." 

"These results are accurate," Smith said.

"I am satisfied with the results of the hand-count tabulation as well as the outcome of the other races for the May 24 primary," said board member Susan Motter, who made the motion for certification.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Road Bumps Ahead in DeKalb County

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved neighborhood requests for speed tables on Lullwater Rd. and Mulberry Lane, allowing for a 90-day petition process to begin.

Earlier this month, commissioners approved traffic calming petitions for

   - Alford Way, off Alford Rd

   - Browns Mills Ferry Rd., between Browns Mill Rd and Browns Mill Ferry Dr.

   - Collier Dr. between Pinewood Dr. and Tilson Rd.

Traffic calming devices in DeKalb County are paid for by nearby property owners. The county imposes a never-ending assessment on annual property tax bills for properties on and near the designated streets.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Stone Mountain mulls high school art mural

A Stone Mountain High School Art Club mural project is among the subjects to be discussed at a special-called meeting of Stone Mountain's parks committee on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

The city's Parks & Recreation Committee is also set to discuss a wall resurfacing project at Medlock Park. Signage and playgrounds are also on the agenda.

The committee meets at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23, but the City of Stone Mountain only releases Zoom meeting details on its web site a few hours before a meeting takes place. Zoom meeting information does not appear on committee agendas.

Friday, February 18, 2022

NAACP DeKalb president suspended by state organization

The president of the DeKalb County branch of the NAACP has been suspended by the state NAACP organization for unspecified reasons, according to a notice emailed to members of the civil rights group this week. 

Teresa Hardy had served as the President of NAACP DeKalb since July 2016, when she replaced John Evans. Lance Hammonds, a vice president of the branch since 2011 who has served as its education chair, is the new branch president.

"I want to thank President Teresa Hardy for the hard work and dedication to our branch and the DeKalb County community," Hammonds said in the mailing.

Lance Hammonds
Action was taken by administrators of the NAACP Georgia State Conference, the email stated. "We do not have any more specifics that we can share with you," it said.

The NAACP DeKalb web site makes no mention of the suspension, but one page on the site now lists Hammonds as president. Another page still lists Hardy as president.

On Common Ground reports that Hardy, who is the treasurer for the state organization's executive committee, is appealing her suspension.

"There is nothing that gives me any indication that it is criminal," national NAACP board member Edward Dubose of Columbus, told OCGNews.com

Hardy led the NAACP branch's recent three-year Remembrance Project to erect markers in DeKalb County recognizing lynchings that occurred as recently as the 1940s.

Hammonds, who grew up in the housing projects of South Central Los Angeles after the 1965 Watts riots, is a 38-year resident of DeKalb County. He is also the chairman of the Rockbridge Coalition of communities and is a member of the DeKalb County Charter Review Commission.

"The mission of the NAACP DeKalb County Branch will continue until racial hatred and discrimination has been eliminated," Hammonds said in the email to members.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Election of new Stonecrest mayor set for May 24

The Stonecrest City Council voted Monday to set May 24 as the date of an election to fill the position left vacant by Jason Lary's resignation as mayor in January, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

If necessary, a runoff would be held on June 21, according to a resolution approved by council members during a special called meeting.

County to pay $55,000 to stop lawsuit threat over golf club renovation contract

DeKalb County agreed Tuesday to pay $55,000 to a company that threatened to sue the county over its handling of a contract to renovate bunkers at the county's Mystery Valley Golf Club.

In a unanimous vote (6-0-0) that came after an executive session, the Board of Commissioners approved the payment to Minnesota-based Duininck, Inc., which had been awarded a $190,000 contract in May 2020 to renovate existing golf course bunkers within the estimated 27,000 square-foot area of the golf club property.  

In their action on Tuesday, commissioners voted to "approve a settlement of threatened litigation by Duininck, Inc., related to Duininck, Inc.'s work on the Mystery Valley bunker renovation project. To resolve this threatened litigation, the county will issue payment to Duininck, Inc. in the total amount of $55,000 in return for Duininck, Inc.'s execution of a settlement agreement with release and waiver of claims."

Two named to District 1 Community Council, including former candidate

DeKalb County Commissioner Robert Patrick has made two appointments to a citizen zoning review panel for his commission district, including one of the candidates he defeated in 2020.

Patrick has named Ben Truman to the District 1 Community Council.

Truman has been the Chief Executive Officer of TrueBlue Partners LLC, which provides strategic advice to political campaigns and small businesses, for the past 10 years, his resume states. However, Georgia corporate records indicate that TrueBlue Partners LLC was dissolved as a corporation in 2017 after registering late in 2016 and failing to register in 2017.

