Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion For Emergency Public Hearing On Votgle Units 3 & 4

BEFORE THE GEORGIA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION STATE OF GEORGIA
)
In Re: )
Review of Georgia Power Company’s ) Dockets No. 27800 & 29849
Certificate of Public Convenience and )
Necessity for Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4 )

NUCLEAR WATCH SOUTH MANDAMUS MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONSE TO REQUEST FOR EMERGENCY PUBLIC HEARING ON VOGTLE 3 & 4

Nuclear Watch South files this mandamus motion and complaint that the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has failed to respond to Nuclear Watch South Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 in accordance with laws governing the PSC.

I. Background

Nuclear Watch South filed on April 18, 2017, a request for an emergency public hearing to hear substantial issues surrounding the bankruptcies of Georgia Power’s Vogtle construction consortium partners which affect the public and to establish a schedule for public review of Georgia Power’s Vogtle 3 & 4 expansion under construction in Burke County. When the PSC failed to respond within 30 days, Nuclear Watch South filed on May 19, 2017, its Motion to Compel a Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4.

Nuclear Watch South’s legal petition to the PSC seeks a process for the public to address, among other issues, many hundreds of millions of public dollars that have been, and are being, collected and deposited as profit for Georgia Power’s shareholders without any meaningful action from the PSC over the past six months while Georgia Power’s Vogtle 3 & 4 consortium partners are mired in bankruptcy courts.

Nuclear Watch South’s request asked that the PSC establish a deadline for Georgia Power to submit, at minimum:
1) The complete and true construction schedule for Vogtle 3 & 4

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4

2) The cost to complete Vogtle 3 & 4 construction

3) The cost to cancel Vogtle 3 & 4 construction

II. The Public Service Commission has failed in its legal obligation to respond to a legitimate public request in a specified timeframe.
More than 60 days have elapsed without a response to Nuclear Watch South’s request from the PSC, with one exception: on May 25, 2017, PSC staff attorney Jeffrey Stair sent Nuclear Watch South representative Glenn Carroll an e-mail stating: “It is Staff’s intent to place these items on a future regularly scheduled Energy Committee meeting agenda for Commission consideration.”1

The Commission’s inadequate response to Nuclear Watch South’s request places it in noncompliance with its legal obligation to make a proper response to a legitimate request in a timely fashion as required by Georgia PSC Rule 515-2-1.05 which states: “All applications, petitions or complaints filed with the Commission, or actions initiated by the Commission, on Friday prior to the second Tuesday in each month shall, unless otherwise directed by the Commission, be assigned for hearing on the fourth Tuesday or some succeeding date, and likewise those filed or commenced subsequent to the Friday preceding the second Tuesday in the month and not later than Friday prior to the fourth Tuesday shall, unless otherwise directed by the Commission, be assigned for hearing on the second Tuesday in the following month, or some succeeding date.” [emphasis supplied]

To be in compliance, the PSC should have placed Nuclear Watch South’s request on the calendar

1 The entire text of May 25, 2017 e-mail from Jeff Stair to Glenn Carroll: Ms. Carroll:
The Georgia Public Service Commission Staff has received and reviewed Nuclear Watch South’s Request
for Emergency Hearing as well as Nuclear Watch South’s Motion to Compel a Response. It is Staff’s intent to place these items on a future regularly scheduled Energy Committee meeting agenda for Commission consideration.
As you are aware, Staff and its consultants are continuing their comprehensive review of Plant Vogtle Units
3 and 4, as well as preparing testimony to be offered in the upcoming Vogtle Construction Monitoring proceeding. Also, Georgia Power Company has not yet filed its revised cost and schedule estimates for Units 3 and 4, nor has the Company indicated what type of filing it may ultimately make at the Commission. Once the Company provides its updated projections, Staff and Intervenors will be in a better position to respond, as may be appropriate.
I will be sure to give you sufficient advance notice of when Nuclear Watch South’s Request will be considered at an Energy Committee meeting.
[signed] Jeff Stair

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 on May 9, 2017, or established an specific alternative date. Staff attorney’s reference in his May 25, 2017 e-mail to the open-ended, semi-annual Vogtle construction review process and assertion that “Georgia Power Company has not yet filed its revised cost and schedule estimates for Units
3 and 4, nor has the Company indicated what type of filing it may ultimately make at the Commission,” do not satisfy the PSC’s legal obligation to make a specific response to Nuclear Watch South’s request for an emergency public hearing. As a matter of point, the particular excuse that Georgia Power hasn’t made a move yet is precisely the problem Nuclear Watch South seeks relief from via an emergency public hearing.

