DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has learned that a DeKalb County commissioner with a history of personal financial problems was just confronted with an expensive new problem.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher reported, for the second time in a year, a court ordered that DeKalb County garnish the commissioner's salary.
Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton's trail of apparent financial mismanagement goes back nearly 20 years and includes bad checks, late taxes and garnishments.
She dealt with the latest garnishment, for $39,229 in students loans, just days after Channel 2 started asking questions.
As far back as 1996, Sutton pleaded no contest to writing bad checks. In 2009, there were more arrest warrants for bad checks. Then last year, Channel 2 discovered she hadn't paid her property taxes.
When asked how Sutton could overlook paying her taxes, she said “Well, this is my first year of being mortgage free where I have to go pay (my mortgage). All of my life I've had a mortgage.”
Having no mortgage means no monthly payments, plus she owns her home free and clear. The county said the home is worth $163,000. That's about four times what she owes for unpaid college loans.
Channel 2 saw a Porsche parked outside the house Wednesday. The commissioner also drives an BMW, which has been spotted on several occasions parked outside the county commission offices in Decatur.
DeKalb County received the latest court order to garnish her commissioner's salary July 7. It's for nearly $40,000 in unpaid college loans.
She reached an agreement with the lender Tuesday, three days after Channel 2 filed an open records request.
Attorney Quinton Washington said Sutton lost track of her student loans when she tried to consolidate several loans.
“What happens is that it's tough to keep track of them, so she thought she had consolidated them, and she had not consolidated that one loan and now she's consolidated all of them into one payment,” Washington said.
Earlier this year, Sutton settled a separate garnishment order for nearly $7,000 days after Channel 2 started digging into it.
Last year, she wrote a check for her overdue property taxes after Channel 2 pointed out that she'd failed to pay.
Earlier this year, an investigation by Channel 2’s Jodie Fleischer revealed that Sutton was under investigation by federal agents regarding county purchasing card policies and usage. Sutton and another commissioner, Elaine Boyer, and their aides, spent a combined $30,000 at stores like Target, Walmart, Office Depot and Best Buy, without keeping the receipts.