Friday, February 28, 2014

Bibb County Audit Finds Millions in Technology Purchases Were Made Without Approval

Telegraph staffFebruary 27, 2014
Former Bibb County School Superintendent Romain Dallemand repeatedly violated school board policy by ordering more than $26 million in technology equipment and services without required, prior approval from the board, according to a 2013 audit of the school system.
One of those purchases -- for nearly $3.8 million -- was for 15,000 virtual desktop devices. Now, more than a year after they were ordered, about 14,800 of the devices still sit unused in a Bibb County warehouse. The order was placed without competitive bids and without prior board approval, the audit said.
But that's just a sample of the scathing findings, which accountant Miller Edwards presented to board members during a Thursday committee meeting. In some cases, the system is now trying to cut its losses -- involving millions of dollars from sales tax proceeds -- by trying to resell both hardware and software that it can't or hasn't used.
Over the main months in question, Dallemand "authorized, directed and coerced staff to make transactions that were in violation" of board policies, said the audit for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013. The Telegraph obtained the audit through an Open Records Act request. The audit lists the cause of the violations as an "apparent reckless disregard by the former Superintendent for existing School District procurement policies established by the Board of Education."
After Edwards' presentation and board discussion, board members voted to look into options for investigating the violations and how they happened.

Attempts to reach Dallemand, who left the school system a year ago after the board bought out his contract for $350,000, plus benefits, were not successful. The Telegraph also tried to reach one of his former lieutenants, Susanne Griffin-Ziebart, for comment. Griffin-Ziebert, who served as interim superintendent after Dallemand departed, took a job in Minneapolis last year.
In general terms, the best advice for any superintendent is to abide by board policy and not exceed the spending limit, said Bill Sampson, with the Georgia School Boards Association.
"You just don't do it," he said.
Sampson said that in his experience, such violations happen rarely and can be cause for serious repercussions.
Little board approval
From July to December 2012, Dallemand authorized nine contracts or purchase orders, at least three of which did not involve competitive bidding and most of which did not receive prior board approval, according to the audit. Two of the orders were for more than $6 million, and two others were for more than $3 million.
The audit actually characterized the total value of contracts and purchase orders that didn't comply with school district policies at more than $51 million, but that figure includes such items as "match resources" associated with the Macon Promise Neighborhood initiative. The audit also found issues with the way financial commitments were made to that program.
In one case the audit cited, a purchase order was later voided, and in another case, the initial purchase order was dramatically reduced. The audit gives no indication why those orders changed.
Dallemand was not authorized to obligate the school system for any purchase order above $500,000, and any order above $500,000 also required prior board approval. In some cases, often months later, Dallemand sought and received board approval for several of his actions.
Nonetheless, the audit underscored the need for school officials to follow district policies to the letter.
"In the government sector, even the best and most promising ideas for respective communities still must follow certain protocol for authorization and approval prior to specific actions. Procurement policies and procedures are established by governments for good, fundamental reason and to provide solid internal controls to prohibit significant and material actions (financial and non-financial) from occurring without: a) the exercise of proper due diligence, and b) the approval of such due diligence. Such internal controls should be observed prior to such actions and executions and not via subsequent ratification."
All of the cited violations happened during Dallemand's administration, and policies have been put in place to prevent repeated occurrences, the audit said. Those changes include a $100,000 cap on purchases that a superintendent can authorize without prior board approval. Also, the district hired a director of procurement to oversee purchasing.
Asked about the report, interim school Superintendent Steve Smith declined comment except to say, "The audit speaks for itself."
Last spring, after the wave of purchases, school board members were grappling with millions in budget shortfalls.
A closer look
--- A nearly $7 million purchase order was issued on Oct. 11, 2012, for technology equipment. That amount was later reduced to more than $950,000. A bid was issued but was not brought to the board before making the purchase.
--- A nearly $6.6 million purchase order was issued on Oct. 11, 2012, for cabling. A bid was issued but was not brought to the board for approval. The board later approved the contract on May 16, 2013.
--- Two purchases totaling $4.2 million were issued on Oct. 11, 2012, for a wireless computer network and networking hardware. A bid was issued but not brought to the board for approval. The board later approved the contract on May 16, 2013.
--- A nearly $3.8 million purchase order was issued Dec. 18, 2012, for "Ncomputing" devices and installation. No bid was issued and no board approval was granted.
--- A $3.2 million purchase order was issued Dec. 18, 2012, for a financial software package. No bid was issued and no board approval was granted.
--- A $1 million purchase order was made Dec. 18, 2012, for program management for the entire technology project. The amount originally was $500,000 when the purchase order was first issued Oct. 11, 2012, but the purchase was later amended. Only the initial $500,000 was approved by the board. Later, it was discovered that work had been completed without purchase orders. The district negotiated a total price of $1.2 million for the work.
--- A $692,300 purchase order was issued Dec. 12, 2012, to a network systems company. The purchase was later voided, and no payment was made. No bid was issued and no board approval was granted.
Selling at a loss
In questioning the purchases, auditors called a couple of them "strange." Some of the larger purchases did not include necessary services, are unusable within the Bibb County school system and are projected to be a financial loss for the system.
Now, the district is looking to resell some of that technology, but it expects to get only about half -- or less -- of what it originally paid.
For example, Dallemand ordered the purchase and installation of 15,000 "NComputing" devices -- virtual desktops -- for almost $3.8 million, the audit said. Now, only about 100 to 200 are being used -- at Northeast High and Springdale and Alexander II elementary schools. The rest -- around 14,800 devices -- have been sitting in a warehouse for months.
If they are declared as surplus items and can be resold, they are projected to sell at only 50 to 60 percent of the original price. That could mean a loss of nearly $1.9 million.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lawmakers face election deadline for DeKalb schools