In the May 11, 2017, 16th Vogtle Construction Monitoring Review (VCM) hearing before the PSC, Georgia Power testified that it would probably file its analysis of the path forward in June. A June date would, indeed, satisfy the spirit of Nuclear Watch South’s request which suggests a June 30, 2017, deadline in its 4/18/17 Request for Emergency Public Hearing.

However, at the June 1, 2017, PSC Energy Committee meeting, Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald offered a motion for Georgia Power to voluntarily cease CWIP collection and use the traditional AFUDC (Allowance for Funds Used During Construction) mechanism to recover its costs in the rates when the project is complete. While Nuclear Watch South has stated its appreciation for Commissioner McDonald’s initiative, the motion, and the meeting, fail to address the central question of a timely and direct response to Nuclear Watch South’s request for an emergency public hearing as required by law. Significantly, at the June 1, 2017, meeting Georgia Power’s attorney Kevin Greene revealed in verbal exchange with Commissioner Stan Wise, that Georgia Power would not supply the requested information about costs and schedule on Vogtle 3 & 4 in June and anticipates submitting plans in August 2017, or later. Greene’s statement validated press reports about Southern Company CEO statements before the May 24, 2017, Southern Company annual shareholder meeting: “Fanning said Wednesday he now hopes to have that evaluation completed in August or ‘late summer.’”2

2 Southern Co. CEO: Time needed for new Vogtle plan, by Matt Kempner, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 25, 2017 http://www.myajc.com/business/southern-ceo-more-time-needed-for-new-vogtle- plan/5tKTIa1WpXKx95F5qPyWeL/

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 At the PSC’s Administrative Affairs meeting on June 6, 2017, the Commission voted to indefinitely delay a decision on Commissioner McDonald’s motion pending further study. Nuclear Watch South’s request was still not on the agenda. The PSC stated concern about breaking the law if it passes a symbolic motion asking for Georgia Power to voluntarily cease collection of the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery tariff enabled by the Georgia legislature in the 2009 Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act. It is seeking input from the State of Georgia Attorney General, but did not establish a time frame to do so.

PSC meetings on June 15, 2017, also failed to include Nuclear Watch South’s request on the agenda.

The total effect of the PSC’s inaction is that, so far, Georgia Power has, de facto, set the agenda and the schedule for the Georgia Public Service Commission’s response (or lack thereof) to not only Nuclear Watch South’s request, but to the entire circumstance clouding the future construction of Vogtle 3 & 4. To let this situation persist is an egregious lapse of PSC oversight protection for the people of Georgia who are captive customers to Georgia Power’s profitable monopoly and who are paying almost $50 million per month for continued construction at Vogtle 3 & 4.

The situation forces Nuclear Watch South to point out via this Mandamus Motion, that the PSC’s inaction places the PSC in flagrant violation of Georgia PSC Rule 15-2-1.05 which regulates the PSC’s response to the public and establishes a standard for timely response to a legitimate request.

III. The Public Service Commission has broad legal powers which authorize it to protect public interests and processes Nuclear Watch South has repeatedly cited the laws which empower the PSC to decertify3 Vogtle 3 Georgia Code O.C.G.A. § 46-3A-6: Upon application of a utility or upon its own motion, the commission may reexamine any certificate granted under this chapter to determine whether new forecasts of future requirements require the modification of the construction, purchase, sale, or expenditure for a certificated capacity resource. If upon such reexamination the commission finds that the certificated capacity resource is no longer needed or that

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 3 & 4 (which it should do because Nuclear Watch South has proven since 2013 using Georgia Power’s own SEC-filed annual report data that power from the $18 billion dollar reactors is not needed as Georgia Power is 30% overbuilt in a shrinking energy market) and also to obtain information from the utilities which it regulates, and to establish any processes it needs to get information (including to grant Nuclear Watch South’s Request for Emergency Public Hearing or to establish another mechanism to bring transparency and public input to the Vogtle question such as a facilitated stakeholder meeting).

O.C.G.A. 46-2-20 (f) and (g) empowers the PSC in the current instance (in which Georgia Power has refused to make important information available to the PSC for six months) to raid the company’s offices if necessary to get the information it needs.4

O.C.G.A. § 46-2-20 (b) is the basic law empowering the PSC to establish any process it needs to get at the truth and the law pursuant of which Nuclear Watch South makes its Request for Emergency Public Hearing.5

