“There is corruption everywhere, but I don’t take well to the idea DeKalb is this bastion of corruption,” Johnson told members of the South DeKalb Rotary Club on Jan. 9, two days after investigators raided the home and office of DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, hunting for evidence for a special grand jury probe into the county’s Watershed Management and county contracting.
The search warrants said they are seeking information under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, extortion, bribery, theft by taking, and influence peddling laws.
Johnson, who represented District 5 on the DeKalb Board of Commissioners and served with Ellis when he was a commissioner, said he knows the people in the county and finds it difficult to believe what he is hearing.
“We should question the innuendos that are out there,” he said. “When you hear about the School Board, the Board of Commissioners and the CEO, it starts to create a bad impression that drives away economic development. If we continue on this path, people will not come, dollars will not come. In fact, dollars will fly away.”
Johnson cautioned the public to reserve judgment until all the evidence is in.
“When an accused gets a fair trial, justice has been served,” said Johnson, who was a defense attorney for 27 years before his election to the U.S. House in 2006.
“You cannot tell me this county is corrupt,” he said. “I know it, I know the people and they are not all corrupt.”
Johnson said a lot of people thought former CEO Vernon Jones was corrupt, but no charges have been filed against him and the four-year statute of limitations is up.
He said he is ready to fight for DeKalb.
“If we lose this fight, they will take away everything we’ve got. It’s not just about South DeKalb. It’s the whole of DeKalb. We are all of our brother’s keepers.”
The congressman, who began his fourth term in office this month, said that DeKalb needs to regain its perch at the top of metropolitan government.
“We have to get back to the principles of the four-way test,” said Johnson, who is a former Rotarian. “We need leadership leading with these kinds of principles.”
Rotary’s four-way test requires members of the service club to be guided by four principles in all they do: “Is it the truth?” “Is it fair to all concerned?” “Will it build goodwill and better friendship?” and “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”
“It’s up to us what kind of government we have locally and nationally,” Johnson said. “Who will put it on the line for what is right? Have we paid attention to why we are being portrayed the way we are?”