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    Debt-ridden DK official says she spent $69K out of pocket on campaign

     

    By JIM WALLS

    Jan. 28, 2010 — Sharon Barnes Sutton’s paycheck was garnisheed in 2008 after she missed payments on her Lexus. Gwinnett County issued four arrest warrants in her name over more than $1,000 in bounced checks in 2007. And she lost her $162,000 Stone Mountain home a few months ago when she couldn’t keep up with the mortgage.

    Despite those debts, Sutton says she spent at least $69,000 of her own money in 2007 and 2008 to win her seat on the DeKalb County Commission, campaign records show. All this on a $43,000 annual salary as a DeKalb schoolteacher.

    Sutton reported lending herself more than $62,740 and contributing $6,906 more to her campaign account between July 2007 and August 2008. The DeKalb school district told the state auditor that it paid Sutton $42,777 during the 2007-08 school year — roughly the period when she made those loans — and $27,642 the following year.

    Her December 2007 disclosure noted the campaign received another $8,500 loan but did not report the date or say whether Sutton was the lender.

    All told, Sutton’s loans and cash contributions made up nearly three-quarters of the $108,000 or so that she spent on the 2008 commission race.

    How could Sutton find herself that deep in debt and still spend that much money on her campaign? We asked, but couldn’t get much of an answer.

    Sutton and her campaign treasurer, state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Neither did Otanya M. Clarke, the attorney representing her regarding a state ethics complaint.

    Warren F. Mosby, her campaign manager, said he was not privy to the particulars of Sutton’s financial obligations — “That is not my job to manage a candidate’s personal finances” — but he would not talk about them even if he were.

    “It is my understanding that it was a very complicated and complex financial situation,” he said. “Details of that are a private matter.”

    (Sutton used $53,465 — about half of her total campaign funds — to pay Mosby’s company, HSI Systems & Consultants.)

    Sutton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the root of her financial difficulties was a long-running legal dispute with a contractor and the company insuring her home. She said a mold problem forced her to move out and leave all her family’s belongings behind, but continued to make the mortgage payments while renting a second home in Stone Mountain.

    Court records show Sutton sued the contractor and insurer twice in Fulton County. Both suits were dismissed, most recently in September for lack of prosecution.

    Sutton failed to report most of her campaign loans until well after the Aug. 5 primary runoff that sealed her victory. She filed a campaign disclosure in April 2008 but missed the next four filing deadlines set by state law.

    In December 2008, Sutton submitted the four delinquent disclosures, reporting $49,500 in personal loans and nearly $33,000 in itemized contributions from supporters.

    Mosby, Sutton’s campaign manager, also ran Gene Walker’s winning 2008 campaign for a seat on the DeKalb County Board of Education. Atlanta Unfiltered reported in June that Walker’s campaign also filed key financial disclosures late.

    Walker failed to report nearly $20,000 of campaign donations from interests related to the Sembler Co. until after he had won a runoff election. At the time, Walker chaired the DeKalb Development Authority, which was reviewing Sembler’s request for a $40 million tax break for a Peachtree Road development. Walker has since resigned from the authority’s board.

    Sutton’s late disclosures were filed Dec. 3 and Walker’s Dec. 4. Sembler donated $2,500 to Sutton’s campaign as well, records show.

    The State Ethics Commission has an open case on campaign opponent Viola Davis’ 2008 complaint about Sutton’s late filings.

    Sutton’s most recent campaign report, filed a couple weeks ago, shows the campaign still owes $49,515 on the loans. The campaign reported paying her back $10,877 in July 2008 and $10,600 the following November.

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    Sutton’s financial troubles date back to at least 1995, when the first of a string of civil and criminal charges were filed against her, court records show:

    Sept. 26, 1995 — DeKalb State Court issues an $1,817 default judgment against Sutton for a claim by an Atlanta medical practice (debt canceled July 2001)

    April 23, 1996 — Sutton is charged in DeKalb with writing a bad check a few days before Christmas 1995 (the charge was dismissed in June 1998 with a docket entry noting the statute of limitations had run out)

    Sept. 26, 1996 — DeKalb State Court issues a $379 judgment against Sutton for a claim by a second Atlanta medical practice

    Dec. 6, 1996 — Sutton pleads no contest in Gwinnett to writing a bad check to West Building Supply in Stone Mountain

    June 9, 1998 — Sutton pleads no contest in DeKalb (receiving a 10-day suspended sentence) to writing a bad check shortly before Christmas 1997

