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FreePress 07-25-14

FreePress 07-25-14

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Published by hudgons
A weekly newspaper and legal organ for DeKalb County, GA. Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.
A weekly newspaper and legal organ for DeKalb County, GA. Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.

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Published by: hudgons on Jul 23, 2014
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championnewspaper championnewspaper champnewspaperchampionnews
We’re Social 
 FRIDAY, JULY 25, 2014 VOL. 17, NO. 18 •
Serving East Atlanta, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Clarkston, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody, Lithonia, Pine Lake, Tucker and Stone Mountain.
See P-card on page 13ASee Election on page 13A
Mann it is!
P-card controversy ‘symbolic’ of county’s oversight
by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comTe controversy sur-rounding the county’s pur-chasing card (P-card) usage has exposed some problems in the government, said in-terim DeKalb County CEO
Lee May 
.“I think it exposed from the administrative side [that] for years now, if not a decade, there was not re-ally...oversight over the ad-ministration of the P-card across the board,” May said. “I think there was a lot of trust that was placed in the oversight of it. Tere weren’t annual audits done on every P-card.“Te P-card conversation as a whole…is symbolic of a lot of areas in the county in terms of how we [are] man-aging the day-to-day opera-tions and who is providing the kind of oversight and how [we] are implementing the oversight,” May said in a July 21 interview.
Te Champion
 reviewed May’s P-card usage from Jan. 1, 2013, to April 1, 2014. During that time he spent $1,707 on food and $8,676 on travel. Comparatively, Commis-sioner
’s office spent $8,249 on food during that time and Commissioner
’s of-fice spent $6,431 in travel in 2013 alone.
Te Champion
 discovered 23 charges on bank state-ments totaling $2,467.76 that were not on May’s pur-chasing card transaction log.“My administrative staff pulls together the transac-tions logs and actually I was not aware that the two didn’t actually match item by item,” said May, who currently has two active P-cards—one as a commissioner and one as the interim CEO. Te P-card for the District 5 commis-sion seat is only being used currently to pay for an email marketing system at a cost of $49.95 per month.
Te Champion
 also found $1,236.98 in charges that were not on the transaction log but were credited back to the card.“If it was a charge that was credited back, [my staff] didn’t include it in the logs,” May said. “Tat was just a practice that they had. Te intention was [to show that] this is actually taxpayers’ money that was spent.”In the future, May said, all cardholders will account for all P-card activity on the logs.“If there’s a transaction on the card, regardless of whether it’s been removed, it
Lee May 
Business ........................16AClassified .......................17AEducation .....................15ASports ......................18-19A
LOcAL, 8ABUsINess, 16ALOcAL, 2A
Newly elected DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann addresses supporters during his victory celebration. Photo by Carla Parker
by Carla Parker carla@dekalbchamp.comand Lauren Ramsdelllauren@dekalbchamp.com
Jeff Mann
 will remain as DeKalb County sheriff.Mann defeated former DeKalb County CEO
Vernon Jones
 with 74.35 percent to 25.65 percent of votes, at press time. Approximately 21,000  voters participated in the runoff. Mann was appointed to the position by former sheriff
Thomas Brown
, who resigned in February to run for the Fourth Congressional District seat.“I feel so elated,” Mann said at his victory celebration. “I feel so honored that all of these people have come out to support me. It is a blessing and I am truly honored for that.”Mann said he remained optimistic throughout the race. “I’ve had a great support staff, support team, group of volunteers,” he said. I had a record to run on of accomplishments. I’ve always been optimistic that we would prevail. And so we’re here tonight….and we prevailed. I’ve always known that this point was going to come; it was just a matter of when.”he support he received from across the county was “awesome,” said Mann, who was the former chief deputy and a former attorney before succeeding Brown as sheriff. He has been in the sheriff’s office for nearly 14 years.“I’ve been in DeKalb County for 20 years and I’ve worked with commissioners, former commissioners, homas Brown, the current CEO, the former CEO, councilmembers and mayors of the various cities. I’ve garnered the support of 8 of the 10 mayors in DeKalb County. We have a great working relationship with their municipal police departments and so the tremendous out-pouring of support has been heartfelt and I appreciate that,” Mann said.Mann said in running the jail, he will build on its recent accomplishments.“We’ve always been a top notch agency,” Mann said. “We’ve been in the top one percent of sheriff offices in the United States, having obtain and maintain the triple crown distinction, one of 3,800 sheriff’s offices in the United States and we’re going to continue that. We’re going to build upon that. I’ve recently