Ben Truman

Truman finished in last place in the Democratic primary election for District 1 in June 2020, receiving 1,819 votes. In that election, Patrick received 6,561 votes, slightly behind Cynthia Yaxon, who he defeated in an August runoff.

Fred Smith
Fred Smith was also appointed to the Community Council for Patrick's district. His resume says he has spent more than 15 years working as a health-communication professional at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

There are Community Councils for each of DeKalb County's five commission districts. Members are appointed by commissioners from those districts and by the relevant superdistrict commissioners. The volunteer councils make recommendations on zoning applications before they are considered by the county's Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Second guilty plea in theft of Stonecrest COVID-19 relief funds

A bookkeeper for the entity that administered federal COVID-19 relief funds for the City of Stonecrest pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit federal program theft.

Lania Boone was hand-picked by then-Mayor Jason Lary as bookkeeper for Municipal Resource Partners Corporation, Inc., an organization he formed to disburse $6 million allocated to the Stonecrest Cares Program and Small Business Program through a contract with the city.

Lary pleaded guilty last month to charges related to the theft of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security ("CARES") Act funds approved by the federal government in 2020 to respond to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. DeKalb County received $125 million in COVID-19 relief funds and $6.2 million was granted to Stonecrest by the county Board of Commissioners.

Buckhead City proposal dead in Georgia legislature this year, House Speaker says

The Speaker of the Georgia House said Friday that a proposed Buckhead City will not be approved in this year's legislative session.

Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told reporters he believes the new mayor of Atlanta, Andre Dickens, deserves at least one year to address the issue of crime in Atlanta, the Associated Press reports.

Earlier, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday that he opposed approval of the Buckhead city proposal this year.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

DeKalb BOC revises commission districts, sends to General Assembly for approval

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday in support of proposed new maps for the county's seven commission districts. 

The maps, which retain the existing structure of five commission districts (1-5) and two superdistricts (6 and 7), are based on preliminary maps that were unanimously approved by the BOC on Dec. 21 and sent to the General Assembly's Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment Office for review.

Districts 1-5
Districts 6,7

"The office proposed some minor changes to the map that brought deviation, which is the variance between the population of each district, down well under 2 percent," Commissioner Jeff Rader said before the vote. He said the legislative reapportionment office "was able to rectify some issues related to split precincts as well as rationalize boundaries along clear physical features such as roads and creeks."

Citizen zoning volunteers say county withholds key information

Citizens who serve on a county-required zoning review panel say DeKalb County planning officials are withholding information about zoning applications they are considering and are preventing them from attending community meetings.

Members of the District 5 Community Council said at their Monday meeting that the county's Planning & Sustainability Department did not provide them with full copies of the rezoning application they were considering. 

An applicant is proposing a 200- to 300-seat restaurant with 100 parking places, a rooftop bar and a patio for outdoor entertainment at 1726 Panola Rd. The application seeks to change the property's zoning from residential to commercial. The property borders a residential area.

"We need the entire packet so that we'll have access to it," said council member Jan Costello at the council's bimonthly meeting. "We just need the information."

Panel members, who are citizen volunteers appointed by county commissioners, also complained they were not notified of the neighborhood meeting that is required by county law to be held before a zoning application is submitted. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Some DeKalb County bridges in poor or deficient condition


DeKalb County has two of the most-traveled structurally deficient bridges in the state of Georgia, according to a national trade organization.

The "structurally deficient" designation by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) means that one of a bridge's key elements is in poor condition. More than two percent of Georgia's 14,987 bridges are in this category. It would cost $12 billion to repair them all, the association says.

A bridge on Houston Mill Rd. over S. Fork Peachtree Creek, built in 1958, ranks fourth on the list, with 18,960 daily crossings. A bridge on Cedar Grove Road over the Norfolk Southern Railroad has 9,560 daily crossings and is ranked sixth. Both are classified as "urban collector" roads.

DeKalb County commissioners get 2022 committee seats

The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday to formally approve Presiding Officer Robert Patrick's new committee assignments.

Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson (Superdistrict 7, representing the eastern half of DeKalb County) will continue to chair the Public Works and Infrastructure (PWI) Committee, as she has done since 2020. She will also be a member of the Finance, Audit & Budget (FAB) Committee chaired by Commissioner Jeff Rader.

Commissioner Steve Bradshaw (District 4, parts of central DeKalb County) chairs no committees this year, but will serve on the FAB panel and the Employee Relations & Public Safety Committee (ERPS) chaired by Commissioner Ted Terry.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

DeKalb NAACP to hold virtual King Day parade

The DeKalb NAACP will hold a virtual MLK Parade on Monday, after cancelling its plans for a parade from Green Pastures Christian Ministries to MLK High School because of winter weather.

