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DeKalb Corruption: ZBA member sentenced, GBI says no further action on report

Metro ATL

DeKalb Corruption: ZBA member sentenced, GBI says no further action on report

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.
DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says a former DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals member has been sentenced for his role in a bribery scheme.

In other DeKalb County Corruption news, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation says it won’t continue to investigate charges raised in a scathing corruption report about DeKalb.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ZBA member Jeremy “Jerry” Clark and billiard hall owner Ismail Sirdah were each sentenced for their role in the bribery scheme.

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“This is another unfortunate incident of corruption in DeKalb County,” U.S Attorney John Horn said in a press release. “Again, I reiterate that the citizens of DeKalb County expect public officials to act with honestly and integrity.  Public officials who may be tempted by money and graft remember; we remain committed to investigating and prosecuting acts of corruption regardless of who commits them or where they are.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says that in November 2008 the DeKalb County Commission approved a zoning ordinance regulating nightclubs. The businesses would be required to obtain a Special Land Use Permit, but there was an exemption for businesses that were opened before the 2008 was approved.

“Ismail Sirdah was the owner and Chief Executive Officer of 2841 Investments, Inc., which did business as LuLu Billiards.  LuLu Billiards was a pool hall and bar located in Tucker, Georgia, which is located in DeKalb County,” the press release says. “Based on the new zoning ordinance, in November 2011, the DeKalb County Department of Planning and Sustainability informed LuLu Billiards in writing that it was grandfathered in only as a late-night business – and thus could neither operate as a nightclub nor have a dance floor.  Despite the notice, Lulu Billiards operated as a nightclub and possessed a dance floor.”

The Department of Planning and Sustainability issued a warning to Sirdah in 2012 that he needed to obtain a Special Land Use permit. Sirdah argued that he should be grandfathered in since he existed as a nightclub prior to the new zoning ordinance. He filed an appeal.

“Prior to the hearing on the appeal, Sirdah met with Clark (a ZBA member),” the press release says. “During those meetings, Sirdah made it clear to Clark, that if the Zoning Board of Appeals approved Sirdah’s petition to operate as a nightclub, Clark would be rewarded.”

The ZBA did approve the request in 2012, and Clark voted in favor of it. He received $2,000 for his vote and another $1,500 was donated to an unidentified nonprofit.

Clark was sentenced to nine months in prison and three years of supervised release. He will pay a $3,500 fine. Sirdah was sentenced to six months and two years of supervised release and will pay a $10,000 fine.

That wasn’t this week’s only update on corruption allegations in DeKalb. According to 11 Alive, the GBI says it won’t be bringing any charges related to a corruption report released by Mike Bowers, an investigator hired by the county. Bowers’ report, released last year, called for interim Chief Executive Officer Lee May to resign his office and allow for a special election. The report accuses May of borrowing money from a subordinate, Morris Williams, in violation of the county organizational act. It also says May tried to hinder and shut-down Bowers’ investigation after hiring him to help root out corruption in county government.

The news station reports, that GBI Director Vernon Keenan believes the charges in Bowers’ report pertain primarily to violations of county ethics policies but they wouldn’t rise to the level of crimes.

To read the full story, click here.

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