IV. The Public Service Commission must exercise its powers for the protection of both the public and Georgia Power As stated above, and repeatedly, in every forum offered by the PSC, Georgia Power is overbuilt any additional certificated capacity resource is needed to assure a reliable supply of electric power and energy for the utility’s Georgia retail customers, the commission may modify or revoke the certificate. If the utility cancels, abandons, or increases some or all of the capacity resource as a result of such modification or revocation of the certificate, it may recover through any rate-making vehicle over a reasonable period of time, absent fraud, concealment, failure to disclose a material fact, imprudence, or criminal misconduct, the amount of its investment in such capacity resource, along with the cost of carrying the unamortized portion of that investment, net of actual salvage value, to the extent such investment is verified as made pursuant to the certificate. The commission shall disallow such investment and costs resulting from fraud, concealment, failure to disclose a material fact, imprudence, or criminal misconduct. [emphasis added] 4 O.C.G.A.
§ 46-2-20 (f) The commission shall also have the power and authority to examine all books, contracts, records, papers, and documents of any person subject to its supervision and to compel the production thereof.
(g) The commission shall have the power, through any of its members, at its discretion, to make personal visits to the offices and places of business of the companies under its supervision for the purpose of examination. Any Commissioner making a personal visit pursuant to this subsection shall have full power and authority to examine the agents and employees of any such company, under oath or otherwise, in order to procure information deemed by the Commissioner necessary to the work of the commission or of value to the public.
5 O.C.G.A. § 46-2-20 (b) The commission may hear complaints; in addition, it is also authorized to perform the duties imposed upon it of its own initiative.

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 while enduring a protracted, national downturn in electric sales, i.e., power from Vogtle 3 & 4 is not necessary and does not meet the “public convenience” test. Every day that the decision to stop constructing Plant Vogtle is delayed is costly to the consumers the PSC is supposed to protect. Georgia Power cannot lead with the decision to decertify Vogtle construction because, among other reasons, a primary consideration for the company is the fact that they, and only they, among the Vogtle construction consortium, are making a good profit from the mismanaged nuclear construction project.

Figure 1: Georgia Power Profits 2006-2016
But, in fact, Georgia Power also needs for the PSC to initiate decertification in order to clear the way for the company to recover its sunk costs, an important point of O.C.G.A. § 46-3A-6 which states: “If the utility cancels, abandons, or increases some or all of the capacity resource as a

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 result of such [PSC initiated] modification or revocation of the certificate, it may recover through any rate-making vehicle over a reasonable period of time, absent fraud, concealment, failure to disclose a material fact, imprudence, or criminal misconduct, the amount of its investment in
such capacity resource, along with the cost of carrying the unamortized portion of that investment, net of actual salvage value, to the extent such investment is verified as made pursuant to the certificate.” Id. Annotated.

V. Conclusion
Nearly six months have elapsed since Toshiba’s December 27, 2016, revelation of billions of dollars in losses from its U.S. nuclear projects, including Vogtle, a mere five days after the PSC’s notorious $2 billion Christmas gift to Georgia Power on December 22, 2016. 6

During that time, Westinghouse has entered bankruptcy, Toshiba is rumored to be planning bankruptcy, and construction partner CB&I is being accused of falsifying information in the merger with Westinghouse that were terms of the settlement in which Georgia Power accepted almost $2 billion in cost overruns, the same overruns which the PSC approved five days before the shocking Toshiba announcement. We ask, “Is this any way to build a nuclear plant??”

But the public has not been given a seat at the negotiating table even though it is our money that has been invested and lost on the unneeded nuclear project. During this protracted period of financial unraveling, Georgians have transferred $250 million from their pockets to Georgia Power’s bankroll which Georgia Power has then plowed back into the unneeded radioactive waste manufacturing facility less than half-built on the banks of the Savannah River.

Indeed, the argument to cancel Vogtle grows stronger with each passing day (and the seemingly infinite construction delays continue to accrue at the rate of one day for every single day of construction). The 16th Semiannual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Review (VCMR) currently underway at the PSC has contributed significant new insights. In testimony filed June 8, 2017, 6 How Georgia officials pantsed you over the holidays, by Matt Kempner, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 6, 2017 http://www.myajc.com/business/kempner-how-georgia-officials-pantsed-you-over-the- holidays/kKdADfa9OhQqqcscxu5CQK/

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 economic expert Philip Hayet testifies that Vogtle 3 & 4 are no longer economic to complete. Vogtle construction monitors Steven Roetger and Dr. William Jacobs filed, at the same time, testimony highlighting ongoing extreme delays of over 300 days which occurred in 2016 on several critical paths and redacted information concerning idle workers.

Even so, participation in the 16th VCMR has been unsatisfying to date for public witnesses, who, unlike the rich monopoly Georgia Power (which the PSC regulates), are rudely interrupted and shut down if their remarks exceed three minutes. Public witnesses, ordinary citizens who take time off work to come to obscure, poorly noticed, PSC hearings, often suffer hostile challenges to their testimony and written comments from the Commissioners. The current Public Service Commission has established a new low standard in its lack of sensitivity to the public it serves as the largest boondoggle in construction history since the Biblical Tower of Babel continues to drain public money while the PSC fiddles around and does nothing.