    March 27, 2001 — DeKalb County Sanitation files claim (later dismissed) against Sutton for unpaid account

    Sept. 23, 2003Sutton sues Allstate Insurance & PJ Services (dismissed in February 2005)

    Feb. 12, 2004IRS files $16,526 lien against Sutton for unpaid federal income taxes (lien was released May 26)

    Sept. 23, 2004 — Tucker dentist files claim against Sutton; process server notes “house vacant, mailbox full of mail”

    Aug. 12, 2005Sutton sues Allstate Insurance and P.J. Services again (dismissed in September 2009 for lack of prosecution)

    June 24, 2006 — DeKalb Magistrate Court issues a judgment against Sutton for a $3,953 claim by Cynthia Woods (noted in December 2006 as paid in full)

    Jan. 1, 2008 — Sutton loans $4,740 to her campaign for DeKalb County Commission

    Jan. 8, 2008Gwinnett issues four warrants against Sutton for writing bad checks at Costco in Duluth (warrants recalled Jan. 21, 2010 after Sutton paid Costco)

    April 3, 2008 — DeKalb State Court issues a $7,023 default judgment against Sutton for a claim by Primus Automotive Financing

    April 15, 2008 — Sutton loans $34,000 to her campaign

    May 23, 2008 — Primus seeks garnishment of Sutton’s wages

    July 1, 2008 — Sutton loans $8,500 to campaign

    Aug. 1, 2008 — Sutton loans $15,500 to campaign

    Sept. 30, 2009 — BAC Home Loans Servicing files dispossessory notice against Sutton (docket notes “tenant evicted” Jan. 21, 2010)

     

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    14 Responses to “Debt-ridden DK official says she spent $69K out of pocket on campaign”

    1. Diane says:

      It does make you wonder. Thanks for a thorough job of investigating this stuff, Jim.

    2. Montana says:

      And she’s a schoolteacher too, eh? Awesome. Awesome role model.

    3. Ronnie says:

      My question is why is she not in jail? This is a prime example of why nobody trust our elected officials anymore she thinks she is above the law. Thank you so much for your thorough investigation.

    4. csquared says:

      this background doesn’t seem to have stopped voters from putting her in office. If she’s what WE picked (as a dekalb voter in her district, I can’t remember WHO i voted for, but it’s possible I am one of the WE) who was the alternative?
      Hopefully we’re done now and will be watching candidates very closely.

    5. Cerebration says:

      Wait – isn’t she on the BUDGET committee for the county? And doesn’t she teach BUSINESS in DeKalb’s online academy? And Who In The World thinks $108,000 budget is a “very complicated and complex financial situation”? We’re in deep doo doo with financial ‘leaders’ like this.

      BTW – for those who have asked – no, I’m not Viola Davis. But I do love that lady!

    6. Laughing at Gene says:

      What is the connection between Warren Mosby, State Rep. Howard Mosby, Atlanta City Councilwoman Natalyn Mosby Archibong and Sharon Barnes Sutton? Word is that Warren Mosby thought he could get anyone with a heartbeat to win a Dekalb County commission seat, and that’s about all Sharon brought to the table.

      The Feds might want to investigate Sharon’s campaign finances. She may want to resign before that happens, because she’s going to be in big trouble if that happens.

    7. Progressive Dem says:

      Great investigative journalism work uncovering this narly mess. We need more of this.

    8. Jim Walls says:

      Got more coming.

    9. Progressive Dem says:

      Sadly, Commissioner Sutton is from Fourth Commission District. CEO Ellis was the previous 4th district commissioner. Outgoing commissioners generally attempt to influence who their successor is. They often encourage a competent candidate to run and help them with introductions, issues and endorsements. CEO Ellis made a big mistake when he stayed out of the race.

      Commissioner Sutton emerged from a very crowded primary field and into a runoff with Viola Davis. Ms. Davis is well known at the DeKalb County Commission as the Unhappy Taxpayer. She is usually wearing a yellow unhappy smiley face T-shirt and is a frequent speaker during the public comment period. While an avid populist, Ms. Davis had little experience or money in the runoff against Ms. Sutton.

