DA to have GBI investigate allegations against himself

by: Erica Byfield Updated:

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ATLANTA - In a surprise move, Fulton County's district attorney announced plans Monday to call the GBI on himself.

A few weeks ago, an investigation revealed questionable forfeiture money spending by DA Paul Howard.

Howard made the announcement during the Prosecuting Attorneys Council meeting.

"I think that the GBI ought to be called in to look at the disbursements," Howard said.

The group's chairman then announced he planned to make the same request.

"I was prepared to do that, if I've got you right, you are recommending that yourself," Fredric Bright said. "Yes," Howard replied.

Records exposed a few weeks ago by Channel 2 Action News show Howard authorized money supposed to be used for law enforcement or office expenses to buy things such as $6,000 worth of home security improvements, including wrought iron gates, and dinners and movie tickets for his staff.

At that time, Howard said he would not call for a GBI investigation.

Channel 2's Erica Byfield asked him why he changed his mind.

"My thought initially was the GBI's inspection only involved whether or not it was illegally or legally the expenditures in my office, but I began to see maybe there is another purpose, that purpose is legislation," Howard said.

PAC members and Howard agreed the group needs to strengthen the forfeiture allocation law so it clearly states what it is allowed.

The changes also include mandating the drug seizure money be put into a trust that the council would manage.

"So if we got a request that didn't meet the requirements of this, then we wouldn't send it," said Chuck Spahos, the council's executive director.

Howard told Byfield he feels comfortable with his spending and he saw it as a way of retaining staff and increasing convictions.

"I believe every DA in his community has the right to determine 'what are those things that are necessary to make my community a safer place to live?' That's what we've tried to do," he said.

Howard has said the money he used for security improvements was due to the death threats he received.

A spokesperson with the GBI confirmed to Channel 2 Action News that, based on Howard's request, the agency will investigate.

The chairman of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council said he would send a letter to the GBI supporting the investigation.



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