Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Charges Dropped Against Former CEO of DeKalb; New Charges Possible for Barnes-Sutton

From By Mark Niesse at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mon., Feb. 6, 2017:  Former DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was finally freed of corruption charges Monday after a four-year saga that included two trails, an eight month prison sentence and a successful appeal.  Read more here.

Tues, Jan. 24, 2017:  Federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena seeking information about more than $30,000 of spending by former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton.  Read more here.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Water Bill Town Hall - TONIGHT at 7 p.m.

Water Bill Town Hall - TONIGHT at 7 p.m.
Cheryl Miller from Brockett Heights · Just now
Photo from Cheryl Miller
Water main breaks are
all too common in
our county.

Oct. 6, 2016:  If you have had issues recently with your water bill, or suspect that your water meter has been tampered with, changed or otherwise left to report inaccurate or unreliable data back to the county, PLEASE try to attend tonight's meeting at 7 p.m. The location is 1300 Commerce Drive in Decatur.

Commissioner Nancy Jester is hosting the town hall, but residents from all districts are invited to attend. If you have been victimized by over the top/inaccurate billing, please plan to speak up in order to document for the public record the extent of errors and overcharges that have occurred. DeKalb County has a new Interim Financial Officer now and perhaps there will be a solution to this ongoing problem that has not been offered or suggested in the past. Do not give up!

Your water is a VITAL county resource that you PAY for, but you should not be charged for errors in the meter system, human error or corruption. Bring your proof with you if possible or just show up to support your neighbors who have suffered the headaches of improper and illegal billing procedures that have been allowed to continue in our county year after year.

Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Raider are also co-hosting this town hall meeting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Updates From Save Tucker!

Hi Save Tucker followers!

It has been a little while since we updated our blog, so we wanted to let you know that we're still here and we're still following the issue of new cities in the metro Atlanta region.  We try to give you our two cents on most of these topics, as often as possible.  But, even being prolific bloggers and involved citizens, we still need a break sometimes.  Plus, we wanted to give the new city of Tucker a chance to really get up and running before we started to point out anything that might be a cause of concern.   Since we live here, we are very hopeful that our new city council members and the mayor will be the upstanding citizens they want us to believe they are.  And, we want to believe that they have the best interest of all Tucker in mind with every decision they make.

Of course we are still skeptical because of things like this: 
Yes, that's three of our elected city leaders trying to evade a simple question just a day or two before the vote on city hood.  So, if that's what they do when they want our trust, what are they doing now that they don't really have to care about whether or not we trust them (unless they want to be re-elected when time comes).

If you have been following the city meetings, you may know that they have hired some staff members, adopted a zoning code, taken over code enforcement at least in theory, and  they have found ways to fund everything so far.  They have opened a city hall and started a web site.  And, they have had many, many "special called" meetings, which usually means the public has less than 24 hours to find out what it is that they are going to meet about and how it might impact them.

Here's the information about the city hall:  Tucker City Hall | 4119 Adrian Street | Tucker, Georgia 30084 | 678-597-9040

And the website: CITY OF TUCKER WEBSITE.

In the meantime, our District 2 has probably been suffering the most while waiting for Tucker (the city of) to get its act together.  District 2 has no Super District representation right now and their regular district is not covered by Nancy  Jester like the rest of Tucker.  Instead, they have Sharon Barnes Sutton, who lost in the preliminary election to challenger Steve Bradshaw.  You can read more about him here:  VOTE Steve Bradshaw.  And, remember, if you voted for Bradshaw, the job isn't finished, yet.  He still needs your support in the November election, right around the corner, before he can be officially named as the new commissioner in DeKalb's District 4.

While it is a good thing to know that the ethically challenged Barnes Sutton is going to be replaced, the bad thing is that she has already announced that she doesn't feel it is her job to represent people in cities.  So, basically, there is no one interested in protecting the District 2 residents from potential harm during the interim period. 