by Andrew Cauthenandrew@dekalbchamp.comOccupy Our Homes At-lanta wants a change in the eviction process in DeKalb County.Members of the organi-zation protested outside the DeKalb County jail July 16.“We’re here today be-cause DeKalb County is home of six of the 15 high-est foreclosure rates for ZIP codes in the whole country,” said
Tim Franzen
 of Oc-cupy Our Homes Atlanta. Franzen delivered a let-ter from the group to Sheriff
Jeffrey Mann,
 calling on him to change the way evic-tion orders are carried out by deputies. The recommen-dations include: scheduled evictions; no evictions after hours; no evictions during extreme weather; eviction costs paid by evictor; reloca-tion and 30 days storage for belongings; handle belong-ings with care; and referral for housing services.“Our main purpose is to deliver these recommenda-tions,” Franzen said. “These are all recommendations that are based on residents we’ve worked with—their terrible experiences [of] be-ing evicted when it’s freez-ing, being evicted at 3 a.m., [and] having excessive force show up in their yards. “As recently as last Friday, Jeff Mann sent 30 deputies to evict one family,” Franzen said. “That kind of behavior has to stop. The after-hours, 3 a.m. evictions have to stop. DeKalb deserves dignity.”Franzen said Occupy Our Homes Atlanta had tried to have a dialog with the two sheriffs candidates in the runoff election “about the issue and what we see as an inhumane eviction policy.”According to Franzen, former DeKalb County CEO
 committed to enact a six-month morato-rium on evictions, if elected, and appoint a committee to make recommendations on changing the eviction pro-cess. “We have called and emailed Jeff Mann over and over again with no respons-es,” Franzen said. In a statement, Mann said that no individual or organization has contacted his office administration to discuss evictions or the eviction process and that he is open to meeting with in-dividuals and organizations regarding his office’s consti-tutional mandates. “In an obvious attempt to misinform the public, cer-tain individuals are taking advantage of the unfortu-nate situations experienced by some citizens to distort the truth about the respon-sibilities of the sheriff’s office,” Mann said. “The public should be advised that the state court marshal’s office–and not the sheriff’s office–has primary respon-sibility for conducting evic-tions.“Ninety-nine percent of evictions are conducted by the marshal’s office,” Mann stated. “The sheriffs of-fice only becomes involved in those limited instances where an individual has ap-pealed the eviction to supe-rior court, has exhausted all appeals and superior court has issued an order directing the sheriff’s office to con-duct the eviction. At that point, the sheriffs office is duty-bound to carry out that or any order from superior court, including evictions.”“We’re here today to hand deliver a letter from DeKalb County residents, from folks that have experienced the eviction process firsthand, and ask him to implement these policies that aren’t radical notions,” Franzen said. These are policies that are working in Georgia and all over the country that make an already difficult time easier for folks that are oftentimes in the greatest struggle in their lives.”
Mildred Garrison-Obi
of Stone Mountain de-scribed her struggle sur-rounding her November 2012 eviction from the home she purchased in 1998.“My demise was disabil-ity,” Garrison-Obi said. “I waited three years to get a favorable approval from the [federal government].”In the meantime, Gar-rison-Obi said she notified Countrywide, a mortgage lender, that she was a dis-abled senior waiting for a favorable decision.Although she couldn’t afford a lawyer, Garrison-Obi said she began fighting aggressively in August 2009 to keep her house when she was foreclosed on. Three and a half years later, Garrison-Obi said she looked out her window and encountered “the most de-
Group protests ‘inhumane’ eviction process
See Occupy on page 3A
Discover DeKalb’s Reunion Specialist will teach you everything you need to know to plan the perfect Family Reunion in DeKalb County!
Workshop - 10 a.m. to Noon Showcase - Noon to 2 p.m.
Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Stars and Strikes Entertainment Center
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Call 770-492-5018
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Workshop & Showcase
Protestors gather outside the DeKalb County Jail to protest how the county evicts residents. The group is calling for a moratorium on evictions until the process is changed. Photos by Andrew Cauthen
See Accreditation on page 14A
humanizing experience of my life.”“I opened the door, because otherwise [the sheriffs deputies] would have busted into it, and I had 20 minutes to get what was most important,” Garrison-Obi said. “I told them I had a pending case and…the [officer] said, ‘We hear things like that all the time.“The same day that they put my personal belongings out on the street, I received that evening documentation from the appeals court stating that they had granted my motion for re-consideration,” Garrison-Obi said. “So that was definitely an unlawful eviction.“With Occupy Atlanta and National Action Network we just took matters into our own hands and moved back into my home,” she said.