Posted: 6:09 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

Georgia lawmakers are approaching a deadline to restructure the DeKalb County school board, with the potential for election chaos if they fail to meet it.
Candidates for the May 20 school election are supposed to start coming forward at 9 a.m. Monday, when the qualification period starts. But, so far, it’s unclear where the political lines will be drawn for the districts in which they’re supposed to run.

“We just need to know,” said H. Maxine Daniels, elections director in DeKalb. She said lawsuits by potential candidates could result from a failure to get the lines drawn in time, and that she might have to seek an injunction herself.

The row over the school voting districts reflects the role politics plays in public education and the struggle for control over institutions that consume a big chunk of taxpayer dollars. That same frustration drove legislation that sought to overturn Georgia’s constitutional prohibition on the establishment of new school systems.

The sponsor of that bill, a Republican from Dunwoody, abandoned his effort Tuesday. Rep. Tom Taylor said he couldn’t find the super majority he needed to get it past the state House, but he said he’ll try again next year, with hopes for a ballot initiative in 2016.

“We need to do something about education in Georgia,” Taylor said, adding that public schools produce an “appalling” graduation rate given the tax dollars they consume.

Taylor’s bill was aimed at DeKalb but would have affected the whole state. It would have let Dunwoody and other new cities create their own independent school systems. The Georgia constitution banned new school districts in the 1940s, initiating a period of consolidation. Student rolls — and budgets — skyrocketed in urbanizing areas, and for a time drove impressive results.

But the DeKalb system has been in decline for a decade or more, and that has led to conflict over diminishing resources. The infighting exacerbated geographic, race and class divisions and drew the attention of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which put the district on probation in 2012.

The crisis led to intervention by Gov. Nathan Deal, who replaced most of the school board. DeKalb Superintendent Michael Thurmond appealed for calm this week during a visit to the county legislative delegation. Thurmond, who was hired after probation was in place, helped convince SACS to lift it, and he asked that lawmakers avoid an ugly fight that could stir old enmities and bring SACS back.

“We just cannot allow this to occur,” Thurmond told the lawmakers. “I’m begging you.”

Board member Marshall Orson, pictured here
as he addressed the state board last year,
and others will stand for re-election this year.
The fight over district lines dates back three years, to a law that required the DeKalb school board to downsize from its present nine members by 2012. The Republican-led S.B. 79 left implementation to the divided and mostly Democratic local delegation. Perhaps predictably, they were unable to agree on new lines, so lawmakers extended the deadline.

