DeKalb County

Dario Lopez-Mills / associated press file

Lawyers for a group of people suing DeKalb County over its old court system are seeking class-action status, saying the court could have potentially mishandled thousands of other traffic cases.  

The lawsuit, which includes 17 plaintiffs, alleges DeKalb County’s Recorders Court reported mistakes about people’s traffic cases to the state Department of Driver Services. That led, the suit says, to the wrongful suspension of people’s driver’s licenses or the failure to reinstate a license.

Jim Burress / WABE

This week, the Georgia Department of Transportation is beginning to add lanes on Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County.

It's the latest in an effort to add toll lanes to the busiest interstates in metro Atlanta.

GDOT is adding 10 more miles of toll lanes northbound and southbound between Old Peachtree and Hamilton Mill roads on Interstate 85. It would be an extension of the 16 miles of toll lanes on I-85 that stretch from Chamblee-Tucker Road in DeKalb County up to Old Peachtree Road in Gwinnett County.

WhosThisValGirl / flickr.com/whosthisvalgirl

DeKalb County admitted this week that it failed to report a number of sewage issues over the last four years, including 35 spills that reached the region's waterways. The county is required to report such issues to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency according to a 2010 federal court order.

Findings from an internal investigation submitted to the EPA show county employees sometimes didn't record a spill or overflow if they didn't witness it themselves. They also didn't report many cases where sewage simply flooded an area or building.

McAfee Rd passes over the Buena Vista Lake Dam in Decatur (Dekalb County).
Alison Guillory / WABE

Hundreds of miles of roads in DeKalb County will have to wait on special funds for resurfacing until state lawmakers can change a wording error in state law.

DeKalb County Commissioners voted this week against putting a special penny sales tax on November’s ballot because if the tax was approved, it would trigger an end to some property tax breaks for homeowners because of how one two-page state bill had been written. 

Voters cast ballots in Georgia's primary election at a polling site in a firehouse Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Early voting continues this week in the race for DeKalb County's District 4 Commission seat.

Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton faces challenger Steve Bradshaw in what both candidates said has been a very negative and divisive race.

Analysts say interest in the race could mean a slightly higher than usual voter turn-out in a mid-summer runoff election.

Barnes Sutton has mailed out flyers saying Bradshaw is not a true Democrat. Both candidates are African-American. Included on the Barnes-Sutton flyer is a photo of Bradshaw with his wife, who is white.

Embattled DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis is led out of the courtroom after he was sentenced to 5 years to serve 18 months in prison Wednesday July 8, 2015.
Kent D. Johnson / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

The Supreme Court of Georgia is set to hear an appeal this Monday from DeKalb County's former chief executive officer.

Lawyers for Burrell Ellis say the justices should reverse his convictions because of errors during his trial. Ellis is convicted of perjury and an attempt to commit theft by extortion for pressuring a county contractor to donate to his campaign.

The justices will hear a long list of cases over the next two weeks.

Faisal Quyyumi / WABE

This summer, a converted school bus is making stops in low-income communities in DeKalb County to sell fresh produce. It's a program that's been up and running for two years from the county government and the University of Georgia Extension in DeKalb.           

Edda Cotto-Rivera, who was staffing the bus on Friday, said it's not only about food, it's also about education.

DeKalb County Police Department / Associated Press

A former DeKalb County police officer indicted for killing an unarmed black man is scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon.

Robert Olsen faces two counts of felony murder and two counts of violating his oath of office, among others.

He'll be formally read the charges against him in an arraignment hearing in DeKalb County Superior Court. 

Three weeks from today, on May 24, 2016, voters across the Atlanta area will decide Democratic and Republican nominees for a wide assortment of offices – including a U.S. Senate seat, all of the U.S. House seats, posts in the state legislature and many city and county positions.

Among the most closely watched local contests will be in DeKalb County, where major issues like police-community relations, transportation and the revival of economically struggling areas have been overshadowed by the county's effort to emerge from a string of ethics scandals. 

Friendship William V. Guy Tower in Atlanta
Stephanie M. Lennox / Stephanie M. Lennox

Starting in July, developers building multi-family homes in the city of Atlanta who receive public funds will have to set aside up to 15 percent of their units for affordable housing. 

Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance for more affordable housing in the city Monday night. The resolution was introduced by Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens.

