New Birth pastor faces sexual coercion allegations
Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia in early November denied allegations that he coerced former members of the church into sexual relationships.
Anthony Flagg, Jamal Parris, Maurice Robinson and Spencer LeGrande each filed separate lawsuits in September claiming that Long lured them into sexual relationships with money, employment, gifts and lavish trips to New York, Las Vegas and Africa, among others places.
The church admitted that Long took the young men on trips but could not “confirm or deny” that Long had intimate relationships with his accusers, according to reports.
Long admitted providing “opportunities for travel, education and personal growth” to many members of the New Birth congregation. However, he denied having sexual relationship with any of the four men. (1)
School superintendent fired and others face criminal charges
DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis was terminated by the school board in April after prosecutors charged that he along with school system Chief Operating Officer Pat Reid, Reid’s secretary, Cointa Moody, and Reid’s ex-husband Tony Pope profited off school construction contracts. Lewis, who had been with the school district 33 years, faces several charges: four racketeering counts, theft by a government employee and bribery. Reid faces seven charges: four racketeering counts, theft by a government employee, bribery and falsifying public documents. (2)
Fire chief resigns in wake of mismanaged incident
DeKalb County Fire Chief David Foster resigned and four firefighters were terminated after an investigation indicated that the fire department did not respond properly when summoned to the Dunwoody home of Ann Bartlett.
Five units were sent to the 1600 block of Houghton Court but could not find a burning house. No firefighters left the truck to search for the address and all five units left the scene minutes after they arrived. Five hours later several calls reporting a fire were received by 911 and when units responded the home was engulfed in flames. The 74-year-old woman was found dead in the garage.
Two of the firefighters were reinstated by an independent hearing officer; the other terminated firefighters did not have the option of appeal.
County approves water rate hike, agrees to pay $453,000 penalty
The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners in December approved $1.345 billion in improvements to DeKalb’s water and sewer system. The improvements will be financed by a 11 percent rate hike each year for three years beginning in 2012.
A customer with county water and sewer services currently using 6,000 gallons per month would see his or her rates increase from $59.52 in 2010 to $94.41 in 2014.
The day before the rate hike vote, the county agreed to pay a $453,000 penalty from the federal Environmental Protection Agency for excessive sewage spills. The proposed consent agreement between the county and the EPA is a resolution of a joint federal and state complaint filed against the county for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Georgia Water Quality Control Act. (3)
Yancey found guilty in double slaying
Former DeKalb County sheriff’s deputy Derrick Yancey received two consecutive life sentences Nov. 19 in DeKalb County Superior Court after being convicted of murdering his wife Linda Yancey and day laborer Marcial Cax-Puluc. The killings occurred in June 2008. In April 2009 Yancey cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped house arrest. He was captured in Belize the following September and returned to DeKalb County to stand trial. Yancey had initially claimed that Cax-Puluc had killed his wife while trying to rob her and that he killed Cax-Puluc in self defense. (4)
Interim school superintendent gets $76,000 raise
The DeKalb School Board voted in December to give interim school superintendent Ramona Tyson a $76,000 raise, pending another vote in January. The increase would bring Tyson’s salary to $240,000 annually. The raise would be part of an 18-month contract under which Tyson would continue to serve on an interim basis until a permanent superintendent is in place by July 1, 2011. After that, Tyson would assist in the transition of the new hire until June 30, 2012. She would then return to her former position as senior deputy superintendent with her previous salary. (5)
Two county school board incumbents lose
After two terms as District 7 representative on the DeKalb County School Board, Zepora Roberts lost her seat to challenger Donna Edler, who took 72.36 percent of the vote in a Nov. 30 runoff election.
Roberts is one of two DeKalb County Board of Education incumbents whose bid for re-election was thrown into a runoff.
The other defeated incumbent, District 1’s Jim Redovian, lost to Nancy Jester, who said that her victory indicates that voters recognized that “we’ve got to change the trajectory of the DeKalb County Schools.”