What kind of harm?   Well, how about the kind of harm that comes when a new town home development is approved without any plan being discussed for storm water runoff.  And, that builder, SR Homes, decides to go ahead and clear cut the entire buffer even after he agreed to leave 20 feet of it in place?  That's what is going on behind the former Big Green Egg warehouse.

Or what about homes that are abandoned or have fallen trees on them and no one is doing a thing about it?   That's another problem in District 2 that the new commissioner will hopefully do something about as soon as he takes office.  But, aren't some of these issues the kind of things that people thought a new city was going to do better than the county?  So far it seems the very creation of the city is exactly what is causing the neglect and the lack of rule following by the big developers who want to put multi-family housing anywhere they can find the room.

Former urban forest; future home of 45 town homes on Lawrenceville Highway.
Wasn't the new city supposed to PROTECT the single family neighborhoods and ENHANCE the quality of life we all enjoy right now?  Won't these new developments bring potential crime to our area?  Won't they become fire hazards, judging from the number of apartment fires one can see reported in the news on any given day?  And, won't they add more traffic to an already gridlocked 285 for those who chose Tucker because it gave them an easier commute to work than they would have if they were to live further away?

But, none of that really matters because they have hired an out-of-state company to help them navigate all the city related business anyway.  CH2M (minus the "Hill" part), the former provider of government outsourced services for Sandy Springs, was hired to pretty much run everything.  If Tucker is like most other governments, that relationship will be good for about two years until we can no longer afford it and they decide to bring things "in house" and set up a regular government just like everyone said we wanted to get away from.  Ho Hum.  It's so predictable it is hardly worth mentioning.  But, in case you are interested in what things will be headed our way if we follow the same path, here's a great article about it:  "Big Change in Sandy Springs..."

We're trying to stay positive, but there is a lot going on with our new city that seems to be cause to at least raise one's eyebrows over.   Like the huge development being discussed for the intersection of Mountain Industrial and Lawrenceville Highway... potentially named "Tucker Town Center."   Suddenly, the "center" of town is going to be a lot closer to Smoke Rise than it used to be, if you are following the general plan and reading between the lines.    Where will the town homes and "affordable" housing be located in District 1?   Or, did the pro-city activists actually start a city of Tucker in order to protect their own investments while significantly harming everyone else's?  Time will tell, right?

We hope you will tell your elected officials how you feel.  Good.  Bad.  Or Ugly.  (Shout out to the FB group by that name! )

In District 2, the representatives Noelle Monferdini and Matt Robbins are actually asking for feedback.  They are hosting a community engagement session Monday, Oct. 17, starting at 7 p.m., at Rehoboth Baptist Church Auditorium, 2997 Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker.  The meeting is expected to go until 8:30 p.m. and will include an overview of the new city's comprehensive plan.  To their credit, Monferdini and Robbins are making efforts to talk with the residents in their area before voting on plans that will impact the future.  If the other city council members are not doing this same type of event, perhaps they should consider it.

They are at least asking to hear from you, so what do you have to lose?  We thought the other districts were doing the same thing, but now that we checked the city website, not even the District  2 meeting is mentioned.  It's not on the calendar.  So, we will be sending them a message to find out what's going on.  We will post an update on our Facebook page.  If you are not already following us, please do:  Our public Facebook page is here:  https://www.facebook.com/SaveTuckerFromLakesideCity.

Thanks!   It's good to be back!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Taxpayers and Voters are Unhappy with Commissioner Barnes-Sutton:

Barnes-Sutton faces Steve Bradsaw on Tuesday, July 26. 


If you DID NOT vote in the last election, do not despair, you can STILL VOTE in the July 26 Runoff so long as  you were registered to vote at the time of the first election.  To have a say in this runoff, you will need to ask for a "Democratic ballot" for you to cast your vote on.

