Sunday, May 12, 2013

Corruption Probe Could Delay $1.35 Billion Georgia Sewer Construction Project

Water and sewer projects in DeKalb County, Georgia worth a total of more than $1.3 billion could be delayed by execution of search warrants in an ongoing probe of fraud, bribery and bid-rigging in the award of public contracts by the county. One of the finalists for a construction management contract to oversee $800 million worth of the work - Colorado based MWH Americas - was mentioned by name in search warrants executed at the homes of DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis and Ellis' former campaign manager Kevin Ross. MWH received the top score among finalists for technical expertise, but county staff recommended awarding the contract to low bidder DeKalb Warer Partners. 

County commissioners last week decided to rebid the construction management rather than risk an award to a company involved in the bid-rigging grand jury investigation. Despite the fact that delays in completing the project imperil federal grants for partial funding of the work, county commissioners want to avoid any appearance that taxpayer funds are going into the coffers of corrupt bidders and county officials. Lee May, presiding officer of the DeKalb County Commission, said, "If we are protecting taxpayers, we have to err on the side of caution."

Ellis and Ross have petitioned the court to unseal a secret grand jury report so they can determine whether they are targets of the corruption probe. 

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