Incumbents Eugene Walker, Jay Cunningham and Sarah Copelin-Wood retained their seats, winning a majority of the votes in the Nov. 2 general election.
Three local Democratic congressmen retain seats
In an election that resulted in a number of Democrats being unseated by Republican challengers, three Democratic congressmen who represent parts of DeKalb County retained their seats.
Two-term Congressman Henry “Hank” Johnson was re-elected to a third term serving Georgia’s 4th Congressional District. He defeated political newcomer Lisbeth “Liz” Carter. Carter, who received 27 percent of the vote, launched the strongest Republican challenge for the seat in recent history.
Civil rights pioneer John Lewis, who has served in Congress since 1986, retained his position as 5th Congressional District representative after defeating Republican candidate Fenn Little, a constitutional and civil rights attorney.
The 13th Congressional race ended with incumbent Democrat David Scott retaining his seat after winning approximately 66 percent of the vote over Republican Mike Crane, a construction company owner.
O’Brien named police chief
After holding the position of interim chief for nearly 20 months, William D. O’Brien was named DeKalb County police chief in October. He had been named interim chief soon after the dismissal of former Police Chief Terrell Bolton. O’Brien said that among his top priorities would be “creating a great working environment for the men and women in the department.”
Morale was among the issues cited in the departure of Bolton, who was fired by DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis in February 2009. A report submitted by Ellis’ transition team when he took office in January 2009 expressed concerns about morale in the police department. Bolton had been appointed by former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones. (6)
DA Keys Fleming takes EPA job; James elected new DA
DeKalb County District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming was selected by President Barack Obama in September as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Southeast regional administrator. Keyes Fleming, who was elected DeKalb County district attorney in 2004 and again in 2008, served as solicitor-general for the county prior to taking office as district attorney. She was both the first woman and the first African American to serve as DeKalb County district attorney. Solicitor general Robert James, a 38-year-old native of Murfreesboro, Tenn., was elected to succeed Keyes Fleming as DeKalb’s district attorney. (7)
DeKalb Police Alliance purchases insurance polices
The DeKalb Police Alliance raised $80,000 at the annual Police Officer’s Ball in November and purchased $100,000 life insurance policies for the more than 1,500 full-time sworn officers in DeKalb, including the municipal police departments, marshals and sheriff’s department.
In partnership with Darryl Ford, Stone Mountain Chrysler Jeep Ford, the alliance donated six 42-inch flat-screen TVs for training. Recipients were chosen in a drawing from among the departments who attended the event.
The 2010 DeKalb Public Safety Champion Awards, in collaboration with The Champion Newspaper, raised awareness about public safety and law enforcement in DeKalb.
Champion recognized for excellence by peers
The caliber of work of The Champion Newspaper was honored in June at the Georgia Press Association’s annual banquet in Jekyll Island. The Champion took home 22 awards (15 first place honors)—including the coveted General Excellence Award for overall excellence. This is the third time in the past four years that the newspaper has received this distinction. (8)
MARTA eliminates DeKalb bus routes
Eight MARTA bus routes in DeKalb County were among 40 routes cut in 2010 as part of the transit system’s effort to plug a $69 million deficit. MARTA’s $710 million budget for fiscal year 2011 represents a 10 percent reduction in bus service systemwide, a 14 percent reduction in rail service and hikes in weekly, monthly and Mobility passes, MARTA officials said. “We are extremely disappointed to make these cuts at a time when affordable and environmentally responsible transportation options are needed more than ever,” MARTA CEO Beverly Scott said. (9)
Holocaust Memorial dedicated
Abe Besser, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, and his wife Marlene Gelernter Besser, were sponsors of the Besser Holocaust Memorial Garden at the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Dunwoody, which was dedicated April 25. “I do not want the Holocaust to be forgotten,” Besser said.
The memorial garden features nine sculptures by sculptor Dee Clements, and an eternal flame. The sculptures depict different aspects of Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust. The memorial garden will be used as a teaching tool, according to Marcus Jewish Community Center CEO Michael Wise.
