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?
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.