The Christian minister who gave the devotion prior to the June 6, 2017, PSC administrative session told an illuminating story about Nero, the infamous Roman emperor who “fiddled while Rome burned.” He testified that Nero needed to burn some buildings in order to conduct his own building program, but the fire got out of hand and burned most of Rome. The story of Rome burning is a rich metaphor for the bungled Vogtle project which is enriching a powerful monopoly, Georgia Power, while impoverishing Georgia citizens. Indeed, Georgia Power burns our hard-earned money on an unnecessary construction project, while the PSC takes a nap or “phones it in” not even showing up for the few important public hearings about Vogtle 3 & 4.

Nuclear Watch South is backed by many Georgia laws cited above in its demand for an effective public process to bring the public’s interest to the table to address the Vogtle situation.

This Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4 underlines the serious legal requirement for the Commission to take immediate action to establish a process and a timeframe for Georgia Power to submit information and an emergency public hearing to decide the issues outlined above.

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to
Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4
Respectfully submitted,

_/s/_

Glenn Carroll
Nuclear Watch South

Nuclear Watch South
P.O. Box 8574
Atlanta, Georgia 31106
atom.girl@nonukesyall.org
404-378-4263

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Nuclear Watch South Mandamus Motion to Compel Response to
Request for Emergency Public Hearing on Vogtle 3 & 4

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Argument over new proposed costs of reactors at Plant Vogtle

JoAnn Merrigan, WSAV News 3 Reporter

 http://up.anv.bz/latest/kjc15swt6h6nv/img/sprite32.png
It may be a fight to the finish in terms of an agreement on proposed costs for two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. Recently, the Georgia Public Service Commission held a hearing regarding an agreement proposed by its own staff and Georgia Power to increase the “official” costs of the two reactors by up to $2 Billion. Members of the Public Service Commission (PSC) are set to make a decision December 20.The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) is objecting and says it not a good deal for customers. The organization made that argument at the recent public hearing in Atlanta and has now filed official objections to the proposal with the PSC and is urging consumers to object to the commission as well.

Sara Barczak with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy told us last month the project is more than three years behind schedule and now approaching a 45 month delay.  She says the PSC staff agreement with Georgia Power means customers who have been paying millions of dollars in interest (on finance charges for the construction loan) will continue to pay. “Customers have been paying these charges for six years now. And it seems you will be paying more over a longer period of time and that doesn’t sound like a win-win for customers in our opinion,” said Barczak.  SACE said in a recent statement that the proposed agreement seems to be a case a case of regulatory amnesia.

A Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins told us “the settlement agreement under consideration fairly balances the company’s contribution with customer benefits and delivers approximately $325 million dollars in savings to customers during the construction period while keeping the project’s overall rate impact to customers at 6 to 8 percent.”

For additional information filed by Georgia Power along with other material being considered by the PSC click http://www.psc.state.ga.us/factsv2/Docket.aspx?docketNumber=29849

Argument over new proposed costs of reactors at Plant Vogtle

It may be a fight to the finish in terms of an agreement on proposed costs for two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. Recently, the Georgia Public Service Commission held a hearing regarding an agreement proposed by its own staff and Georgia Power to increase the “official” costs of the two reactors by up to $2 Billion. Members of the Public Service Commission (PSC) are set to make a decision December 20.The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) is objecting and says it not a good deal for customers. The organization made that argument at the recent public hearing in Atlanta and has now filed official objections to the proposal with the PSC and is urging consumers to object to the commission as well.

Sara Barczak with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy told us last month the project is more than three years behind schedule and now approaching a 45 month delay.  She says the PSC staff agreement with Georgia Power means customers who have been paying millions of dollars in interest (on finance charges for the construction loan) will continue to pay. “Customers have been paying these charges for six years now. And it seems you will be paying more over a longer period of time and that doesn’t sound like a win-win for customers in our opinion,” said Barczak.  SACE said in a recent statement that the proposed agreement seems to be a case a case of regulatory amnesia.

A Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins told us “the settlement agreement under consideration fairly balances the company’s contribution with customer benefits and delivers approximately $325 million dollars in savings to customers during the construction period while keeping the project’s overall rate impact to customers at 6 to 8 percent.”

