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Architect, School Chiefs Get Prison

Friday, December 13, 2013

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A Georgia school construction corruption case has ended with prison sentences for two former school district officials and an architect, according to prosecutors.

Former DeKalb County School District chief operating officer Patricia Reid, 54; her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope, 56; and former school district Superintendent Crawford Lewis were sentenced Monday (Dec. 9) at a special hearing in DeKalb County Superior Court.

Columbia High School

The case centered on renovation projects at Columbia High School (above) and the McNair Elementary School Cluster in DeKalb County, GA. The school system is the third largest in Georgia.

Authorities say Reid and Pope were convicted of redirecting more than $1.4 million in contracts to Pope’s architectural firm. A jury found the two guilty of racketeering on Nov. 22.

Reid was also convicted of an additional theft charge.

1 to 15 Years

Judge Cynthia Becker sentenced Reid to 15 years behind bars and 10 years of probation for her role in steering contracts to Pope’s firm. Pope was sentenced to eight years in prison and 12 years of probation.

Lewis was sentenced to 12 months after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge.

The three were first indicted in May 2010. The construction contracts involved were for Columbia High School and the McNair Elementary School Cluster.

The Scheme

Pope and Reid were married when Reid served as the school district’s chief operating officer. When Reid was hired to oversee construction projects at the county’s schools in 2005, Pope’s company, A. Vincent Pope Construction, had a renovation contract for Columbia High School.

At trial, prosecutors said Reid had channeled work to her husband by presenting new work at the school. Pope was alleged to have overcharged the district, local reports said.

The prosecutors also reportedly said that Pope helped a contractor and another architect adjust their proposals for renovations at the McNair Elementary School Cluster to win that contract.

However, Pope worked secretly as the architect on those renovations, reports said.

Sentencing Details

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Pope’s probation time could be decreased if he pays back $712,000 he reportedly overbilled for a renovation project.

Both could cut their sentences short on parole, but only after serving at least 80 percent of their time, the report added.

DeKalb County
DeKalb County Government

The former school officials and architect were sentenced three and a half years after they were first indicted.

The judge said she was offended that Lewis, a public official, had violated the public’s trust, according to the AJC.

Thus, she rejected a plea bargain that called for probation in lieu of jail time. Lewis’ sentence will be contested by the withdrawl of his guilty plea, which will likely force prosecutors to take his case to trial, according to the AJC, citing Lewis’ attorneys.

Sending a Message

“This sentence sends a loud message to those who seek to manipulate and steal from the citizens of DeKalb County,” DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James said in a statement.

“Reid and Pope both devised a scheme to take $1.4 million in tax dollars to line their pockets through improper and illegal means,” he said.“This is a big win for the students and families of our county.”

The DeKalb County School District is the third-largest public school district in Georgia, with more than 99,700 students enrolled in 137 schools and centers.


Tagged categories: Architects; Business matters; Construction; Criminal acts; Ethics; Government; Government contracts; Schools

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