Special election set
DeKalb County officials, stunned by Elaine Boyer’s abrupt departure from office, are now preparing for a special election that will be held in November to fill the DeKalb County’s Commission District 1 seat Boyer formerly held.
Boyer, 57, is under federal investigation for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from taxpayers—about $83,000 in mail fraud and $15,000 in wire fraud. She abruptly resigned on Aug. 25 after holding the spot as the longest-serving commissioner on the board. The 22-year veteran stunned constituents, colleagues and others as she apologized for her wrongdoing. She was in U.S. Magistrate Court in Atlanta the next day for a bond hearing, saying she will plead guilty to misusing taxpayer money. She was released on a $25,000 bond. Her attorney, Jeff Brickman, told reporters she is cooperating with investigators and will enter her guilty plea at her arraignment expected within the next 10 to 20 days.
Federal officials say Boyer devised a scheme in which she used county taxpayer dollars to pay an advisor about $83,000 for work he never did. The advisor, now believed to be Marion Rooks Boynton, allegedly gave Boyer about $60,000 in kickbacks. The false invoices were filed between Sept. 2009 and November 2011. Boyer also is accused of using her county credit card, known as a “P card,” to rack up $15,000 in personal expenses including dining out, shopping at high-end retail stores and traveling. She reimbursed the county for the expenses after the Atlanta Journal Constitution and WSB-TV launched investigations into her spending.
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said her office plans to seek jail time for Boyer. She said Boyer’s guilty plea will not wipe the slate clean.
Meanwhile, DeKalb officials say the election to replace Boyer will be held in conjunction with the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 4.
“We will begin the qualifying phase for this special election on Monday, Sept. 8 at 8:30 a.m. and will continue that phase until Wednesday, Sept. 10 at noon,” said Maxine Daniels, director of Voter Registration and Elections for DeKalb County. “Because this special election will be held in conjunction with the Nov. 4 race, all regular polling places in Commission District 1 will have the special election on their ballots.”
Daniels says residents of District 1 looking to qualify for the seat must fill out the proper paper work at the main elections office, 4380 Memorial Drive, Decatur, before the end of the qualifying period. The fee to qualify is $1,151.24.
The last day to register to be eligible to vote in the District 1 special election and General Election is Oct. 6. If a runoff is required, it will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 2.
Boyer’s seat will remain vacant until the Special Election. DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May said Boyer’s District 1 responsibilities will be divided between District 2 Commissioner Jeff Radar and District 6 Commissioner Kathie Gannon until someone is elected to fill the seat. The term for the District 1 seat expires in 2016.
May released this statement in regards to Boyer:
“Recent news stories not withstanding, Elaine Boyer has faithfully served the constituents of District 1 and DeKalb County for over 20 years. It is my sincere hope that her resignation will allow the healing process to begin and open the door for a new voice on the Board of Commissioners I wish her the best,” May said.
May has since revamped the county’s credit card polices. County officials will host annual training on what is permitted and what is not in relation to the credit cards. May also moved the oversight of the credit cards from DeKalb’s purchasing department to the finance department, which controls the county budget because “they have the unique ability to cut off money.” May also is now requiring annual audits on all spending of county credit cards.
At the Aug. 25 DeKalb Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Commissioner Kathie Gannon acknowledged Boyer’s absence.
“We need to figure out this board, where we’re going and how we can get here. We are struggling with teamwork. I appreciate that Commissioner Boyer stepped up and stepped down. It was the right thing to do,” said Gannon. “I think there are probably more problems to come, but we must try to continue to maintain, keeping our focus on what’s best for DeKalb County.”
Joe Arrington, an outspoken community activist, commended Boyer for taking responsibility for her actions.
“Today, I wanted to come out to recognize and give appreciation to the service Mrs. Boyer has done. She was re-elected six times for a reason,” said Arrington. “Mrs. Boyer stepping forward and doing the right thing, I interpret that as a major step in reform that has been long overdue in this county.”
Other residents like Faye Coffield weren’t so pleased with Boyer’s admission of guilt.
“I’ve been living here and paying taxes in DeKalb for 35 years. Is this what I am paying for? For Elaine Boyer to take her family on trips across the country and to the finest restaurants money can buy? I’m ashamed of this Ethics Board. They need a backbone. They should have already found out this information before the federal level came in,” said Coffield to the B.O.C.
Community activist Viola Davis said DeKalb taxpayers deserve leadership that is ethical, transparent and accountable to the people.
“We deserve leadership with integrity. It’s very unfortunate that the behavior of certain DeKalb County officials has to be brought to the Board of Ethics for accountability,” said Davis. “With Elaine Boyer resigning from office, she has moved DeKalb County forward in the right direction.”