For additional information filed by Georgia Power along with other material being considered by the PSC click here

ENENews: Officials now say Fukushima reactor with MOX fuel “leaked directly from containment”


Officials now say Fukushima reactor with MOX fuel “leaked directly from containment” — TV: Contamination of environment was due to “failure of vessel” — Experts: This has caused additional worries because MOX is more “radioactively aggressive” due to plutonium content (VIDEO)

Published: December 18th, 2015 at 7:03 pm ET
By ENENews
http://enenews.com/officials-fukushima-reactor-mox-fuel-leaked-directly-containment-vessel-tv-radioactive-contamination-environment-caused-failure-vessel-experts-caused-additional-worries-tepco-govt-because-mox-ra

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20151217_27.html
NHK, Dec 17, 2015 (emphasis added): [TEPCO] says radioactive fallout that polluted the environment in mid-March of 2011 was likely caused by a leak directly from a containment vessel of the facility’s No.3 reactor. Officials… on Thursday reported their latest findings on what happened at the plant… They concluded that radioactive contamination of the environment between the night of March 14th and the 16th was likely caused not by the vent operations but failure of the vessel. They said the vessel likely lost airtightness due to heat from nuclear fuel, leading to the direct release of radioactive substances into the environment.


NHK transcript, Dec 17, 2015: [TEPCO] said the substances in one of the reactors probably leaked directly from the containment vessel… They suspect the heat of fuel caused the containment vessel to lose airtightness.

http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1264512_6844.html
TEPCO, Dec 17, 2015: A significant release of steam from the night of March 14 to March 16, 2011 is believed to have been responsible for contamination to the surrounding environment of Fukushima Daiichi. The investigation reports that the primary containment vessels in Units 2 and 3 did likely lose leakage resistant properties by March 15 and had been in a condition where radioactive materials could leak directly from them. It is therefore presumed the environmental contamination outside Fukushima Daiichi during that period was caused by steam leakage directly from the primary containment vessels and not from the vent.

http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu15_e/images/151217e0101.pdf
TEPCO, Dec 17, 2015: Leakage and release of a large amount of steam from the Unit 3 Reactor Building — The PCVs of Units 2 & 3 lost the airtightness in the end, which is confirmed by the fact that steam escaped from the Reactor Buildings. Analysis of the behavior of the pressure in the PCVs and the situation at the time of the accident has revealed that the environmental contamination from the night of March 14 to March 16 occurred by steam leakage together with radioactive materials directly from the PCVs not from the vent.

https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/attach/118/118095_Q%20Series%20-%20Nuclear%20Power.pdf
UBS Investment Research (via WikiLeaks), Apr 2011: Of particular concern was Unit 3, because, since September 2010, the plant had been fueled with mixed oxide, or MOx… Use of MOx heightened fuel risk — Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 was fuelled with mixed oxide (MOx), which is about 93% uranium and 7% plutonium. This has caused additional worries for TEPCO and the government, because MOx is more radioactively aggressive. We think national nuclear safety reviews might consider restrictions on its use.

Watch NHK’s broadcast here

DeKalb County Halts Corruption Investigation!

As DeKalb investigators turned up the heat, top officials resisted

Posted: 4:40 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015

By Alan JuddMark Niesse and Johnny Edwards – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mike Bowers glared into the television cameras, cast again in a familiar role: Georgia’s preeminent corruption-buster.

“We’re going to root out conflicts of interest, corruption, malfeasance and misfeasance,” Bowers said, his index finger wagging, “so help me God.”

Thus began an investigation of unprecedented scope into alleged corruption in DeKalb County, the state’s fourth most-populous county and, arguably, its leading producer of government fraud, waste and graft. Bowers, a former state attorney general, and investigator Richard Hyde would have broad authority to identify DeKalb’s miscreants and bring them to justice.

But their efforts were repeatedly undermined by top county officials, some of whom had come under scrutiny themselves, an examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. The officials declared some targets off limits, refused to answer questions or provide documents, called in other investigators to supplant Bowers and Hyde, and finally cut the investigation out of the county budget.

Now, after a contentious week in which the investigators described DeKalb as “rotten to the core” and county officials accused Bowers and Hyde of padding their bills through an unending inquisition, the investigation seems on the verge of a spectacular implosion. Lee May, the county’s interim CEO, ordered a final report by Aug. 26 — and nothing else. May hired the investigators in March but soon came under suspicion over a check written to him by a county vendor.

Bowers and Hyde came to this investigation after helping expose the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, the largest in U.S. history. In DeKalb, though, they encountered immutable resistance and hostility, even as officials promised to fracture the county’s culture of corruption.

A simmering mutual distrust erupted Tuesday. Bowers went to a county commission meeting, intending to present an update on the investigation. But he quickly left, obviously angry, when he learned he wouldn’t be allowed to speak. Bowers’ presentation would have overshadowed a vote on a high-profile project: incentives worth $12 million for billionaire Arthur Blank’s organization to build a practice complex for Atlanta’s new Major League Soccer team.

A day later, Bowers and Hyde sent May a 2 1/2-page letter that broadly described their findings so far: runaway spending on items “from petty to the absurd,” an alleged bribery scheme, a cover-up of the theft of county property. They labeled the letter “investigative update,” but it read more like an indictment.