CDC worker killed in Haiti earthquake; teams sent to assist with public health
A 31-year-old Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worker was among those killed in the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 11. The body of Diane Caves, a CDC program analyst based at the agency’s Atlanta headquarters, was identified Feb. 8 after it was found in the rubble of the Port-au-Prince hotel where she had been staying during a three-week assignment. She was completing a CDC plan for HIV-AIDS relief work in the impoverished Caribbean country.
In the weeks following the earthquake, CDC deployed teams of workers to conduct public health assessments and address issues such as food and potable water and environmental health, set up and conduct disease surveillance, assess and develop plans to prevent injuries associated with clean up.
Child killed by celebratory gunfire sparks campaign
Marquel Peters was sitting in church next to his mother at a New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service when he was struck in the head by a stray bullet. He died at the hospital later that morning. William Miller, DeKalb’s director of public safety, said the bullet, which pierced the roof of the church, was likely the result of someone firing a gun to celebrate the new year.
The incident sparked a campaign to educate the public on the dangers of celebratory gunfire and discourage business owners from selling ammunition in the days leading up to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. (11)
Southwest DeKalb student dies following car crash
Southwest DeKalb High School student Carmon McBride was killed when the car she was riding in crashed into another car and flipped on Kelly Chapel Road near the high school. Carmon’s brother, 17-year-old Myles McBride, was driving his Mazda Protégé and swerved to avoid a dog, according to DeKalb County Police spokesman Jason Gagnon. Carmon was taken to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston where she was pronounced dead, Gagnon said. Myles McBride and two other passengers in the car suffered serious injuries but survived. All four were members of the school’s marching band and on their way home from practice when the accident happened.
Adelman named ambassador to Singapore
State Senator David Adelman, who represented part of DeKalb County, resigned his seat after President Barack Obama chose him as ambassador to Singapore. Adelman was sworn in March 28 at the old DeKalb County Courthouse in Decatur and left for Singapore in April.
Adelman said he will “serve at the pleasure of the president, but the typical tour of duty is three to four years.”
Dunwoody’s identity gets branded
The city of Dunwoody took another step toward creating its own identity with the slogan “Smart people. Smart city.” Dunwoody became incorporated as a city on Dec. 1, 2008. Dunwoody began its rebranding process in September of 2009, said Edie Damann, marketing and public relations director for the city. A marketing firm was hired, community input was received and focus groups were used to help ensure the right tag line was chosen. The brand is used by the city as well as Dunwoody’s chamber of commerce, the convention and visitor’s bureau and the community impact districts, Damann said. The cost of the rebranding effort was split, with the city and the Dunwoody CVB each paying $50,000 and the chamber chipping in $5,000, Damann said.
Former police chief dies after extended illness
Former Police Chief Louis Graham died Nov. 15 following an extended illness. Graham was named chief of the DeKalb County Police Department in 2004, a position he resigned two years later amid controversy stirred by a secret profanity-laced tape recording of Graham and his assistant that included racially inflammatory language.
Stone Mountain Arts Incubator opens
The Stone Mountain Arts Incubator and Microenterprise Program, a project to beautify the downtown Stone Mountain area and provide space for selected artists opened Oct. 8. The artists have set up shop in Main Street spaces subsidized for a time by a grant to the city of Stone Mountain, ART Station and DeKalb County.
The new streetscape project and the arts incubator program are part of an effort to revitalized downtown Stone Mountain and make use of some of its previously empty retail stores. At the heart of the project is a sculpture, “Granite Workers,” by John Thigpen, a piece that celebrates the men who once worked the area’s granite quarries.
New foreclosure ordinance takes effect
The county’s new foreclosure registry went into effect in October. The new ordinance requires all creditors who foreclose on a property to register the property with DeKalb County and pay a fee of $175, or face fines in the amount of $1,000 per day. The ordinance requires that creditors or mortgagees who are located outside DeKalb must designate a local property agent within DeKalb’s geographical boundaries to ensure security and maintenance of the property in compliance with county code.