So why is the DeKalb County District Attorney searching DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis’ home? In an AJC exclusive this morning, we learn that investigators came to his home this morning armed with a search warrant as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into multimillion-dollar school construction projects.
To get up to speed, please look at the recent AJC update on the allegations surrounding school construction manager Pat Pope’s actions in regard to her husband’s firm. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported that Tony Pope, an architect, worked on three of the six multimillion-dollar construction projects being investigated by the authorities.
Pope and Lewis have appeared adversaries in this ongoing drama, so it is unclear now why the investigation has turned to Lewis or why the DA felt compelled to go to his home as well as his office.
Please remember that the school system and DA’s office crossed swords not along ago when the system balked at turning over some information that the district attorney wanted. This may have been a strong rebuke to that foot-dragging by the system. In January, we reported then that the DeKalb County investigators filed an Open Records Act request that the school system rejected, citing attorney-client privilege.
At the time, District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming said, “The information we’re seeking is public record.” She said she found the school system’s rejection of the request “curious.” Maybe, she also found it annoying and this is her way of letting them know.
None of this is helpful at a time when the system is facing unprecedented financial woes. (I am going to a hearing tonight where hundreds of parents are expected to challenge possible school closings in DeKalb.)
There is a lot going on in DeKalb. This mess does not help. But it does reflect a lesson I learned early on as a reporter. Major projects – especially in construction and technology – deserve close scrutiny because there is so much detail, so much money and so little expertise among most school boards. There is ample opportunity for misspending.
According to the breaking news story now:
The DeKalb district attorney’s office served a search warrant at Lewis’ home in the Southland subdivision around 7:30 this morning. About 40 minutes later, investigators showed up at the DeKalb school headquarters on Decatur Road with a second search warrant.
The AJC was the only news organization on the scene as nine police officers and a prosecutor descended on Lewis’ home. A surprised Lewis, dressed in shirt and tie, opened the door and allowed the officers in. Several neighbors came out and asked officers what was going on and were told to avoid the area.
The district attorney’s office has been investigating construction projects in DeKalb schools. It’s unclear what searchers were looking for in Lewis’ home.
A spokesman for the district attorney did not immediately return phone calls and lion the scene declined to comment.
Dale Davis, Lewis’ spokesman, said he was unaware of the search or the reasons for it. “I don’t know. Call the DA,” he told the AJC.