I can live with paying commissioners’ phone bills … as long as they actually return phone calls. But DeKalb county commissioner Stan Watson used his P-Card to pay for his personal phone bill, among other things, which was probably a bad idea for a bunch of reasons. It’s likely an ethics violation. It’s helped draw an FBI investigation into illegal P-Card use for personal expenses. And it made his phone records subject to a Georgia Open Records Act examination, which the AJC did almost immediately.
Monday, federal prosecutors named Watson as a player of some to-be-determined sort in a bribery and corruption investigation in South Carolina. Watson has been denying his involvement all along. And he appears to have been
lying like hell omitting key facts about his relationships.
The AJC matched his phone records to calls made to one of the defendants. Hilarity ensues.
“Without any legal justification, Watson used a black marker to try to obscure 16 calls between his phone and defendant Eric Robinson’s business line. But phone numbers and other information could still be read through the ink, and Watson apparently missed striking out two other calls to Robinson’s office, The Bridge Corporation Group.”
“Among the calls on Watson’s phone records was an 11-minute conversation on April 8, hours after the AJC first questioned Watson about whether he was the unnamed DeKalb “elected official” in a 51-count federal indictment of Robinson and Jonathan Pinson, a former chairman of the board of South Carolina State University.”
I speculated earlier that Watson’s involvement with Robinson may have something to do with the renovation of the Meadowglen Village apartment complex — now Landmark at Banyan Bay — near Doraville. The indictment shows calls made a year before this construction took place … which may mean a longer-term relationship with one of the now-convicted co-conspirators. ZMG obtained a permit for the renovation in September 2012 and a certificate of occupancy was issued in December 2012. It may be nothing, but Watson has one call in between. There may be more … but Watson claims Verizon’s earlier records were not available.
This is, of course, untrue.
As I am told by a Verizon Wireless customer service rep, “our online service provides the billing history for the past 18 months at no charge. If you need bills prior to this, we can manually request a bill reprint to be mailed to your address. A $5 Bill Reprint Fee will apply for each statement requested as well. If there was any account transfers completed, we may have to access a previous account to request information but should be able to go back 7 years from today’s date.”
Some advice, Stan, not that you need it at this point. Use a burner phone, proxy servers and a burner e-mail account with encryption. Stay off of social media. And if you’re going to magic marker through embarrassing material in an open records release, hand the press photocopies of your redacted sheet so the raised printer strokes aren’t visible. Amateur.