From the desk of the group "Unhappy Taxpayers and Voters," we received the following:

To DeKalb Teachers and Georgia Teachers:

Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton (of the 4th District in DeKalb County) has a long history of arriving to work late (Commission meetings and/or committee meetings) and/or not showing up at all. We ask that you review the following records (prior performance and work history/records of arriving to work on time and/or showing up) and ask if teachers that are not elected officials could get away with the same violations:

  1. How many teachers were allowed to be absent from work within the DeKalb County School System for 100 days in 9 months and 41 days in 3 months?
  2. How many teachers were accommodated and allowed to perform a second job ahead of the needs of the children?
  3. How many times have elected officials, employed with the school system, been allowed to violate policy in the name of fulfilling their job as elected officials?
  4. Is this special treatment? 
 Please show us "one" teacher that is not an elected official with these types of privileges.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lakeside Has More "Bad Apples."

Note:  We continue to follow this story because Save Tucker! was told by a follower that this particular principal was specifically selected by the same individuals who were involved in the push for a Lakeside City.  Their plans would have devastated the Tucker community by splitting it up and leaving some without any commercial tax revenue in their region to help keep their own property taxes affordable.   We want others to understand that the decisions these self appointed leaders wanted to make would have been bad for everyone, regardless of where you lived.  They made decisions based on the old-school DeKalb corrupt way of doing things.  The methods that have left their own community to clean up and fix the messes like this one... bringing in a principal based on who he knows, not what he knows.  Maybe now they will stay out of the schools AND regional politics?  We can only hope.    This article below is from the AJC:

After ouster, DeKalb paid ex-principal while he didn’t work

When Jason Clyne resigned in March — as DeKalb County School District officials investigated about a dozen alleged improprieties by him — district officials said he would continue to work, while on paid leave, through June 30.

Bad apple.
That apparently has not been the case. District officials won’t say what work, if any, Clyne has done. Emails from his district account show no evidence any work was done after Jan. 25.

Superintendent Steve Green announced Clyne was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 27. Since then, he’s not been allowed on school property except for scheduled time to pick up his belongings.
At the time, fliers mounted throughout the school alleged the principal told janitors and security staff at a meeting: “You don’t want to mess with me. I’m a redneck master with a degree. I run these 40 acres!”
  • “You literally want to get them out the barrel because they’re the bad apple,” (Jimmy Stokes, executive director for the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders) said.

His school district email account basically went dark after Jan. 25, save a few emails asking to be taken off parent message groups where his character was being questioned often. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the emails through an open-records request.
“Please take me off the emails for school council. I’m a bit tired of seeing how quickly folks are running to pile on and, frankly, I think it in incredibly poor taste to continue looping me in on these communications,” he wrote.

In others, he forwarded the announcement of the substitute principal assigned to take his place, and emails supporting and bashing him related to the allegations of racial improprieties.

The last email sent from Clyne’s account was a forward on March 16 on 2016-2017 employment contracts.
When asked by email whether Clyne had completed any work since leaving the school, Chief Communications and Community Relations Officer Eileen Houston-Stewart said: “It is the policy of the district not to comment on personnel matters.”

In early March, DeKalb County School District officials announced Clyne’s resignation. At the time, officials said he would receive assignments from the Office of Legal Affairs until his contract ended on June 30.
After Clyne’s resignation, the district disclosed an investigative report that showed about a dozen other infractions during his time as principal, including two others from the 2015-2016 school year.

Investigations found Clyne made unauthorized grade changes for students, allowed parent volunteers to use his computer log-in to access and update student records and made racial and discriminatory comments about black people to an assistant principal, among other things. Some investigations had never reached a conclusion.

The Anti-Defamation League worked with students and teachers at the school after Clyne’s dismissal, hoping to create a culture that resists hate in schools, district officials said. Neither the district or Anti-Defamation League officials would comment on the work done at the school.

Education leaders say it’s common for administrators on leave from their jobs not to do any work, saying they often are quarantined as contracts run out. Many take this route to avoid having due-process hearings, said Jimmy Stokes, executive director for the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders.

“If you assign people work during that time, what are you going to do if they don’t do it?” he said. “You’re already going to (terminate) them.”

Stokes said simply saying a person will be allowed to be paid for the duration of his or her contract leaves officials open to criticisms from people who don’t understand the cause.