“We have been around government employees and elected officials for over 40 years,” they wrote. “We have investigated and prosecuted public officials and others, often at the highest levels of government in our state. The DeKalb County government we have found is rotten to the core. The misconduct starts at the top and has infected nearly every department we have looked at.”

May responded with a letter blasting the investigators’ “tone” and challenging their veracity, saying they had unleashed “generalized personal attacks on the entire county workforce.” If their final report follows the same theme, he said, Bowers’ law firm, Balch & Bingham, will bear “legal responsibility for all of your actions.”

By the end of the week, Bowers and Hyde were not speaking publicly. Through a spokeswoman, May declined to be interviewed.

County commissioners complained in interviews of investigation-fatigue. Years of corruption prosecutions have landed several officials, most notably CEOBurrell Ellis and former CommissionerElaine Boyer, in prison. Four separate entities – the special investigators, the FBI, the district attorney’s office and the county’s Board of Ethics – had open inquiries. Several commissioners applauded May’s effort to rein in Bowers and Hyde.

But Commissioner Nancy Jester, who represents north DeKalb, said May created the monster he now wants to slay.

“What did he think was going to happen when he said, ‘Investigate us from top to bottom?’” Jester said. “I think the investigation is too close to something, something that he’s uncomfortable with.”

‘No prisoners’

A brief history of scandal in DeKalb County in the 21st century:

A newly elected sheriff was assassinated in 2000, on orders of the corrupt incumbent he had unseated.

A kickbacks-for-contracts scheme flourished, according to a grand jury, while Vernon Jones was the county’s CEO from 2001 through 2008.

In 2013, a school-construction scandal ended with a guilty plea from a former school superintendent, Crawford Lewis, and prison terms for his chief operating officer and her former husband.

And so far this year, both Boyer and Ellis have entered prison, the FBI has continued looking into payoffs, and county prosecutors have pored over a grand jury report outlining corruption schemes big and small.

It was in this image-tainting environment that May, appointed interim CEO after Ellis’ indictment in 2013, decided to authorize anindependent investigation. Appearing at a news conference with Bowers on March 18, he seemed to fully appreciate the upheaval that could result.

“He’s a man that takes no prisoners and will do what it takes to preserve the public’s confidence and integrity in our government,” May said.

He added: “I think Mike could throw me in jail if he thinks I’m doing something wrong. This administration is willing to take on an endeavor that could possibly go even to my office, and I’m fine with that.”

In fact, the investigators soon began looking into allegations involving May.

The Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News reported that May received a $4,000 check from a company the county hired to clean up damage from a sewer-line backup at his home. Five months later, the county awarded the company a $300,000 contract. May has said he never received the check or its proceeds.

But on April 15, according to documents obtained by the Journal-Constitution and Channel 2, an investigator met with a source “regarding knowledge of construction and restoration services … relating to a flood at the home of Lee May.”

Twelve days later, Hyde also interviewed a witness about the same work, the documents indicate. It is not clear whether both interviews were with the same person.

By the end of April, the documents show, the investigators had gathered information from at least 12 confidential informants. This led them to examine several large county contracts, including ones for mobile communications, for garbage receptacles provided to residences, and for the purchase of motor vehicles. The investigators showed special interest in three county agencies: the sanitation, watershed and fleet management departments.

They also began investigating allegations of a bribe paid to a specific county official, identified in documents only as “#5.”

Within weeks, according to bills submitted to the county, the investigators compiled an astonishing amount of documentation. By April 20, material provided by 10 confidential informants filled three binders, each with 1,200 pages.

As eager as whistleblowers were to talk, though, high-ranking DeKalb officials wanted nothing to do with the investigation.

‘We’re not hiding’

On July 28, Bowers had a letter hand-delivered to Robert James, DeKalb’s district attorney. It was a request under Georgia’s Open Records Act to obtain public documents showing how James and 12 of his current or former employees had used their county-issued purchasing cards. The request – one that any citizen could make – seemed straightforward. But not to James.

The district attorney already viewed the special investigators’ work as a waste of taxpayers’ money – especially when his Public Integrity Unit needed more funding to clear a backlog of corruption cases. Two years ago, a special grand jury recommended criminal investigations of a dozen officials and contractors; so far, James’ office has tried only Ellis.

So James balked. He didn’t make the requested documents available within three days, as state law requires, and did not communicate with Bowers. Instead, he complained directly to May.

In interviews last week, James said the CEO told him he didn’t have to comply with Bowers’ request because May’s executive order authorizing the investigation did not cover the district attorney’s office. May followed up with a letter on July 31.

