DeKalb County is responding to allegations employees were taking bribes, extorting contractors and involved in a pattern of corruption. A whistle blower has filed a complaint with the attorney general hurling those damming claims at the head of the planning department.
Only CBS Atlanta's Wendy Saltzman obtained a copy of the six-page complaint former manager Eric Woods sent to the attorney general. Woods alleges employees were pocketing cash in return for government favors, expediting permits for people who paid up, and sold passing grades on inspections for money. His complaint further describes DeKalb's planning department as a "cesspool of greed," breeding a "culture of corruption."
Woods now lives in Florida but spoke with Saltzman by phone. He said he was illegally terminated after trying to expose fraud, bribery and kickbacks in the county's building department.
"I think there are a number of allegations being made and we will get to the bottom of it in terms of doing that through an appropriate investigative mechanism," said DeKalb County Chief Operating Officer Richard Stogner.
DeKalb officials were not aware of the complaint until Saltzman showed it to them.
"The CEO and the county take all allegations of this manner very seriously. The CEO is very interested in that we deal with it appropriately and that we get to the bottom of it," Stogner said.
Woods claims employees were taking cash under the table to expedite permits that were delayed by a long waiting list. It is such a lucrative practice, he says no one wanted the truth exposed.
"If there is anybody that has been involved in those things that are involved in criminal activity, when we get through with this we will certainly turn it over to the district attorney for appropriate action," Stonger said.
Woods also said inspection supervisor David Moss was extorting money from contractors and in his words, "selling government favors."
CBS Atlanta news obtained a sign-in sheet that shows a list of contractors who personally paid Moss $700 to attend one of his classes. Those classes that were sometimes held in the DeKalb County planning building, but the money went straight to Moss.
"Could it be a conflict of interest if he is taking money from these people and then he is the one who is in charge of permitting their work?" Saltzman asked Stogner.
"I think it probably on the surface would appear to be," he replied.
Scott MacDowell is one of the names on that sign-in sheet.
"The allegations is people like you would take his class, and then he would pass your inspection," Saltzman told MacDowell.
"No way. He hasn't done any of my inspections," MacDowell responded.
But records obtained by CBS Atlanta News show soon after MacDowell took Moss's class in May, Moss passed two of McDowell's permit applications, including one that had been previously flagged for multiple code failures.
"Has that ever been your experience at DeKalb County that they have taken bribes at the permitting windows?" Saltzman questioned.
"Not that I know of," MacDowell said.
"Any cash money for favors?" Saltzman asked.
"I mean I can't say that hasn't happened, but I don't know about it. I never did it, and I never knew anyone who did," MacDowell said.
Since CBS Atlanta brought this to the county's attention they have called in their lawyers, and have notified all employees not to destroy any records or emails.
Stogner said they have started their own investigation, which may include an audit of the entire department and could result in criminal action if these allegations prove to be true.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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