DeKalb County ethics officer Stacey Kalberman, speaking with Denis O'Hayer in the WABE studios on April 26, 2016
Johnny Kauffman / WABE News

DeKalb County is trying to get past a string of ethics scandals in its government.

Suspended CEO Burrell Ellis has just finished a prison sentence on a corruption conviction, which he is still appealing; Commissioner Elaine Boyer was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison on fraud charges; and a string of other ethics lapses resulted in a report from special investigator Mike Bowers that called DeKalb's government culture "rotten to the core."

DeKalb County is set to hold the first ethics board meeting Thursday since it hired a chief ethics officer.

Stacey Kalberman, who was hired earlier this year, said her priority will be on educating county employees and leaders on ethics issues.

“I think that if you educate people on what their responsibilities are, then there is much less of a chance that somebody will do something in violation of the code. And I think that will eventually change our image,” Kalberman said.

Rica Madrid poses for a photograph as she prepares to roll a joint in her home on the first day of legal possession of marijuana for recreational purposes,
Alex Brandon / AP Photo

Gov. Nathan Deal says it is not up to the state legislature to take action on a plan in Clarkston to decriminalize marijuana.

The small DeKalb County city, led by its Democratic Mayor Ted Terry, is working on reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana there.

The move has led to legal questions over the city’s ability to go against state law, which calls for up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana.

DeKalb County prosecutors say a former metro Atlanta police officer has been sentenced on child molestation charges.

DeKalb County District Attorney's spokesman Marcus Garner said in a statement that 58-year-old Kelless Twohearts Lory was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Lory had worked as a police officer in Chamblee and for Atlanta's public transit authority. Officials say he molested a 9-year-old family member between 2011 and 2012.

Al Such / Public Broadcasting Atlanta

The name Brannon Hill Condominiums has a nice ring to it -- a name that might suggest pristine landscaping, a grilling area and maybe a playground for kids.

In fact, the development east of Interstate-285 in DeKalb County just off Memorial Drive has a play area, but it’s overgrown with weeds. 

Parts of Brannon Hill look like a landfill -- the final resting place for broken toilets, tattered sofas, busted TVs and soiled mattresses.

Parts look like the complex has just caught fire, but the bulldozers have yet to arrive to tear down the charred building's remains.

Molly Samuel / WABE

Supporters of the proposed city of Greenhaven in south DeKalb County are pressing on. A bill that would have allowed residents of the area to vote on incorporating stalled in the state legislature. But boosters say they’ll be back next year for their third attempt.

“We feel this second year, that we were denied the right to vote,” said Kathryn Rice, founder of Concerned Citizens for Cityhood of South DeKalb (CCCSD). “We don’t feel that was correct, or the right thing.”

Lisa Hagen / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

The ninth graders in Bobetta Bailey’s Wednesday health class are milling around the room reviewing facts they’ve learned about sexually transmitted infections.

One wall of the classroom is decorated with bright, colored diagrams of reproductive systems. The fact that Bailey’s class at Cross Keys High School is about more than just those diagrams is a little out of the ordinary.

Kohl's is closing three Atlanta area locations in June and November. One is an anchor tenant at Northlake Mall in North Dekalb County. The new owner of Northlake Mall says it hopes to better match tenants and amenities with the demographics of the area.
Mike Kalasnik (cropped) creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode / flickr.com/photos/10542402@N06/

The department store Kohl's announced it is closing stores in three Atlanta area locations this year: in Roswell, Lithonia and Dekalb County.

The Dekalb County Kohl's is an anchor tenant for the struggling Northlake Mall.

Some developers say the success of future malls is now less about anchor tenants and more about customer experience.

John Bazemore / Associated Press

DeKalb County’s Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander has been named one of three finalist for the Chicago Police Department's superintendent job.

The Chicago Police Board made the announcement Thursday.

Alexander declined an interview, but said in a statement he's “honored to be named as a finalist for the police superintendent of Chicago from a group of so many highly qualified law enforcement professionals.”

MARTA North Avenue station in Atlanta
Allison Guillory / WABE

With just three working days left this legislative session, a bill for funding MARTA expansion has resurfaced. 

The new measure, SB 369, would allow for a referendum in the city of Atlanta for voters to decide on a half-percent sales tax to help expand the public transit system.  