Now, with three months to go before the election and all nine seats up, they’re in a corner. A small bipartisan DeKalb coalition hopes to avoid the chaos of a botched election. They've devised a work-around — a statewide bill tailored for DeKalb that simply eliminates two at-large seats and leaves the remaining seven districts intact. H.B. 979 doesn't need the support of the local delegation. It passed the House, and awaits a hearing in the Senate.

Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, agreed to carry it through the Senate. “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn't pass,” said Jones, who was hoping for a vote by Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

UPDATED: School Board Elections - All Seats Up for Grabs This May

UPDATE:  Even if you wanted to apply for the Board of Education in the not-so-new-yet-slightly-improved DeKalb County, you wouldn't be able to do so right now.  Why?  Because you don't know what district you live in.   Yes, we have been down this road before, so it really isn't any big surprise.  But, the last minute timing does seem oddly reminiscent of the former board.  (brrrr... just sent shivers done my spine.)  Let's hope that is where the similarities end.  

But, for now, we are awaiting someone, anyone to step up to plate and realize that we have districts drawn for 9 members and a law that says we should only have 5 or 7.  (Because somehow, less representation in this case is supposed to be "better" than the more representation with smaller districts that the same governmental folks are trying to sell us on with their city-lingo.   Ho-hum.   Are you getting as bored with their games as we are?  When will they try something new?)  So, two weeks from the final qualifying deadline and we don't even know what the district lines look like?

This was a comment made by Nancy Jester, former board member and candidate for state school superintendent, as posted on DeKalb School Watch blog (originally from a Facebook page, apparently):  

Nancy Jester – Mike, what needs to be done? What was missing from the legislation in 2012 that does not enable candidate qualifying? Also, please clarify the meaning of HB 979. It also notes the BOE election to be in the general election. Previously, non-partisan elections were held during the primary.

The previously unattended July elections were suddenly showing signs of voter turnout last year.  So much, in fact, that T-SPLOST (the transportation tax) failed and voters returned a strong "NO" against cell towers on school grounds.  So, with a outcome so undeniably based on the true voice of the people, of course the date had to change!

This year, the election will be held in May, sooner than ever with more packed onto ballots than ever before!

Cities - for Central DeKalb - possibly on a referendum or two.
City Schools - for cities or cities next to other cities - possibly on statewide ballots
School Board seats - all 7 districts presumably will be up for grabs, with the two Super Districts going away.

Here is what DeKalb School Watch has to say about it:
 ALL SEVEN BOARD SEATS WILL BE UP FOR A VOTE! The two super districts will be going away.
Give it some careful thought – please be a good citizen and offer your skills and talents and discernment to the DeKalb County schools — 100,000 young people need you!
Click here to view bios of the current board (a few are still not posted) as well as the attendance areas of the districts >>

Monday, February 17, 2014

Flaws Remain in Cell Tower Bill

Cell tower bill speeds process

Moderated by Rick Badie

From a pro/con blog on the, found here:, we thank Rep. Dr. Karla Drenner for her continued warnings about the risks associated with allowing cell towers near our homes and schools.  Here is her portion of the article:

