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Fulton County: We are investigating fraud allegations brought by Warren and Colon. So quit bothering us!

September 20, 2010 20:06 pm

by Pete Randall · 20 comments

(Previous posts concerning this story can be found here, here and here.)

Fulton County Manager Zachary Williams (pictured, left) late today issued a press release concerning the allegations of malfeasance and wrongful termination brought by former Deputy County manager Gwendolyn Warren and former Investigative Officer Maria Colon of the now shuttered Fulton County Office of Professional Standards.

Full press release and some minor commentary can be found after the jump.

On September 17, 2010, the County Manager’s office received legal notification on behalf of former Deputy County Manager Gwendolyn Warren and Research Analyst Senior Maria Colon regarding allegations of improprieties by Fulton County employees. The notification further alleges wrongful termination of Ms. Warren and demotion of Ms. Colon based on their investigation of the allegations. These allegations are being taken very seriously.

Due to the fact that these allegations are now part of pending litigation, I am unable to divulge specific information that speaks to the facts of this case. However, the County Manager’s office is fully supportive of a thorough investigative process to resolve and bring this matter to conclusion.

To that end, prior to the plaintiff’s legal notification, the report dated July 27th was turned over to the Fulton County Police Department to pursue an investigation. Unfortunately, that investigation is now at risk of being compromised due to the report being revealed publicly thereby notifying those affected employees that they are currently under investigation. Furthermore, other allegations referenced in the September 17th legal notification are currently under review by legal counsel.

Any personnel actions involving the plaintiffs in this case occurred prior to the date that the July 27th investigative report was received and the ongoing investigation had no bearing on the personnel actions taken.

The employees implicated in this report will be reassigned in accordance with Fulton County policy pending the outcome of the investigation as their names have been released publicly.

That’s cute how Williams refers to Colon as “Research Analyst Senior.” See, she only had that title after Williams demoted her in July, 2010 when he was swiftly dismantling the Office of Professional Standards…the very entity which instigated the original investigations. And I’m glad he’s taking the allegations of wrongful termination “very seriously” since he is the one who allegedly handled the firings.

And Williams somehow wants us to wring our hands that this information has been made public. Spare me. Fulton County and its various entities have had two months since the original investigation was halted to clean their house and nothing has been done. Are we really supposed to think that the County Manager can’t contact the Chief of the Fulton County Police Department and ask that special attention be given to an investigation allegedly involving over $150,000 in fraud and the alleged involvement of members of the Fulton County Commission? And the District Attorney’s Office apparently hasn’t been involved at any point?

Moving on, as noted by Warren and Colon’s attorney in his correspondence to the Fulton County Commission,

Williams expressed concern over Exquisite co-owner Cheryl Estes’ close ties to Commissioner Boxill, with whom Ms. Estes was planning to travel to South America for a conference. Williams instructed that Warren and Colon “not put anything in writing,” and stop further inquiry until after the November 2010 elections, because, in Williams’ words, “it could get too political.”

On July 5, 2010, Warren met with Colon to discuss the continuing investigation, which had, at that point, begun to point to fraud even more massive than the over $150,000 already uncovered. Warren decided that they “could not sit on this any longer,” and directed Colon to prepare a final investigative report and transmittal letter to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. Warren then informed Williams of her decision.

Two days later, July 7, 2010, at the Board of Commissioners meeting, after meeting with Williams, Commissioner [William] Edwards placed onto the agenda the last-minute item, “What is the role of the Office of Professional Standards?” (See Exhibit D). The purpose of this “agenda item” was to begin to place onto the public record negative comments about something certain Commissions wanted to eliminate. However, in an Executive Session regarding “personnel” called by Commissioner [Emma] Darnell, we believe certain Commissioners advised Williams that taking a public stand against the county’s whistleblower agency would “not look good,” and asked him to “handle the problem” himself. Williams agreed, and the “role of the Office of Professional Standards” item was placed on “hold” until the July 21, 2010 meeting.

First, I’m curious how the report from the Office of Professional Standards Williams describes could be dated July 27 when the Office didn’t exist on that date. But maybe I’m being picky.