“You literally want to get them out the barrel because they’re the bad apple,” he said. “You put them on administrative leave so they won’t be around and continue to do the things that got them there in the first place. And you’re doing it with the least amount of public disruption.”

Sunday, June 26, 2016

LaVista Hills Loses Its Steam

In an email sent to its supporters this week, Lavista Hills Alliance announced that it is closing down some of its operations and suspending some of its campaign activities.  They also alluded to a long-forgotten challenge they once made to the accuracy of the vote that sent Tucker toward incorporation and sent them home empty handed.  

According to the email, which was forwarded to us by an anonymous source, Lavista Hills' leaders are still holding out hope that the state department will issue some kind of a final report, telling them whether or not they found any fraud in connection to their allegations against the DeKalb Board of Elections and its Superintendent, Maxine Daniels.   

Save Tucker! followers may also recall that we, too, had questions regarding the fairness of some of the voting procedures taking place in DeKalb, mainly the allowing of candidates onto ballots without properly verifying their stated place of residence.  We  had very compelling evidence that more than one candidate in Tucker's city election did not reside in the location where they had claimed to live, but the matter was not investigated by the local election board nor the Secretary of State's office.  Pity.  

Even more concerning was the fact that Tucker's city elections were not announced publicly via the official new organ in the time frame required by state law, which is likely the reason there were so few challengers in Districts 1 and 3 willing to run against the pro-city group, which ended up securing its seats and the Mayor's seat as well, essentially locking in their needed block for group-think voting.  But, more about them later. 

For now, we thought you might be interested to read some excerpts from the Lavista Hills email and decide for yourself if they sound like a powerful group ready for a comeback, or a defeated minority finally accepting that they cannot force their will on the masses, even if they do have a Republican Senator and lots of dark money on their side! 

  •   "We read in the June 22nd AJC that the Secretary of State's office has opened an investigation into the primary election in Clayton County. Many of those issues mirror our November referendum problems. As you may recall, the DeKalb Registrar's office had some computers confiscated and there were allegations that memory cards containing the ballots were improperly handled. Additionally, there were questions about absentee ballots as well as locked access to some of the polling places. The fact that the investigation has been ongoing for seven months indicates that there may have been significant irregularities found – but we still do not have a target date for a final report."

  • Regarding our web presence, we will continue updating our LaVista Hills Yes Facebook page with news that is pertinent to our area, but will be suspending our web site over the next week.

  • From what we are hearing in the background, the existing cities are planning to commence with renewed annexation plans.*  

*Has anyone else heard anything about existing cities having annexation plans? If so, please tell us about it in the comments!  (And, at least Lavista Hills / aka Lakeside City folks have accepted the fact that they must now be "in the background."  That's progress, right?)

And, finally, they mentioned something about Tucker having a July 1 "start up" and wishing us all the best.  If we have a July 1 start up, what exactly have we been doing all this time, practicing?  When exactly will the new city actually "start" and what does that mean?   We will try to figure out this baffling question which should have a pretty straight forward answer, but nothing in this city fiasco has been easy, yet, so we wouldn't want to get our hopes up.   There is at least one city council member we know we can count on ... so, we will pose the question and get back with you soon on the response we receive. 

Hope you are enjoying your Summer so far!   Keep reading and staying up to date via our Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/savetuckerfromlakesidecity.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Will They Stay or Will They Go? (DeKalb's Plan for 285 and L'ville Highway and the Extended Stay Hotels)

Two and a half years ago, concerned neighbors began meeting about our issues with the motels at 285 & Lawrenceville Highway. We reached out to County leaders and have met with them a number of times. 

Dekalb County sought a technical assistance grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission to study the area and make recommendations for next steps. It has been a very difficult process, and we have often felt discouraged, but we have persisted. We have not seen any of the recommendations for this grant, so we have no idea what to expect. 

DeKalb County is ready to share their overall findings/recommendations with all of us. An Open House Meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, June 2nd, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Rehoboth Baptist Church.

It is tremendously important that we have a good turnout for this meeting. They need to see that we still have a high level of concern and engagement. Please share with your neighbors.

--  Jack Sartain