By Representative Dr. Karla Drenner
House Bill 176,the Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act, has rapidly made its way through the Georgia House. Its swift passage concerns me, and I stand in opposition to it for three reasons.
This bill is blatantly misleading. It allows private entities to have access to public lands to profit without regard to the local communities. And it strips governments of local control.
The Mobile BILD Act claims to allow for a more streamlined permitting process for new cellphone towers and the expansion of existing ones. It calls for shorter application review times, less regulation and limitations fees.
Supporters of HB 176 suggest more bandwidth and infrastructure is needed to attract business and improve public safety. This argument is profoundly misleading.
The cellphone industry wants people to believe more cell towers are important for public safety. However, public safety officials do not rely on phone service for critical communications. In DeKalb County, it is provided by a radio tower atop Stone Mountain — not a proprietary cellular service.*
Moreover, nothing in the current version of HB 176 prevents for-profit entities from constructing cell towers on public land, including on or near school properties or land zoned residential. In 2010, I included a non-binding referendum on the primary ballot asking if schools should allow cell towers on school property. The overwhelming response was “no.”
Some of my colleagues with districts in DeKalb have also voiced concern about the possibility of towers being built on school grounds. Communities should be protected from such risks. Erecting new cellphone towers or expanding current ones on or near schools or in neighborhoods are legitimate concerns.
Lastly, HB 176 would strip local governments of their decision-making power.  Cities are already obliged to adhere to tight FCC “shot clock” regulations. Currently, cities must make a formal decision in writing to approve or deny an application for a new tower within 150 days. Local governments have 30 days to notify an applicant for a new tower if more information is needed.
This bill would further tighten the time constraints. If a county does not respond within a set time, the cellphone tower is automatically approved. Local government control would be superseded; the for-profit entity would have its way.
It is worth noting that communications companies tend to invest in communities where there is significant local regulation; the best coverage is in these areas. Conversely, the poorest coverage areas have the least amounts of regulation. Minimal regulation does nothing to foster capital investment and improve service.
The Mobile BILD Act was first introduced last year, but was defeated because of its blatant push against local authority. It remains flawed.
State Rep. Karla Drenner, a Democrat, represents District 85.

*  Wow, we learned something new today!  Thanks Dr. Drenner!

Please write to your state elected officials if you are concerned about this bill.  Thank you!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: Georgia Public Service Commission: A quick Q & A

One of our followers here at Get the Cell Out - ATL recently wrote to the Georgia Public Service Commission (GAPSC) to find out how he could file a complaint with ATT Mobility over the currently proposed bill (HB 176) that would make cell towers easier to place in residential areas without notification to the homeowners nearby.
Here is a copy of that email and the response from the GAPSC.

To: ;
Date:  2/9/2014 9:29 PM


I read recently that you have some jurisdiction over ATT in terms of complaints, but not cell tower companies.  So, would ATT Mobility be a company
you helped consumers with or not?

I am opposed to a bill this session that would make it possible for ATT to put cell towers near our homes and schools without our feedback.  Who would be the right entity to log my complaint with, other than my legislators?



To:  XXX
Date:  2/9/2014 9:29 PM

The Public Service Commission has received your message and will provide an answer or assistance as soon as possible.  


For a quicker response to complaints about your electric, gas, transportation or telephone service, please use the PSC Online Complaint Form at:

Questions or Inquiries:

For answers to many of your questions about natural gas, electric, transportation, telephone, or consumer issues, visit our website:

Email a Commissioner:

To send an email directly to a PSC Commissioner, go to:

Open Records Requests:

If you want information under Georgia’s Open Records Act, please send your request directly to Mr. Phil Smith at: 

Services Not Regulated by the PSC:

If you are writing about city-owned electric or gas service, or about water, sewer, cellular phones, Internet, cable television, MARTA or an electric membership corporation (EMC), please contact your service provider. The Public Service Commission does not regulate these services. 

Thank you for contacting the Georgia Public Service Commission. 

Georgia Public Service Commission
244 Washington Street, SW
Atlanta GA, 30334-9052
Toll-free in Georgia (outside Metro Atlanta): (800) 282-5813
Metro Atlanta: (404) 656-4501




Unfortunately, the Georgia Public Service Commission does not have jurisdiction over this. Probably the best place to start is your local government.

I hope this helps.

Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

William Morgan
Consumer Affairs
Georgia Public Service Commission
244 Washington St., SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Phone - (404) 463-4607
Fax - (404)

House Approves Scaled-Down Cell Tower Bill - Still No Protection for Schools

Dave Williams, Staff Writer-
Atlanta Business Chronicle
Jan 31, 2014, 12:25pm EST

The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Friday that would streamline the process wireless companies must go through to gain approval to install cellphone towers.

The bill, which cleared the House 154-4, would limit the fees local governments can charge wireless companies to review applications for new towers or modifications to existing towers.

