Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in The District, an exclusive publication for Decaturish.com subscribers offering a behind-the-scenes look at our reporting on DeKalb County schools. To become a paid subscriber, visit supportmylocalnews.com
DeKalb County, Georgia — Decaturish reports revealed that three members of the DeKalb school board have not filed their personal financial statements in years, and a fourth member failed to file their statement last year.
Personal financial disclosures list the source of an elected official’s sources of income, their partner’s income, properties they own, investments they have, and any “fiduciary position” in a business entity, including organizations non-profit. Georgia’s elected officials are required to file them each year of their term.
The current voting bloc that drives key District decisions – Board Chair Vickie Turner, Vice President Diijon DaCosta, Dr. Joyce Morley and Anna Hill – were not up to date on their PFD fills when Decaturish started looking for them. (These forms can be accessed by clicking here.) As a result of our investigations, Turner filed five years of reports on May 3 and DaCosta filed this year’s PFD on May 5. Prior to that, the last PFD he filed was in 2017. and Turner omitted information about the nonprofit entities they are involved with, and Turner did not list a property she co-owns with. her husband, Stonecrest Councilor Rob Turner.
Hill took office in 2021 and did not drop his PFD that year, records show. Morley took office in 2013 and only filed a PFD once, in 2018, records show.
The four board members were behind the recent firing of Superintendent Cheryl Watson Harris. Board members could face thousands of dollars in fines for not completing their financial disclosure forms, a sum they would have to pay personally according to state law.
DaCosta and Turner did not return messages seeking comment on this story, including messages about whether their recent filings were due to questions from Decaturish.com. Other board members did not respond to a message about whether they intended to file their personal financial disclosures late.
Professor Usha Rackliffe teaches financial reporting at Goizueta Business School and said filing financial statements is expected of every elected official.
“People in public space have an interest in the public knowing who they are and what they are dealing with,” Rackliffe said. “They tend to be open about these things. It’s the wait. »
William Perry, a local ethics watchdog, said: ‘Generally not filing is a huge red flag for me, because the thought that goes through most people’s minds is: ‘ What are they hiding? “”
Perry said ignorance of the law is no excuse.
“It is impossible, when you are running for public office or if you are holding elected office, not to know that you must file these documents and disclose your finances, so those who do not do so are knowingly irresponsible, or they pretend they didn’t know or forgot, so they don’t take their job as a candidate or a public servant very seriously,” Perry said. “They owe it to voters to be transparent and to disclose their finances in a timely manner. , so that the public has confidence that they are not making decisions or voting in the interest of their personal or business interests.”
Rackliffe said the failure to file the reports is “concerning”.
“It’s really about letting the public be aware of your involvement in activities that could potentially affect the decisions you might make and what you might do as a member of the board,” said the Professor Rackcliffe.
In their most recent personal financial disclosures, Turner and DaCosta list their occupations as a member of the BOE – School board members earn $23,400 per year, which includes a transportation allowance of $5,400 per year. DaCosta also announced a stake in a company called DII Solutions LLC, which specializes in marketing and graphics.
In her form, Turner, who took office in 2014, does not list the home she co-owns with her husband, Stonecrest Councilor Rob Turner. Councilman Turner’s forms were not listed on the county’s campaign finance portal, indicating that they were unfiled.
The Turners created a non-profit entity called DeKalb Cultural Exchange 21st Century Career Training Institute. It is an official 501-c-3 organization established in 2020. Its tax filings are meant to be public, but recent filings were not available on websites that track nonprofits, including including Guidestar.org. Vicki Turner is listed as the organization’s secretary and her husband as the CEO and founder. This non-profit organization is not listed in his latest personal financial statement.
According to its mission statement, the DeKalb Cultural Exchange exists: “To create a culture of collaboration by sharing information that will strengthen our community, city, county, state and country.” – An informed people is an empowered people. The DeKalb Cultural Exchange hosted community breakfasts that attracted local politicians and has also hosted policy forums. One of the organization’s virtual events in 2020 featured Watson-Harris.
The organization also participated in a backpack distribution. According to social media posts, the organization began hosting events as early as 2017, but was officially incorporated in 2020 according to the IRS and Georgia’s Secretary of State.
In the past, the DeKalb County School District has promoted the DeKalb Culture Exchange Organization through its official social media channels.
The physical address of the DeKalb Cultural Exchange is on Evans Mill Road. Decaturish visited the scene on May 5 and discovered it was a rented mailbox in a mall. Vickie Turner is listed as association secretary.
DaCosta’s disclosure form filed May 5 does not list a nonprofit entity he created in 2014: the DeKalb Kids Project. DaCosta took office in 2018. Decaturish was able to find a tax return for the group, from 2015. Over the next few years, the group filed an email postcard, stating that they received less than 50,000 $ in donations each year.
The 2015 990 shows that the organization brought in $1,778 the previous year, mostly from contributions, and had $1,313 in expenses. In that filing, DaCosta said he worked 35 hours a week for the organization with no pay to report.
The association’s website is no longer active, but according to its Twitter, “Our goal is to support every child we come in contact with, equipping them with the necessary tools and products they need to succeed.” The group’s Instagram page shows that the group has organized beautification projects, a food drive and a backpack, among other community projects.
Like Turner’s nonprofit, a social media account associated with the DeKalb County School District promoted DaCosta’s organization while he was a DeKalb school board member.
The personal financial disclosure forms make it clear that being an officer of a nonprofit organization is information that should be listed on the forms as a fiduciary position.
“A fiduciary position is any position imposing a duty to act primarily for the benefit of others as an officer, director, director, partner, guardian, or other designations of general responsibility of a business entity,” the disclosure form reads. personal finance. “A fiduciary position can be a paid or unpaid position. A business entity is a corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company, limited liability partnership, professional corporation, firm, franchise, association, trust, a joint venture or any other entity, for-profit or not-for-profit.
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