“Dear Robert,” it began. “I would like to sincerely apologize for the recent letter you received from the special investigators regarding the open records request. I will be reaching out to the special investigators to inform them that this action is beyond the scope of the executive order.”

While the executive order didn’t specify the district attorney’s office for investigation, it didn’t exclude it, either. And it was Bowers, not May, who requested the documents. Bowers and Hyde told the county commission last week that department heads who ignored open records requests “today are in violation of state law.”

James bristled at that suggestion.

“Mr. Bowers works for the CEO’s office, correct?” he said Friday. “And Mr. Bowers is asking on behalf of the CEO’s office, correct? … Mr. Bowers is the agent of the CEO’s office. When the person that has the authority tells us that he is rescinding the order, and then he sends out a letter saying it’s beyond the scope, I haven’t violated any laws.”

For the sake of what he called “transparency,” James sent the material Bowers requested to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation – which had not asked for the documents and apparently was not looking into DeKalb’s county government.

“If I’m going to give that information over, I’m going to give it over to the appropriate authorities and not a paid consultant,” James said. “We’re not hiding anything. I’m just not going to participate in an investigation I don’t agree with.”

The GBI has opened a preliminary inquiry at James’ request, said Sherry Lang, a spokeswoman for the agency.

So now five investigations are underway.

Picayune focus

When they began work in DeKalb, Bowers and Hyde were fresh off their house-cleaning investigation of the Atlanta schools. Their work in Atlanta provided a foundation for a criminal case that ended with guilty verdicts for 11 former educators and guilty pleas from 21 others.

But in Atlanta, they had subpoena power to compel witnesses to give statements under oath. They had dozens of GBI agents at their disposal to interview teachers and principals across the city. And they had an unwavering commitment from the man who commissioned their inquiry: then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

In DeKalb, May set the parameters for their work. That created complications the investigators would have faced in Atlanta only if they had been appointed by the school superintendent, Beverly Hall, who was later charged with racketeering for her role in the cheating scandal.

“Lee wanted to sort of make it feel like what happened at APS, because that was the beginning of the cleanup at APS,” DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader of west-central DeKalb said. “But the circumstances are different and, moreover, Lee was apparently exerting some discretionary authority over what (Bowers) was investigating. That’s not what the governor did.”

So even though Bowers and Hyde made what seemed to be a pointed reference to May in their letter to the commission – “the misconduct starts at the top” – the CEO and his allies focused on the more picayune misdeeds the investigators cited.

The letter said officials used purchasing cards to buy a Christmas tree, to pay an entertainer, to cover a cruise to the Bahamas. But May and commissioners shot back with explanations: the tree may have been a lobby decoration for a county building, the entertainer performed at an official gathering, the cruise was a customer-service award for a county employee.

“I would have expected more professionalism,” Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson of southeast DeKalb said of the investigators’ letter. “If there’s any wrongdoing (Bowers has) found, I’d like to see it in the report and given to the appropriate authorities. But to indict an entire county as rotten to the core, I feel that’s a little irresponsible.”

Complaints also mounted about the investigation’s cost. Through June, Bowers’ law firm had charged the county $673,504, based on hourly rates as high as $400.

So far, the county has paid less than half the firm’s bill – a fact that May suggested could have motivated the investigators’ inflammatory letter to the commission.

But Viola Davis, a citizen watchdog who leads the DeKalb Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter group, said she had received tips from county employees about matters similar to those cited in the investigators’ letter.

“To tell you the truth,” Davis said, “a lot of this stuff needs to be handled by the FBI, because it’s so easy to come up with excuses and try to cover it up.”


There’s No Place Like Home (sarcasm supplied, mine)

UPDATES: Arrests Made Following SWAT Standoff in Stone Mountain: Police
The standoff began when a suspect pulled a gun on police, officials told reporters.
By Justin Ove (Patch Staff)
February 27, 2015 at 1:29am

UPDATES: Arrests Made Following SWAT Standoff in Stone Mountain: Police
UPDATE (3:30 a.m.): DeKalb County police have made arrests following the end of a SWAT situation in Stone Mountain which began late Thursday night.

Police told 11 Alive News that, “they were investigating SWAT suspect when he pulled gun on them.” No officers were hurt, and crime scene tape is being deployed in the area.

FOX 5 Atlanta reports that three people have been taken into custody at the Park at Hairston complex. Police to 11 Alive News that the situation was sparked when a suspect pulled a gun on investigators. No officers were injured.

According to 11 Alive News, the standoff at the Park at Hairston complex began at approximately 10 p.m. Thursday, with SWAT units arriving some 40 minutes later. An 11 Alive photojournalist has reported seeing the robot, the tanker, and a heavy police presence in the area. It is not currently know what threat the officers are responding to.