The rest of Fulton County could vote on another tax of up to three-quarters of a percent for transportation purposes, including for roads and bridges.

Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

Local No. 7, the only bar on Tucker's Main Street, was packed Tuesday night with regulars as well as politicians, business owners, families and even some uniformed boy scouts. The rest of the country might have been talking about the Super Tuesday elections, but the main topic of conversation at the center of this newly-formed city was the local election of one mayor and six city council members.

In the crowd, the candidates were almost indistinguishable from the voters. Tucker citizens from multiple generations greeted one another by name as they awaited the election results.

Dan Raby / WABE

People who tried to create the city of LaVista Hills in DeKalb County lost the vote in November, but some of them have a new idea: join an existing city.

Ben Shackleford wants to see the city of Chamblee annex parts of his neighborhood, which was in the LaVista Hills map.

The new AMI transmitter assembly will be applied to new water meters that are equipped to call in their own readings.
Dekalb County Department of Watershed Management

Over the past few years, DeKalb County residents have complained that their water bills were too high and sometimes inaccurate. The county is now installing new technology on its water meters to fix the problem.

Last fall, a Brookhaven homeowners’ association got a water bill for close to $800,000. Dekalb County later reissued the bill for the correct amount of nine dollars.

Courtesy of LifeLine Animal Project at DCAS

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners has approved a contract to build a new animal shelter. The next step: choosing to use existing funds or borrowing some additional money to pay for the facility.

"I'm expecting it to come back before the board on January 26 and if approved on that day it just requires the time it takes to get to the CEO for him to endorse it," said Antwyn Brown, the chief of staff for the DeKalb County Board.

Animal advocates have spent the past decade fighting for a new shelter.  They have taken a wait-and-see attitude about this announcement.

The Federal Trade Commission says debt collectors operating out of DeKalb County may owe $4 million in damages to consumers nationwide.

"Consumers were being told they were going to go to prison, they were going to go be arrested, that they'd be embarrassed at work by a sheriff showing up to arrest them, which is absolutely not true," said attorney Robin Rock, who filed the case for the FTC.

Starting Saturday, the new silver Breeze cards will cost two dollars. MARTA has proposed a revised fare policy that may open the door to a fare increase.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Beginning Saturday, Breeze Cards coming out of MARTA machines will be silver and not blue. And at $2, they will cost double the price. Something that may also jump in price is the cost of a ride.

MARTA held the final public meeting required to update its fare policy Thursday night at the Dekalb County government building in downtown Decatur. When this new revised fare policy is adopted, MARTA's board of directors may elect to increase fares.

Police say a Tuesday morning standoff at a motel outside Atlanta has ended with the suspect stabbing himself but no one else injured.

Authorities had surrounded the motel as the man refused to leave a room, prompting concerns about the safety of several children inside the building.

According to the DeKalb County Police Department's Twitter account, the suspect was being brought to a hospital and everyone else involved is safe.

There has been no word yet on what sparked the situation.

 

 

 

Looking Forward to 2016: DeKalb County

Dec 30, 2015
Daniel Mayer / Wikimedia Commons

The WABE news staff is looking ahead to the big stories and issues of 2016.

Closer Look producer Candace Wheeler says she is following DeKalb County government. Specifically, she is keeping an eye on "the investigation that happened, and the allegations of mismanagement of funds.”

When it comes to DeKalb, newscast editor Lisa George says there are three big letters to watch: “CEO. What happens not only with interim CEO Lee May, but that very form of [county] government.”

The chief of staff and top adviser of the DeKalb CEO is resigning after news reports that he steered a county contract to a former official who later pleaded guilty to an unrelated bribery charge.

Media outlets report Edmond Richardson, who has been on paid medical leave for nearly three months, wrote in his resignation letter to CEO Lee May that he will step down Jan. 3.

Proposed property tax rates for Dekalb County residents who live in city limits and those who don't live inside a city.
DeKalb County

Residents of DeKalb County may pay lower property tax rates next year if they live in one of the county's 11 cities. 

DeKalb County spokesman Burke Brennan said it will soon be 12 cities when DeKalb County's newest city, Tucker, forms its own government.

"This is a phenomenon with cityhood that's been going on now four years," Brennan said. "In order to equalize the different tax funds and with each new city, that changes the formula, you'll see an increase one year and a decrease the second year."

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