DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Channel 2 Action News has learned yet another DeKalb County official is tied to a corruption investigation, this time accused of soliciting bribes from businessmen in other states.
The allegations were revealed in a federal indictment filed in South Carolina. But prosecutors were careful not to name the DeKalb County Commissioner involved in the case.
"Ugh not again," sighed Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May when investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer asked him about it, "We've gone through a really tough space here in DeKalb County and honestly the public's trust has been eroded."
May said he'd heard rumblings of the case, which alleges two Greenville, South Carolina businessmen, Jonathan Pinson and Eric Robinson, were involved in a scheme 'to pay a purported kickback to an elected official in DeKalb County, Georgia.'
Pinson and Robinson were indicted for a total of 52 counts including racketeering, theft and bribery. No one from Georgia is currently charged in connection with the case.
Court records allege the bribes would have been paid by Florida developer Richard Zahn, who has already pleaded guilty to a different charge. In two wiretapped phone calls, prosecutors say Pinson and Robinson discussed inflating the dollar amount and pocketing some for themselves.
"I just know one of the named persons as a business owner in DeKalb County," said May, referring to Eric Robinson.
Pinson and Robinson owned several businesses together, and Robinson also owns a minority interest in the Arizona steakhouse at Stonecrest Mall.
"It's a location that has a lot of receptions, fundraisers gatherings, it's a nice little kind of hotspot in DeKalb County. So it wouldn't be a surprise to me that just about every elected official in DeKalb has been there at one point or another," said May.
An attorney for Arizona’s Steaks’ parent company says that Robinson and Pinson have never owned a chain of Arizona’s restaurants, and that while Robinson does own a nominal interest in the Arizona’s Steaks at Stonecrest Mall, Pinson is not affiliated with Arizona’s in any way. The attorney also told us that Arizona’s Steaks’ parent company has no knowledge of the matters described in the story.
The indictment does not name the DeKalb official, only identifying him as an 'elected DeKalb County councilman', commonly called a commissioner in our area.
"Whoever they're referencing in that document, it is not Lee May, and I want everyone to know that," volunteered May.
At the time, May shared representation of the Arizona's district with Commissioner Stan Watson.
Watson initially denied Channel 2's request for an interview, so Fleischer caught up with him following Tuesday's commission meeting.
Fleischer showed Watson the document, and asked if he knew it mentioned solicitation of a bribe by a DeKalb County commissioner.
"No, I didn't know that, that's not me, I hope not," replied Watson.
All five of the other commissioners also denied any involvement with those businessmen.
The South Carolina case is scheduled for trial this summer, so the commissioner's name should be made public during testimony.
Fleischer asked DeKalb Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander about this case.
"The first thought for me quite frankly is that it will continue to be a federal case.," said Alexander, adding that federal agents in South Carolina would have likely forwarded their evidence to agents here.
Alexander said if nothing happens at the federal level, the case could be investigated by local police once it's confirmed who the commissioner is, what's on those wiretaps, and any other existing evidence.