CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - A Clayton County special grand jury assembled 30 months ago was “continually shocked, saddened, appalled and dismayed” at the state of the county, according to their final report.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne obtained the final grand jury presentment and was the only television reporter in the courtroom as Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson presented the findings to Judge Matthew Simmons.
The panel heard testimony and received evidence from 120 people during the investigation including citizens, vendors, commissioners and county employees.
"It has been an enormous undertaking, and District Attorney Lawson has personally assisted this Body throughout our investigations in order to keep the absolute secrecy intact,” the report said.
The grand jury investigated six entities: Sheriff’s Department employees, the Olde Towne project in Morrow, City of Lovejoy elections, Sheriff Victor Hill, the Clayton County Water Authority and the Clayton County Board of Commissioners and Finance Department.
“From one case to the other, the resonating common themes became clear, when one person is in control with no presence of checks and balances then the following occurs: mismanagement of taxpayer money, abuse of power, intimidation, threat of job loss to employees, and/or failure to disregard or report improper orders,” the panel said.
One member of the grand jury told Winne that several public officials took the Fifth Amendment and did not testify, incensing members of the group.
“We got a lot done but there’s a lot left to do,” grand juror Claude Tate said. New people are coming in and I think we have a great chance of being better.”
Defense lawyer Mike Martin said he represents a county official scrutinized by the grand jury.
“My hope is that the District Attorney’s Office will look at this thing, they will make a determination that enough is enough, it’s time to move on,” Martin said.
The panel also made several recommendations, including not using county employees for personal work while on county time.
The district attorney said most of the corruption investigations undertaken by the grand jury are complete but a few continue.
The judge sent the group away with some final advice about what they uncovered.
“You may be criticized for some of your decisions, but remember, that no one else has seen and heard evidence that you have seen and heard,” Simmons told jurors.