Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bruster's Leaves Ice Cream Fans Out in the Cold










Like a melting snowman disappearing in the warn Dunwoody air, the local Bruster's franchise has melted away, leaving an empty shack in the middle of Dunwoody Plaza's parking lot.

I read on King John's blog a while ago that the place was for sale. Apparently no takers. My youngest kid will sure miss those Dino sundaes.

Now where will FarmHousers and kids alike wait in line 15 minutes for a scoop of over-priced ice cream? I remember the controversy when that place was built. Wonder how long it will sit vacant? Not sure what would work in that location.

Perhaps Bill Grant Homes could convert it to a bank. Dunwoody could use a few more banking options in that area. As it is now, one must travel at least 50 meters (I'm really into the Winter Olympics right now so I'm referring to all measurements in metric) to find a financial institute.

So where will we get our ice cream this summer? If a place opens, I hope they sell soft serve, real soft serve (not the ice milk ice cream some places sell). When I was a kid, nothing beat a drive 'to the country' for a tall soft serve ice cream. You still find lots of soft serve places up north and in the Midwest.

While I'm discussing the closing of Bruster's I need to vent on the parking in that area.

Seems some of the tenants in the plaza don't like the special events place. They have signs all over the place in there. Ever attend a 'special event' there? Parking is at a premium there, maybe once a month, perhaps once every three months. But park in a non special events space and prepare to have someone from the Mexican restaurant tell you not to park there.

Does that restaurant think they will lose business because of a special event taking place? I think not. If you drove there for dinner and saw that an event was taking place, using much of that plaza's parking, you'd simply park a little further away and get your tacos and re-fried beans. The restaurant should take advantage (advertising) of the plaza's heavy traffic when a 'special' event takes place next door, not chase down those parking in sacred spots.

Best of luck to the businesses in Dunwoody Plaza. Let me know if anyone is interested in chipping in on a Taylor Model C712. I did not receive much positive feedback from this blog's readers when I solicited funds for a Kegerator.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cops Raid DeKalb Superintendent's Home


You've heard the saying, "it takes two to tango", so let's wait and see if this morning's raid leads to more investigations. Will the investigation reach Dunwoody next?

Seems like they were looking for gifts given to Dr. Crawford Lewis.

UPDATE
DeKalb Schools Top Boss Steps Down
DeKalb Schools superintendent Crawford Lewis temporarily stepped down Thursday night during the ongoing criminal investigation.

The school board voted to appoint Ramona Tyson, the district's chief of business operations, as interim superintendent.

A criminal investigation into DeKalb County schools’ multi-million dollar construction projects took a sharp turn on Thursday as investigators searched the superintendent’s home and offices.

Investigators with the DeKalb district attorney’s office spent five-and-a-half hours searching Superintendent Crawford Lewis’ Stone Mountain home, seizing three computer hard drives and six boxes.

District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming would not say what investigators were looking for, but confirmed that prosecutors executed search warrants at Lewis’ home and three school buildings as part of the investigation into the district’s construction program.

“This is all part of an ongoing investigation which was started at the request of the school system’s administration. After reviewing the information we gathered today, we anticipate bringing this matter to an appropriate conclusion,” Fleming said in a statement.

The district attorney’s office has been investigating whether the school system’s then-chief operating officer, Patricia “Pat” Pope, broke the law by allegedly steering contracts to her architect husband and construction companies where she has connections.

According to search warrants obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, investigators were looking for Lewis' personal finance records, along with documents concerning him, Pope, Pope's husband and the couple's associates. Investigators also searched for records of gifts Lewis, Pope and school employees received from contractors; car purchases; and information on seven school construction projects.

The investigators were looking for the documents and computer files in connection with 10 different potential criminal charges, ranging from theft of federal funds and mail fraud, to bid-rigging and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, according to the search warrants.

A lawyer for Pope has denied the allegations. She has since been reassigned to special projects.

Lewis and Bernard Taylor, an attorney who previously represented him, did not return phone calls on Thursday.