Joe Beasley 
 of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta said he was protesting the “aggressive behavior” during the eviction process.“Banks got bailed out; the people got robbed,” he said. “The most precious posses-sion that most of us have is our home. What has bothered me over the years is the aggres-sive behavior [that has] come out of DeKalb County. It seems like it was almost a joy for this particular county to set people out. They come out in the dead of night with massive force.“The high sheriff has the authority to put a moratorium on evictions,” Beasley said.
Office brings awareness to elder abuse
by Carla Parkercarla@dekalbchamp.comIn 2009, three people de-frauded more than 80 DeKalb County senior residents by phoning them masquerading as officials from Georgia Power Company.The three people obtained a cellphone and registered it un-der the name of “Georgia Pow-ers.” The majority of calls made were from this cellphone, which appeared on the residents’ caller ID as “Georgia Power.” The three would tell seniors that they were employees from the Georgia Power Company and that their electrical service was about to be disconnected due to lack of payment, and if they made an immediate payment their service would continue.The victims were then tricked into revealing their credit card information, Social Security numbers and other personal information, which the three used to purchase electronics, gift cards and other goods.In some cases, one of the conspirators told the victims their credit cards had been compromised and advised the  victims to put the cards in their mailboxes. The conspirators then drove to the victims’ hous-es, removed the cards from the  victims’ mailboxes and imme-diately used the cards to make purchases or buy money orders. As victims began contacting Georgia Power Company to in-quire about the phone calls they received, the company opened an investigation.The three conspirators–
San-tee Sherice Roberts
Donald Crane
Charlene Merker-son
–were arrested. Roberts, 36, was found guilty in 2012 of racketeering, identity fraud and three counts of elder exploita-tion. Crane entered a guilty plea in July 2011, and was sentenced to serve four years in prison and six years on probation.A warrant is out for Merker-son, who evaded police.This case is one of many that the White Collar Crime/Elder Exploitation Unit of the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Of-fice has prosecuted since the unit launched in 2007. In 2003,
Jeanne Canavan
, deputy chief assistant district attorney for the unit, said when she tried a telemarketing case as part of the White Collar Crime Unit, all of the victims were el-derly.“It made me realize that we needed to devote special atten-tion to cases where not just the  victims are elderly, but where the perpetrators are targeting the elderly because they’re vul-nerable,” Canavan said. White Collar Crime Unit be-came the White Collar Crime/Elder Exploitation Unit in 2007 to give special attention to elder abuse cases. Elder abuse is the maltreat-ment or neglect of dependent older people. It can be passive neglect, psychological abuse, financial abuse, active neglect, or physical abuse. Canavan tries more financial abuse cases and the unit prosecutes 30 to 40 cases a year.“As we have become more proficient at trying these cases we’re getting more and more cases,” she said. Canavan and her staff look at “hundreds” of cases that are given to them for review by adult protective service agen-cies.“They’re not all criminal cases but they want us to review them,” she said. “When you see abuse of an elder, it’s often a family member that commits the offense. In that case it’s go-ing to be handled by the domes-tic violence unit.”Most victims of financial elder abuse are scammed by strangers, Canavan said. The scammers, who usually do their work over the phone, gain the trust of elders by telling them they “know God” or find some-thing else to relate to the elders through long conversations. “What these people do is prey on that,” she said. “Some of them will call up and talk to someone for hours, but they end up with $15,000 at the end of it, so it’s worth their time.”Canavan says she goes to community center, senior cen-ters, churches and other places to warn them, police officers and even prosecutors about the different scams.“One of the things I tell elder people all the time is no-body really warned them when they were young to guard their personal information because identity fraud didn’t exist back that then,” she said. “There are [scammers] out there and all they do is compile a list of elder persons.”Canavan said she doesn’t expect to see a decrease in these types of cases because the older population is growing.“The older population is doubling because of the baby boomers, and it will double probably in the next 10 years,” she said. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing to bring more awareness to elder abuse.”
Continued From Page 2A 
Stone Mountain Downtown Development Authority receives National Main Street Accreditation
Stone Mountain Downtown Development Authority has been designated as an accredited National Main Street Program for meeting the commercial district revitalization performance standards set by the National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We congratulate this year’s nationally accred-ited Main Street programs for their outstanding accomplishment in meeting the National Main Street Center’s performance standards,” said
Pa-trice Frey 
, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center.

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