Second, are we really supposed to believe that Commissioners Boxill and Edwards didn’t mention to anyone (like the people being investigated) the nature of the ongoing investigations of their friends by the Office of Professional Standards and it’s a sheer coincidence that right after the County Manager learns of the investigations the County Commission (allegedly) suddenly and without reason decides to push for the closure of the very office handling such investigation?

And, the materials we’ve posted were already in the hands of the AJC and WSB. So spare me the indignation of someone daring to ask questions about this matter.

I again note that all we have are allegations. But one wonders how long Fulton County would have taken to handle this matter if Warren and Colon hadn’t hired an attorney and threatened legal action.

It’s called SUNLIGHT, Mr. Williams. It’s the best disinfectant.

NonPartisanGA September 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm

There you go again Pete Randall for the Fulton and Rockdale issue, make sure we know the leadership’s ethnicity and post the picture of the BBBBBlack Guy. Am I the only one who notices a proclivity with Pete that undermines for some taking seriously the legitimacy of his points?

Scott65 September 20, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I think you are reaching on the race thingy here…he’s the one who did it (allegedly stopped the investigation) so why not post his picture…like I said in another post…cronyism and corruption knows neither race nor gender, and this shows it at its most blatant…as if nobody would ever put 2 and 2 together and see 4

AubieTurtle September 20, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Given Pete/Rouge109’s long history on PP, it isn’t a reach at all. Next time the GOP crowd belly aches about not being able to attract African-American votes, remember all the posts and comments here by Pete and Harry and the quiet condonation of the majority. You can try to spin them into nothingness but that’s not going to fool anyone.

All of that aside, I do agree with Pete that openness in government is a good thing. Too bad like all partisans (and racists), he only applies it to one group.

If those being accused are guilty, I would like a full investigation to find out everything and for those involved to be held fully responsible. I do also realize that investigations can’t always be performed in the full view of the public if they’re going to get to the full truth. Don’t know how much of that will be appropriate but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion of a cover up just because an investigation in progress hasn’t released all of the details of the case at this point.

Jessica J September 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Actually, posting the picture of Mr. Williams is called “suttle”. Kinda like thinking to oneself…”just in case my readers don’t know it, I’ll post a picture of Mr. Williams to make sure they know he’s black”. You never speak this out loud because you don’t even want to hear yourself say it lest you think you might be slightly prejuidiced and have to deal with your demons. Kinda like using “code words” to get your point across. So funny how things change and yet they remain the same.

That being said, I really don’t care what color a person is, if they’re corrupt, they need to be replaced.

Lady Thinker September 21, 2010 at 6:20 am

Why is it okay to post negative comments about white politicans but give other races a pass BECAUSE if we make a negative comment about another race we are racist?

Deal says he has oversights when it comes to money, they are picking on him when he talks about ghetto grandmothers and the birther issues, the Congressional ethics issues are bogus, and his sweetheart deal in Gainesville is blown out of proportion. Maybe he should be checked for Alzheimers.

We can critize him but not African American politicans because if we do, we are being unjust. Double-standard and it ain’t between the sexes.

polisavvy September 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

It’s a huge double standard. I’m so sick and tired of it, too. If the culprit is white, black, or purple, and someone has a photo of them, then for goodness sakes, what’s wrong displaying the photo. If people don’t want their photos our there, then try not doing bad things.

B Balz September 21, 2010 at 9:05 am

When I read the source document letter, previously linked, from the attorney describing his intent to file a $10MM wrongful termination suit three things happened:

1.) I searched AJC to see if I had misses a story on this blockbuster — No story found. Boy, Mr. Randall sure has a source!

2.) Although AJC was cc’ed on the letter, I wondered if they had been asked, and acquiesced, to keep this under wraps while further evidence may be gathered against those involved. Two months is not very long to complete an investigation of this size.
Allegations by an attorney don’t constitute court-worthy evidence. From the post, it doesn’t seem like anything has been done to start the process, so I say: HORSEHOCKEY to FULCO.

3.) Mr. Randall posts are well written, full of supporting links, and undoubtedly the content is usually race-based/baiting. I question the timing of this release as purely political: The story sure makes Dems look bad….and might blunt future anti-GOP news releases, if any…. .. .