Lewis himself is the one who sparked the criminal probe that has now turned on him. In November 2008, while being questioned by a district attorney’s investigator about his purchase of a county car and questionable gas purchases on his county credit card, Lewis revealed a slew of allegations about Pope. The superintendent reported discovering a trend that those close to Pope were profiting off school projects, and that Pope’s husband had worked on school construction projects against his direction.

School board Chairman Tom Bowen said he was waiting for the school system’s attorney to find out the focus of the search, but said Lewis was cooperating.

“He's cooperating and sharing information with the investigators,” Bowen told the AJC.

“It’s really a situation where the board is anxious to get all the details and why,” Bowen said. “We’ve been cooperating with the Pope investigation. So it’s a bit alarming and surprising to have something of this nature going down.”

Bowen said the superintendent, who has worked for the district for 33 years, remains in good standing and no action has been taken against him.

The board called an emergency meeting and met behind closed doors with attorneys Thursday afternoon.

Lewis, who attends most executive sessions, was not present. The board made no public statements about the searches.

The AJC was the only news organization on the scene at 7:30 a.m. Thursday when district attorney’s investigators, police officers and a prosecutor descended on Lewis’ brick home.

A surprised Lewis, dressed in shirt and tie, opened the door and allowed the officers in.

Several neighbors came out to question officers, alarmed by the swarm of patrol cars filling the cul-de-sac in the Southland subdivision.

About 9:15 a.m., Lewis drove out of his garage and sped off in his school-issued black Ford Five Hundred, leaving officers alone to search.

Meanwhile, school employees arrived at the district’s headquarters on North Decatur Road to find several police cars in the parking lot. Investigators seized boxes of documents from two buildings at the central offices, along with the Sam Moss Service Center on Montreal Road in Tucker.

DeKalb police spokesman Jason Gagnon said the officers are not involved with the investigation and only providing “uniform presence” for the district attorney’s office.

In October, the district attorney’s office seized thousands of documents while searching Pope’s home and office. They also searched the homes and offices of Pope's husband, architect Anthony “Tony” Pope, and the couple's friend, construction company owner David Moody.

School officials insisted on Thursday there was no interruption to operations, despite a hand-written sign posted on the district headquarters’ front door that said offices were temporarily closed.

“It is important for our community and parents to know that teaching and learning have not been interrupted. Our students are in the classrooms and teachers are teaching,” district spokesman Dale Davis said in a statement.

Board member Eugene Walker said he learned about the search from the media.

“I don't have a clue,” Walker told the AJC. “All I know is it is a big distraction and whatever is going on needs to get done soon so we can focus on the business of the schools.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredited DeKalb schools, said it also is monitoring the investigation. SACS President and Chief Executive Officer Mark A. Elgart said he has received several letters about concerns in the school system.

“We’re not going to take any action that would interfere with the state and local investigations,” Elgart told the AJC. “I hope the legal process will reveal to what extent and who is involved, and that the appropriate steps are taken to make repairs.”

Annette Davis Jackson drove from her Gwinnett home to Stone Mountain on Thursday to watch the police search. Jackson, who said she left the district after her two children were taunted for speaking out against the administration, said she wanted to see a forensic audit and federal investigation into the school system’s finances.

“I don’t wish bad on anybody, but they don’t care about giving these children a quality education,” she said. “But this is a great day. Don’t stop with him. I wish the DA would go into every board member and top administrators’ house.”

Also on hand was Tasha Walker, whose daughter attends a DeKalb magnet school. She said she has seen years of fiscal mismanagement in the district and is happy to see action being taken.

“I'm a concerned citizen, a taxpayer and a parent. I'm here because I want accountability,” she said. “Nothing surprises me with DeKalb County.”

DeKalb school board Chairman Tom Bowen said he is concerned about Thursday's searches halting the district’s budget process.

Superintendent Crawford Lewis was scheduled to outline a series of budget cuts to the board on Friday to help meet an anticipated $88 million deficit. Possible cuts include laying off 148 central office workers, furloughs and closing schools.

