Last night an ethics complaint landed in my in-box claiming that DeKalb commissioner Kathie Gannon and her staff misused her P-Card, just like everyone else in DeKalb government it seems. The complaint rounds out the set — every single commissioner has at least one ethics complaint filed before the newly reconstituted ethics board.
Here’s the trouble. Half of the complaints look to me like they’re meant to muddy the waters, a smokescreen meant to delegitimize the ethics board and minimize the political impact of inquiries. And this latest allegation is smoke in day-glo.
Yeah. I said it.
We’ll examine the substance of the Gannon in a moment, but the text itself is … curious. The filing drips with coded language about how Gannon should be “working for the best interest of ALL of DeKalb County” and how her activities are illegitimate because they affect a district “whose demographics don’t look like most of DeKalb County.”
Gannon has been calling out other commissioners for questionable ethical behavior, and has had a working group of citizens looking at governmental reform. She’s also taken a swipe at other commissioners for a plan to purchase and renovate a YMCA in south DeKalb with park bond money — a $5 million boondoggle that’s reminiscent of the worst of Vernon Jones’ financial depredations.
Apparently, Gannon’s rubbed some folks the wrong way. The resentment wafts from the text.
“During the latest wave of investigations against DeKalb County Commissioners regarding Purchase Card transactions (P-Card), Commissioner Gannon has been vocal about the so-called ‘abuses’ of other Commissioners. However, she has neglected to mention that she has conveniently hid her illegal transactions by using her assistant, Michelle Walldorff, to purchase gift cards that Gannon used personally during the Christmas season (when the cards were purchased) as well as to pay off her cronies.”
“Make sure that you use both discretion and wisdom in applying both the law and sanctions against this Commissioner who has taken a position of incredulity against the unethical ‘behaviors’ of her colleagues while knowing that she has done much worse during her time as a DeKalb County Commissioner.”
Indignation aside, the substance of the complaint accuses Gannon of using her office discretionary funds to buy gift cards at Christmas that Gannon used personally. It also accuses her of paying for outside counsel to examine planning and zoning issues “in spite of the existence of well-paid county planning and development professionals” resulting in the county being sued and zoning decisions overturned, “which means she has no faith in the government, its integrity and its processes.” (Well … yeah.) “In this, Commissioner Gannon has illegally and improperly used County Funds in a manner reserved for the CEO of DeKalb County, not any legislator.”
The complainant bizarrely goes after Gannon’s support for neighborhood leaders like Joe Arrington of PRISM and Viola Davis of Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter. “Commissioner Gannon is providing kickbacks for her operatives like PRISM Executive Joe Arrington (the husband of Commissioner Gannon’s former employee Rebecca Arrington) and Unhappy Taxpayer with questionable income Viola Davis – both of which are members of PRISM, a so-called ‘non-profit’ group known for pushing political agendas, whose 501(c)(3) status has been revoked by the IRS for non-compliance with its reporting requirements, that Commissioner Gannon gives to on a regular basis.”
Davis recently lodged ethics complaints against commissioner Sharon Barnes-Sutton. But Davis’ mention in this screed is assuredly just a coincidence.
The complaint accuses Gannon’s office of using office funds to pay outside contractors for IT work … and in this, it may have a point, if the money was used in support of Gannon’s personal and campaign sites. If, for example, she paid upkeep on KathieGannon.com with a P-Card, she really is in trouble — you don’t get to buy political material with the company dime.
But the core of what this looks like, to me, is one commissioner taking a swipe at others through a third party.
The complainant is listed as Monica Parrott … only in half of the filing it’s spelled Tarrott. On the front page, the name Tarrott is corrected with a half-assed penstroke. The email address I received this complaint from last night is “[email protected]” But the voter registration and physical address of the complainant connects to the last name Parrott.
Monica Parrott is a makeup artist in Lithonia with a salon on Memorial Drive. She’s also CEO of Atlanta Women Entrepreneurs, a networking group. But I can find no meaningful connection between her and political or ethics advocacy in DeKalb. She votes … although apparently not in the off-year elections when commissioners hit the ballot. The phone number listed on the complaint goes to a dead voice mail. I’ve left calls for her at other numbers and email where I could find it, without reply.
People don’t misspell their own names. My guess: whoever submitted this didn’t know Parrott well enough to spell her name correctly, and didn’t much care.
(Note: I’ve got calls out all over town. When I hear from people, I’ll update this.)