It also would give cities and counties no more than 150 days after receiving an application to issue or deny a permit.
“If you vote for this, you’re saying local control is 
not important,” (Rep. Dr. Karla Drenner) warned 
her House colleagues.

The overloading of cellphone networks that occurred during Tuesday’s snowstorm, as thousands of stranded motorists used their cellphones to contact family members, demonstrated the inadequacy of cellphone coverage in metro Atlanta, said Rep. Don Parsons, R-Marietta, the bill’s chief sponsor.

“[That] illustrated the need for cell towers to provide the band width needed for us to conduct our business, said Parsons, chairman of the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee.

Parsons introduced the bill last year, but it ran into stiff opposition from city and county officials worried about losing local control over permitting and land-use decisions.

Representatives of wireless companies met last fall with lobbyists from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and Georgia Municipal Association to work out a compromise that would let local-government advocates take a neutral position on the bill.

The key change from last year was language dropping a provision that would have allowed permits to be approved automatically if the 150-day “shot clock” expired without a decision on an application.

The bill got some pushback Friday from lawmakers concerned that it has no provision banning cellphone towers from school property.
Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, said DeKalb County voters overwhelmingly supported such a ban in a non-binding referendum on the 2012 primary ballots.

“If you vote for this, you’re saying local control is not important,” (Rep. Dr. Karla Drenner) warned her House colleagues.

The bill now moves to the state Senate.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Local Control Freaks: You Need To Read This!

Listen to what your neighbors in Briarcliff Heights have to say
It seems like everyone who's anyone is talking about "local control" in Central DeKalb County these days, from city advocates and political candidates to charter school reformists and even park preservationists.  If you are one of those who has been thinking about the benefits of true "local control," you should know that there is something brewing in our state capital right now and it is the antithesis of everything you have been saying you want.

The telecom companies and their friends in the corporate-funded "ALEC" (The American Legislative Exchange Council) are up to their old tricks in the Georgia legislature.  This time they are actually pushing forth a bill AGAIN, that was already defeated in committee last year for very good reasons.

House Bill 176 was renamed from ‘Advanced Broadband Collocation Act’ to ‘Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act’.  It mirrors similar bills being pushed forth by ALEC members in other parts of the U.S.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Don Parsons (R) - Marietta, actually allows taller, larger, cell towers with less local government control.  Do you want a 200' tower right next to you without any opportunity for a local government hearing?  Would you like a huge structure to be built in your front yard, without any advanced notice?  Do you care if someone else decides whether on not your property value should deteriorate by 20%?

You can see what your neighbors in the Briarcliff Heights neighborhood think about being left out of the loop when the former school board decided to peg their community for a 150 foot tower with no notice.  Watch this recent report from FOX News about how they are STILL having to fight this bad decision, even though it has been 2 1/2 YEARS!

And if you are still not convinced, read what these reasons to oppose HB 176 by Georgia Planning Association.   Here’s a similar list from Georgia Municipal Association.

In addition to removing local control, the bill also makes it more difficult to determine who should be responsible for the removal of a cell tower when it is no longer in use.  Again, this change to current law could be bad for communities, bringing more blight to some areas that would not have the tax base to support the removal of such structures on their own.

In 2012, 62% of the voters in Dekalb County said they did not approve of the siting of cell towers on public school grounds.  That referendum was intended to advise those representing us about how we feel about the placement of these structures so close to where we live and where small children attend school.

So, why aren't they listening?  And why would cell towers be treated any differently than other large, industrial structures that a private, for-profit company wants to place somewhere that it isn't zoned for? Our schools are for educating children, not providing tax shelter for big businesses.

Here is what the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia had to say:
"HB 176 passed a House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Sub-Committee last week.  Representatives from ACCG, Cobb County, Gwinnett County, GMA and several cities expressed concerns on the impact this legislation will have on local cell tower siting ordinances.

"This bill significantly preempts local governments in reviewing and approving applications for both the modification of existing cell towers and structures (collocation) and the construction of new cell towers and structures local communities."