Bowen canceled Friday’s board meeting, saying central office administrators could not complete that budget proposal because of the search at the district’s headquarters.





UPDATE

DA stages early morning search of DeKalb school superintendent’s home. Why?

So why is the DeKalb County District Attorney searching DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis’ home? In an AJC exclusive this morning, we learn that investigators came to his home this morning armed with a search warrant as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into multimillion-dollar school construction projects.

To get up to speed, please look at the recent AJC update on the allegations surrounding school construction manager Pat Pope’s actions in regard to her husband’s firm. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that Tony Pope, an architect, worked on three of the six multimillion-dollar construction projects being investigated by the authorities.

Pope and Lewis have appeared adversaries in this ongoing drama, so it is unclear now why the investigation has turned to Lewis or why the DA felt compelled to go to his home as well as his office.

Please remember that the school system and DA’s office crossed swords not along ago when the system balked at turning over some information that the district attorney wanted. This may have been a strong rebuke to that foot-dragging by the system. In January, we reported then that the DeKalb County investigators filed an Open Records Act request that the school system rejected, citing attorney-client privilege.

At the time, District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming said, “The information we’re seeking is public record.” She said she found the school system’s rejection of the request “curious.” Maybe, she also found it annoying and this is her way of letting them know.

None of this is helpful at a time when the system is facing unprecedented financial woes. (I am going to a hearing tonight where hundreds of parents are expected to challenge possible school closings in DeKalb.)

There is a lot going on in DeKalb. This mess does not help. But it does reflect a lesson I learned early on as a reporter. Major projects – especially in construction and technology – deserve close scrutiny because there is so much detail, so much money and so little expertise among most school boards. There is ample opportunity for misspending.

According to the breaking news story now:

The DeKalb district attorney’s office served a search warrant at Lewis’ home in the Southland subdivision around 7:30 this morning. About 40 minutes later, investigators showed up at the DeKalb school headquarters on Decatur Road with a second search warrant.

The AJC was the only news organization on the scene as nine police officers and a prosecutor descended on Lewis’ home. A surprised Lewis, dressed in shirt and tie, opened the door and allowed the officers in. Several neighbors came out and asked officers what was going on and were told to avoid the area.

The district attorney’s office has been investigating construction projects in DeKalb schools. It’s unclear what searchers were looking for in Lewis’ home.

A spokesman for the district attorney did not immediately return phone calls and lion the scene declined to comment.

Dale Davis, Lewis’ spokesman, said he was unaware of the search or the reasons for it. “I don’t know. Call the DA,” he told the AJC.



DeKalb DA Gives A Wake Up Call to Superintendent Lewis

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Investigators are searching DeKalb County School Superintendent Crawford Lewis’ home in Stone Mountain as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into multimillion-dollar school construction projects.

The DeKalb district attorney’s office served a search warrant at Lewis’ home in the Southland subdivision around 7:30 this morning.

The AJC was the only news organization on the scene as nine police officers and a prosecutor descended on Lewis' home. A surprised Lewis, dressed in shirt and tie, opened the door and allowed the officers in. Several neighbors came out and asked officers what was going on and were told to avoid the area.

The district attorney's office has been investigating construction projects in DeKalb schools. It's unclear what searchers were looking for in Lewis' home.

Dale Davis, Lewis' spokesman, said he was unaware of the search or the reasons for it. "I don't know. Call the DA," he told the AJC.

A spokesman for the district attorney did not immediately return phone calls and police on the scene declined to comment.

In October, the district attorney’s office seized thousands of documents while searching the office and home of Patricia “Pat” Pope, the county's former chief operating officer. They also searched the homes and offices of Pope's husband, architect Anthony "Tony" Pope, and his friend, construction company owner David Moody.

Authorities are investigating whether Pope broke the law by allegedly steering contracts to her husband and construction companies where she has connections.

A lawyer for Pope has denied the allegations.