Clearly, Mr. Randall doesn’t suffer from the stigma of ‘white guilt’. Yet, racism is colorblind. The fact that some blacks pols have aspired to be as corrupt as their white predecessors or counterparts gives me no joy.

A close friend, African-American once shared with me the reason so many in the black community were ‘rooting’ for OJ in his murder trial was that for so long white men have gotten away with murder. In his opinion, the OJ case showed everyone that a black man could get away with murder. Weird sort of ‘right of passage’.

Cynical? Of course. Sometimes, I wonder if my friend was wrong. Then I go to deal with a black government official.

Sometimes I get the very humiliating feeling that I am being made to wait, or treated rudely, because I am white. It is subtle and really just a feeling. I think, well, at least I am not getting hit with a high powered fire hose….

Racism is just under the surface of our daily lives; the rage, the disdain, the hate, on both sides. Racism is stupid, tiresome, counterproductive, inefficient, embarrassing and un-American.

Objective transparency is the only answer to heal these deep tears in the fabric of American society. The fact that we have regular contributors like Slyram and now, Taking Ownership gives me great hope.

polisavvy September 21, 2010 at 10:14 am

My question for you, B Balz, is when is this going to end? It’s a crutch and an excuse for a lot of bad behavior on both sides of the aisle (whites and blacks). It’s past time to end. I just wish I knew how to get it accomplished.

B Balz September 21, 2010 at 10:45 am

How do you end hate?

Within my life I recall the images of African Americans with dogs and fire hoses set upon them. In my life I have seen impressionable kids emulating the thug life.

Breaking the horrible cycle of poverty and violence, better parental training, encouraging wholesome activity among at-risk youth, respectful and intelligent dialogue amongst those that care all will help heal our racial divides.

In time, we may all be better for it. And then this kind of crap comes a long, and the ‘see-I-told-you-so’ers’ feel vindicated.

Like so many things, we just try the best we can.

polisavvy September 21, 2010 at 10:55 am

I guess you’re right. I do believe it’s our generation (and our parent’s) and not the generation of our children that perpetuates this racist way of thinking. Our children accept. I grew up on a military base so I accepted the black children I went to school with and played with as my friends. When I moved back to Georgia in the third grade, I wondered where all the black children were, but didn’t know what was going on really at the age of 8 — my elementary school did have some blacks but only a handful. However, when I moved on to high school and the two school consolidated where wasn’t any big deal made. We accepted and moved on. I do think that there are some from my generation who just can’t accept people as being people and instead want to associate people with a color. Kind of a stupid way of thinking in my opinion.

Scott65 September 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I guess I have not been around PP long enough to know the history of those posting on here, but my first reaction to this story wasn’t whether they were democrats or republicans, black or white, but the sheer gall that they would deprive people truly in desperate need for their own illegal gain. My first real memories of black people as different was as a small child (I think I was 5). My mother was one of several women in the Jewish community in a small southern city that helped with the bus boycott by giving rides to help get people to work (as well as picking up the lady that worked for us). They put themselves at risk by doing this too. It was really wonderful to see Jackie (the woman that worked for us) at my sisters wedding several years ago. One of these days…God willing, these stories will be so unbelievable because we wont be able to imagine that it was like that…one day soon…God willing

polisavvy September 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I agree, Scott65, maybe — just maybe!! Great story, by the way. Thanks for sharing.

Jessica J September 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

As an African American, I applaud the intelligent conversation. BBlaze, your friend was right about the OJ thing. After reading about and being told stories of how white men murdered black people back in the day and got away with it, black people felt a sense of “got cha back”. No one I talked to back then was glad that Nicole was dead. No one was proud that OJ had “gotten away” with murder. They were glad that “whites finally feel the pain we felt”. I have to admit back in the day, I felt the same way. Racism is an ugly thing and I personally don’t think America will ever be 100% rid of it. I think as each generation matures, things will get better. Like him or not, Obama’s election is a true testament of that.