Please take a moment to thank those who voted against this bill so far this session: Representatives Dr. Karla Drenner (D - 85), Michelle Henson (D - 86), Scott Holcomb (D - 81), and Mary Margaret Oliver (D - 82). We should also remind those that did vote for it, all other representatives, that they voted against local control, for cell towers at schools, and against the wishes of DeKalb citizens.

What can you do?
If you are concerned about the rights to local control that your state representatives and senators could be ready to take away,please reach out by email or phone call to the DeKalb Senators about the coming of this bill. They have not yet had an opportunity to vote on it, so we still have time to voice concerns.  You could remind them that the FCC specifically mentions the rights of the local government in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Here are the email addresses for your DeKalb Senators who have yet to vote on this bill:

*  Senator Steve Henson - District 41 (D) -
*  Senator Jason Carter - District 42 (D)
*  Senator Gloria S. Butler - District 55 (D)
*  Senator Emmanuel Jones - District 10 (D)
*  Senator Fran Millar - District 40 (R)
*  Senator Ronald Ramsey, District 43
*  Senator Gayle Davenport, District 44

Thank you for reading about this issue.  If you have not educated yourself on the subject of RF radiation or the struggle to keep the cell tower money from funding school corruption in DeKalb, please visit our website:

Friday, February 7, 2014

HB176 passed and is moving to the Senate

Just received this update from the Briarcliff Heights Community Action Group.  As always, we appreciate their continued input and support for our mission to keep DeKalb's schools free from the intrusion of cell towers on school grounds and free from the corrupt policies this "slush fund" money enables.

The HB176 (Mobile Broadband Leads to Infrastructure[BILD] Act) was passed on 1/23.

Representatives Drenner, Henson, Holcomb, and Oliver were the only four to vote against the bill. The bill will now move to Senate.

WE DO NOT WANT THIS BILL PASSED as it does not go in our favor regarding cell towers on school properties and residential areas.

PLEASE take a moment to thank those who voted against this bill: Representatives Drenner, Henson, Holcomb, and Oliver. We should also remind those that did vote for it, all other representatives, that they voted against local control, for cell towers at schools, and against the wishes of DeKalb citizens.

 More importantly we need to contact our Senators about the coming of this bill. We have the opportunity to prevent it becoming law. Contact information is below:

·         Senator Steve Henson - State Senate District 41 (D) -

·         Senator Jason Carter - State Senate District 42 (D) -

·         Senator Gloria S. Butler - State Senate District 55 (D) -

·         Senator Emmanuel Jones - State Senate District 10 (D) -

·         Senator Fran Millar - State Senate District 40 (R) -

As we know more, we will let you know.
--  Briarcliff Heights Community Action Group

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

ALEC is at it Again!

The telecom companies and ALEC are up to their old tricks in the Georgia legislature again: they’re pushing a bill for higher cell towers with less local government control over height or siting. Do you want one next to you without even an opportunity for a local government hearing?
Here’s what ACCG says about HB 176, renamed from ‘Advanced Broadband Collocation Act’ to ‘Mobile Broadband Infrastructure Leads to Development (BILD) Act’:  
HB 176 passed a House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Sub-Committee on Thursday. Representatives from ACCG, Cobb County, Gwinnett County, GMA and several cities expressed concerns on the impact this legislation will have on local cell tower siting ordinances. This bill significantly preempts local governments in reviewing and approving applications for both the modification of existing cell towers and structures (collocation) and the construction of new cell towers and structures local communities. As HB 176 is the top priority of the wireless industry this session and is being backed by many other influential groups including the Americans for Prosperity and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, it has very strong momentum
Please have your county commissioner review the bill and inform your House members of any negative implications it has on your local zoning, land use or tower/equipment application review processes. This legislation will likely be heard on the House floor soon.
Guess who’s chair of the Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications SubCommitteeDon Parsons, who’s also a co-sponsor of both HB 176 and the anti-municipal-broadband HB 282. And guess what else he’s a member of: the ALEC Telecommunications Committee.
Here’s a summary of reasons to oppose HB 176 by Georgia Planning Association. Here’s a similar list from Georgia Municipal Association.
There’s still time to write or call your legislator to stop HB 176, the bad cell tower siting bill, and the anti-municipal-broadband HB 282.