Corruption in DeKalb County government and how to get rid of it dominated presentations by candidates seeking to succeed long-time Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who last month resigned the day before she was charged by federal authorities with misusing county funds.
“Welcome to the District 1ethics seminar. That’s what the District 1 race is going to be,” candidate Larry Danese of Brookhaven joked with the audience attending a Sept. 18 candidate forum in Tucker.
Boyer has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and mail fraud conspiracy. She is to be sentenced in December.
Meanwhile, suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis is facing trial on charges he used his position to force local business owners to contribute to his campaign.
Five candidates seek the District 1 seat Boyer resigned. They are: Danese, a retired engineer who ran against Boyer in the past; Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, a former DeKalb school board member; Wendy Butler of Brookhaven, a lawyer and MARTA board member; and retirees Tom Owens of Doraville and Holmes E. Pyles of Smoke Rise.
They met onstage at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church during a candidate forum sponsored by the Tucker Civic Association. District 1 covers much of north DeKalb, including the cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody.
Jester promised to post her office’s spending online so her constituents could see where money was going and said she had the financial background to keep tabs on count finances. Butler said she had helped clean up MARTA’s financial troubles and called for regular audits of county spending and a stronger county ethics law.
Danese said he had 20 years of community service and that he wanted to draw the line on county taxes.
Owens, who filed ethics complaints against Boyer and other commissioners, said he would not sit in “an air-conditioned office” if elected, but instead would be “out in the field.” He also called for “third-party oversight” of county spending. “I want to know the truth and I want the public to know what’s going on,” he said.
And Pyles said he would not take any campaign contributions. Asked what should be done to make sure the county government was transparent, Pyles suggested that candidates be given lie-detector tests. “It’d be very simple,” he said. “Every time a person comes up for a race, give him a polygraph test.”