I once heard Rev. Ralph Abernathy speak at a church. He said that he walked and march with MLK, Jr. and was taught by MLK, Jr. not to hate people based on differences. Well Ralph thought he had that life lesson down to a tee. Until. Until his daughter came home with a white man and said they were in love and engaged to be married. Ralph then suffered a heart attack and had to be hospitalized. His words, “that’s the true test if you’re over it (racism). If your children come home with a person of the opposite race and say that person is going to be their spouse, how will you react”. He said this to an intergrated church. You could have heard a pin drop that Sunday. I guess everybody was thinking and judging themselves. My son was a kid at the time so I didn’t give it much thought at that time. But later as he grew up, Iwould be tested and I am grateful that I passed the test. I treated her with kindness and respect and she did the same for me. Their relationship didn’t last too long but I feel good knowing that I didn’t have any ugly or bad feelings in my heart about their relationship.

polisavvy September 21, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for sharing that with us. It’s time, no wait, it’s past time that we moved on and quit all this racist nonsense, in my opinion. We aren’t Caucasian Americans, or Black Americans, or Indian Americans, or any other kind of Americans — we are all just Americans and, as such, should be treated with the same common courtesy and respect.

Jessica J September 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I agree with you 100% and will do my part by respecting people regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, political party, religion, etc. As MJ sang, “I’m starting with the man (woman) in the mirror”.

polisavvy September 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Jessica, I was thinking about that same song while I was posting to you a few minutes ago. Like minds think alike!!

B Balz September 21, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Thanks Jessica J, your post made me realize that despite the harsh, political rhetoric on PP, every once in awhile something good and profound occurs.

polisavvy September 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm

She did a fantastic job! I totally agree with you!! It’s nice that all of us, regardless of who we are “pulling” for, can come together and agree on something so important, isn’t it?

Gerald September 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I am sorry. I must disagree with the common comments above. I am one who frequently calls out conservative/GOP racism and race-baiting on here (that is when I participate, which is not regularly), and this is nonsense. What exactly are we supposed to be proving here? That black people should have the right to be as corrupt as white people and still get away with it? I am sorry, but the black folk that I know who marched in the 1950s and 60s (and 70s and 80s) and faced down rocks, fire hoses, and the neo-Nazi KKK element in the police force weren’t fighting for the right for blacks to be as corrupt as the good ole boys. Even if the folks complaining are motivated by race, whatever happened to the Booker T. Washington ethic of working to be twice as good, twice as ethical as white people are when you get the opportunity? Booker T. Washington had his problems, but it seems as if his mindset really helped the black community out a lot.

The fact that racist white people exist doesn’t change the fact that so many of these people are incompetent and corrupt. And you know who is hurt most by this incompetence and corruption? Black people. Putting up with this nonsense doesn’t hurt the white people in Forsyth and Cherokee. It doesn’t even hurt the black people who have the means to move to Gwinnett and Cobb (where lots of black professionals have moved over the past 10 years because they want governments, schools, communities that work). It hurts primarily black people who don’t have the means to move somewhere else. Even a lot of the civil rights activists don’t live in Atlanta (or if they do, they stay in gated communities or in Buckhead) so they are insulated from the corruption and incompetence.

And it also hurts honest black people who want not only to get into politics, but also who want to become managers or business owners. Dinesh D’Souza (loathsome person that he is) called it “rational discrimination” in his racist tome ironically called “The End Of Racism.” How many good ethical hard working black people can’t get white people to vote for them because so many black politicians have been corrupt or incompetent? How many black professionals don’t get promotions or businesses don’t get contracts because whites look at how Washington D.C., Detroit etc. are run and decide that based on the evidence available to them, blacks aren’t capable managers? (I remember when Al Campanis from Major League Baseball got into trouble for claiming that blacks “lack the necessities” to become managers/head coaches … well maybe he was looking at the Marion Barry administration as a guide.)

Calling “race card!” over stuff like this doesn’t help black people who are hard working and ethical. I am sorry, but it doesn’t.

B Balz September 22, 2010 at 10:49 am

@Gerald I don’t see that anyone justified illegal behavior. What is especially egregious about the allegations, as you point out, is that the most vulnerable citizens are harmed.

” … transparency in Government breeds self-corrective behavior….” John Heneghan, Dunwoody City Council

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