ORIGINAL STORY (11:16 p.m.): A SWAT team has been dispatched to Stone Mountain in response to a situation developing there.
According to CBS Atlanta, the team was dispatched to a location near the intersection of South Hairston and Redan roads just before 9:30 p.m.

UPDATE (11:32 p.m.): DeKalb County SWAT personnel are at a Stone Mountain apartment complex alongside with a bomb squad robot, an armored vehicle, and other law enforcement personnel.

UPDATE (11:47 p.m.): DeKalb County police are releasing a few more details about the developing SWAT situation in Stone Mountain.

.

Please stay with Patch as further developments come to light.

Don’t Get Oil Changed At Quick Oil Change Shops In Georgia!

ATLANTA (CBS46) –

Dishonest – that’s how insiders described the practices beyond the bay doors of many Atlanta area Havoline Xpress Lube shops.

MORE

“(Mechanic were) not changing oil or only changing oil, not the filter. Services such as a radiator flush, they wouldn’t do it. They would sell it, but not actually do the service,” explained an insider.

In Douglasville, CBS46’s hidden cameras caught the action as our car rolled in for an oil change costing $32.83. Underneath the car, our cameras show there was no mechanic, meaning no work was ever done to drain the oil or change the oil filter.

When the manager was confronted about how his mechanic could justify pretending to put oil in our car, he pointed us to his district manager.

In Smyrna, they drained oil but never added any, but charged us full price. The manager in Smyrna never would come out of the shop to talk with us. When the district manager arrived, we showed him our video of how two of his shops charged us, but didn’t change our oil.

“What do you think about the practices you’re seeing in some of your shops?” we questioned. “I think it’s egregious. I think it’s terrible and I’m not glad to see it, but I’m glad I can see it now so, I can fix the problem,” said Luke Cutlip, of Havoline Xpress Lube.

His fix? The managers in Smyrna and Douglasville plus two other employees are fired. Havoline Xpress Lube has an integrity agreement employees must sign weekly.

They’re supposed to notify supervisors or people above if they see any problems and so that we can fix these problems so we don’t have this,” said Cutlip.

Whistleblowers claimed they tried, but their honesty was ignored. In fact, insiders say deceptive practices were encouraged by supervisors.

“One of my bosses had said, ‘Oh, charge him $50 for that’ and I was like I’m not going to charge him $50 for a free service and I was sent home for the day,” said one whistleblower.

Whistleblowers claim the fraud went as far as code words for the deceptive practices.

“Whoever was up on top, working the hood, would give you a code word, the code word could be anything,” said a whistleblower.

“‘Clear to point’ would be one of them, and that would be they change the filter but didn’t drain the oil,” said another whistleblower.

When we question what would motivate employees to deceive customers, management’s response was this, “It has to be sheer laziness. There is no benefit to not changing oil – zero. We budget to change oil. The fact that they’re not is just absurd,” said Cutlip.

Industry markup numbers CBS46 found dispute that. Not changing the oil or filter could double a company’s profit.

“It’s wrong to take somebody’s money, for what? So they could put more back in their pocket,” said a whistleblower.

So where does this leave Havoline Xpress Lube customers who likely don’t have hidden cameras but get the same treatment?

“I would say, I apologize if they feel that way but, we will fix it and we will be better than ever,” said Cutlip.

If you think you’ve been victimized or ripped off by this company we want to hear from you. Email Jennifer Emert to tell her about your experience was so we can investigate.

Copyright 2014 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

DeKalb Commission remains 2 representatives down

 By Mark Niesse

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/dekalb-commission-remains-2-representatives-down/ng82P/

Photo: DeKalb Commission nominee George Turner photo
George Turner, nominee for DeKalb District 5 Commissioner

The DeKalb County Commission’s five remaining members delayed a vote Tuesday to select a temporary commissioner, leaving the body with five of seven seats filled.

The Commission had been scheduled to vote on the appointment of George Turner, an involved member of the southeast DeKalb community, to fill the seat previously held by Interim CEO Lee May, representing about 140,000 residents. But Commissioner Stan Watson made a motion to hold the vote next month, and it passed unanimously without debate.

The other vacant seat belonged to former Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who resigned Monday. Her north DeKalb seat will be filled in a special election.

The southeast DeKalb district seat hasn’t been filled for more than a year since May became the county’s chief executive when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to replace suspended CEO Burrell Ellis, who is scheduled to go on trial next month.

Ellis faces charges that he pressured and threatened county contractors for campaign contributions.

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Updated: 4:13 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014 | Posted: 10:11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014

DeKalb Commissioner Boyer could serve prison time

By Johnny Edwards and Mark Niesse

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local-govt-politics/criminal-charges-filed-against-former-dekalb-commi/ng82z/