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Grand jury indicts 2 top DeKalb school officials
A grand jury today charged two top DeKalb County school officials with racketeering, bribery and theft of government property.
The seven-count, 127-page indictment names former Superintendent Crawford Lewis; Pat Reid, the school district’s former chief operating officer; her ex-husband, Tony Pope, an architect who’s worked on DeKalb school projects; and Cointa Moody, Reid’s secretary.
The charges describe attempts by Reid to blackmail Lewis, bribes in the form of tens of thousands of dollars in sports and theater tickets, and a taxpayer-funded stay in the Bahamas.
Reid allegedly vowed “she would not go down alone” and attempted to blackmail Lewis, District Attorney Gwen Keyes-Fleming said; Lewis then lied when investigators asked him about it.
“The specifics of that will come out later,” she said.
The indictment also describes a pattern of alleged fraud that allowed Pope to collect nearly $2.4 million to which he was not entitled, including $445,000 for work at Columbia High School that was never performed and never approved by the DeKalb Board of Education. Lewis and Reid are charged with signing the change orders that authorized the $445,000 in payments.
In another instance, the school district allegedly paid $30,625 for “general contractor bidding & negotiation” even though Pope was selected without competitive bidding.
“Because this was not bid, there was nothing to negotiate,” Keyes-Fleming said.
The school district also paid $185,000 to correct poor workmanship by Pope at Columbia but did not seek reimbursement as his contract entitled it to do, she said.
Prosecutors said the four defendants engaged in a conspiracy (thus the racketeering charges) that benefited Reid personally.
The accused “used their positions and the resources of the school system to facilitate theft, fraud and obstruction,” Keyes-Fleming said. “‘The money that was received by Tony Pope was then funneled back to his then-wife.”
Pope was not supposed to perform any new work for DeKalb once his then-wife went to work for the school district in 2007. The indictment charges that Reid, who ran the district’s construction program, manipulated bidding processes so Pope could work surreptitiously as a subcontractor by:
- Altering the scoring and forging the signatures of four members of a bid-evaluation team to steer the work to a construction firm that employed Pope. A GBI handwriting expert concluded the signatures were not authentic.
- Providing Pope with inside information so he could help submit a winning bid.
- Negotiating a low price privately with one bidder without allowing competitors the same opportunity.
- Firing the architect for a new McNair Elementary School and changing selection criteria so Pope’s team could be chosen to replace him.
Pope and Reid also accepted tens of thousands of tickets to Atlanta Hawks and Falcons games, the NCAA Final Four (valued at $18,622), the Masters (worth $35,400) and Fox Theater events from a construction contractor without disclosing them. Lewis used four of Reid’s six tickets to the 2008 Masters tournament, the grand jury charged.
Lewis was accused of misusing his school purchasing card, or P-card, to pay a $295 hotel bill on a vacation in the Bahamas and a $107 overnight stay at the Ritz Carlton at Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Ga.
The Ritz Carlton trip involved “personal activity with a female employee which was not authorized,” according to the indictment. Keyes-Fleming said the trip was not related to school business.
Both he and Pope were also charged with theft of government property for their purchases of school vehicles at 35 percent of their actual value.
Moody, Reid’s secretary, was accused of fradulently obtaining overtime pay for hours when she was running personal errands for Reid. Moody was paid $42,312 in overtime in fiscal year 2009, compared to about $10,000 the year before, Keyes-Fleming said.
Overall, she said, the alleged fraud allowed four construction companies to win about $82 million in contracts illegally, including:
— Merit Construction, $9.8 million for Columbia High,
— C.D. Moody Construction, $11.9 million for McNair,
— Nix Fowler, $20.1 million for the Mountain Industrial Center, and
— Turner Construction, about $40 million for Arabia Mountain High School.
None of the construction companies will face criminal charges in the case. “They’ve all been forthcoming and cooperative,” Keyes-Fleming said.
Dave Moody, president and CEO of Moody Construction, issued this statement later today:
“I appreciate the thoroughness of the District Attorney’s investigation. DeKalb County is my home and I am looking forward to continuing to focus on my family and business, along with the civic and community activities that my wife and I enjoy. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further since this is now a pending matter in the courts.”
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