      Commissioner Sutton’s campaign manager was Warren Mosby. It is generally known they are romantically involved and he is on her paid county staff. Warren is the brother of Rep Howard Mosby and the sister of Atlanta City Councilwoman Natalyn Mosby Archibong. Warren Mosby, Commissioner Larry Johnson and Board of Commission Chief of Staff Morris Williams have created a power center that is frequently at odds will Ellis and white the commissioners. There is bad blood between Ellis and Larry Johnson that goes back to Ellis beating Johnson in an election to become presiding officer of the Commission in 2007 and 2008. Prior to his election as CEO, Burrell Ellis usually voted with the 3 white commissioners and helped reign in the excesses of Vernon Jones.

      Ironically Ellis’s 4th district successor has joined the 3 other black commissioners and often votes in a bloc opposing CEO Ellis. Burrell Ellis made a big mistake when he did not try and influence the 4th District race because it was the swing vote on the Board of Commissioners. Larry Johnson was elected presiding officer of the Commission. He makes all of the committee assignments including determining the chairman. He appointed Sutton to Chair the Public Safety Committee, which helps to understand the reluctance of DeKalb County police to arrest Commissioner Sutton for her outstanding warrants.

      Ellis’s failure to influence the 4th District seat has left him with Sutton voting against him and a racially polarized Commission. It has forced him to play footsy with Connie Stokes who is challenging Hank Johnson. Ellis was notably absent at Congressman Johnson’s re-election kick-off.
      Sutton who is also on the Budget Committee doesn’t appear to be particularly competent in managing her personal finances. It is a little dangerous to elect people to public office who have financial problems. The next thing you know they are doing a favor for the wrong reasons. Hopefully a good candidate runs against her, but that is two years away. In the mean time, Sutton has placed herself in a vulnerable position and she might have to work more closely with Ellis to avoid a well funded opponent.

    10. StoneMountainJoe says:

      A truly award winning example of local investigative reporting not seen in metro Atlanta in several years. Jim Walls you are to be commended.

    11. Steve Walsh says:

      She is a Total Joke, How does somebody like that get so much money? She is taking credit for the building a YMCA in her district, the new walmart and the property code as if she has worked so hard. Everybody knows her staff does all the work. Viola Davis is a real peoples champion not a paper tiger like SBS, Viola wants to cut our taxes and legalize marijuana. Tom was also against the hope scholarship and funding the light rail out to stone crest. That was a great move, I hope Burrel Ellis defeats this lady because her commishoners are seeking to oust him for allowing the creation of Dunwoody. By allowing Dunwoody residents to decide their own fate, this will create jobs in south dekalb were they are needed. I played football against Marist back in the day and they were really good, I hope we can all be that good one day. We should also privatize our trash fleet to save the county money and eliminate waste.

    12. Keisha says:

      She is the first AA woman to be elected from her district. She is being viciously attacked for her race and gender. The amazing woman is the most qualified candidate and was instrumental in the new Y, and allowing DeKalb County Officers to carry stun guns giving them a non-lethal option. She was against changes to the hope scholarship. She is fighting for rail service to stone crest. These other knuckle heads writing bad things about her is just playing the fool. This woman is amazingly gifted and beautiful. Please come out and defend Our central DeKalb county, Hariston Corridor, Mainstreet, Waters edge, Martin rd. Wyne brooke. South Land. Rays RD, Hambrick, Scottdale, Sherman Town, Memorial Drive.!!!!!!!!!!! JULY 31st….. Sharon Barnes Sutton 0’12

    13. Keisha says:

      She is the first AA woman to be elected from her district. She is being viciously attacked for her race and gender. The amazing woman is the most qualified candidate and was instrumental in the new Y, and allowing DeKalb County Officers to carry stun guns giving them a non-lethal option. She was against changes to the hope scholarship. She is fighting for rail service to stone crest. These other knuckle heads writing bad things about her is just playing the fool. This woman is amazingly gifted and beautiful. Please come out and defend Our central DeKalb county, Hariston Corridor, Mainstreet, Waters edge, Martin rd. Wyne brooke. South Land. Rays RD, Hambrick, Scottdale, Sherman Town, Memorial Drive.!!!!!!!!!!! JULY 31st….. Sharon Barnes Sutton 0’12

      Rock bridge Road, Stone Mtn Litonia, Redan, Stephenson!!!!

    14. Carlo says:

      Burrel Ellis that snake, cronie and sell-out. Has just wasted 100,000 taxpayer dollars on a soap box derby track no-one wants, for a hobby no-one likes. What the hell is soap-box racing? and this fool was gonna had out 9 million of our dollars to his cronies, clear cutting ten acres of trees illegally!!!!!! Where is the outrage?

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