The kick-off ceremony for the virtual 20th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade will take place at 11:30 a.m on Monday. The virtual parade will follow, beginning at noon.

You can join the event at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87477330490

The theme for the parade is "Marching To The Sound Of Justice."

Stone Mountain to host virtual King Day celebration

The City of Stone Mountain and the city's St. Paul AME Church are hosting a virtual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday at 11 a.m.

The keynote speaker will be Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church.

The event can be viewed on the City of Stone Mountain's Facebook page, which appears to require a Facebook account to log in.

Monday, January 10, 2022

General Assembly to consider DeKalb County commission map, new cities, guns and ballots

DeKalb County lawmakers expect election-year politics to dominate this year's General Assembly session, which will consider new county commission district maps and proposals for two new cities.

"I anticipate that many of the issues that we will be deliberating upon will be those issues that put the majority party in good stead with their base because this is an election year," State Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) told an online delegation town hall meeting on Saturday.

"There's probably going to be at least two cityhood issues that will have to be analyzed and deliberated upon and discussed. I would encourage you to stay active, get involved, let your state senator and state representative know how you feel about these issues because that carries the day," Mitchell said.

A proposal for a new city in south DeKalb County, first launched in 2014, remains active. Previously called Greenhaven, proponents are now calling it the City of DeKalb. There is also a proposal for a city encompassing Atlanta's Buckhead shopping and business district.

"The effort to have Buckhead secede from the City of Atlanta is on the table," State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) said, adding that she assumed most DeKalb legislators "would be adamantly against that for a variety of reasons." She said Georgia's Governor, Lieutenant Governor and House Speaker have "been a bit lukewarm to that, but it remains a very dangerous issue and, frankly, it's been over a decade since the state should have revamped its approach to the creation of new cities and put a better process in place. This is yet another example of why that should have been done." 

Legislators will also consider revamped DeKalb County commission districts. The Board of Commissioners approved new district maps without revealing them publicly or allowing the public to comment on them directly at a commission meeting. Critics say the proposed maps would divide county neighborhoods while favoring existing cities.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), the chair of the DeKalb Senate delegation, acknowledged the county's proposed maps. "We appreciate their input but the responsibility of redistricting and reapportioning in DeKalb County lies squarely on the state legislature and not the county commission," he said. 

"It's the delegation's responsibility to redistrict the seven commission districts for DeKalb County," Jones said. "We have members of DeKalb County government that have a lot more members in the district than some of the DeKalb County government officials on the south side of the county."

Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), chair of the county's House delegation, encouraged DeKalb County residents to provide comments to the county's state legislators on the "tentative" proposed maps. "Our process is just starting, your opportunity to weigh in is invited," she said. "All of us will be involved."

Lawmakers said Republicans can be expected to make further changes to Georgia election law, building on last year's legislation that restricted the locations of ballot drop boxes and increased state influence on local election boards.

"They're literally creating cheating empires," Mitchell said. "There's going to be an attempt, primarily through the local legislation process, to change the non-partisan nature of these election boards. They started last session and I expect to see much more of that."

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who is running for Lieutenant Governor, will "tack much harder to the right in order to try to win the primary," Parent said. He is "now pushing for the elimination of all [ballot] drop boxes, which was not a position he was taking last year," she said.          

Teacher pay raises will be on the agenda, as well as mental healthcare reform and gambling, such online sports betting, destination resorts and horse racing, said Mitchell.

He said permit-free gun carry legislation will be considered. "This is a big issue to the base of the majority party," Mitchell said. "There are those who believe that you ought not to have to apply and have a permit to carry a gun in public. It's an incredible notion when you think about it."

Vernon Jones claims DeKalb County ballot box violated state rules

Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones says he has filed a complaint with the Georgia Secretary of State's office, alleging that the county violated state election rules by placing a ballot drop box on private property.

Jones, a Republican candidate for governor, alleges that DeKalb County advertised, listed and used an absentee ballot box located on privately owned property in violation of State Election Board Rule 183-1-14-0.6-.14, the Albany Herald reports.

"I will always be a fighter and protector of election integrity and voters' rights," Jones said in a news release. 

Jones announced he was switching to the Republican Party at a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., just hours before the violent Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He said last year that Georgia's November 2020 presidential election was "fixed." 

A Fulton County prosecutor has told the Associated Press she expects to ask for a special grand jury to investigate efforts by Donald Trump and others to overturn the Georgia election results.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

DeKalb Elections Board meets Thursday

The DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections will hold its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, January 13, at 4:30 p.m. The agenda for the meeting has not yet been published.

Public comments of two minutes or less can be made through the Zoom link:

        https://dekalbcountyga.zoom.us/j/97184078303  

The county says it will also stream the meeting at:

        https://video.ibm.com/channel/dctv-channel-23