Former DeKalb County Zoning Board Of Appeals Member Pleads Guilty To Bribery
ATLANTA – Jeremy “Jerry” Clark, a former member of the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals, has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge. Clark accepted money in exchange for his vote allowing a business to operate as a late-night dance club.
“It took only $3,500 to subvert the purpose of this DeKalb zoning ordinance, which was to regulate the operation of late-night nightclubs,” said Acting United States Attorney John Horn. “This case demonstrates how a corrupt public official can sell out the legitimate interests of the communities and citizens he serves, solely for his own profit. DeKalb County citizens deserved better.”
J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “The guilty plea of Mr. Clark should remind those in public office of the serious consequences of succumbing to the temptations that can come their way. The FBI’s Public Corruption Program remains prepared to identify, investigate, and present for prosecution those individuals who would abdicate their integrity for personal greed.”
According to Acting United States Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: In November 2008, the DeKalb County (Georgia) Board of Commissioners passed a zoning ordinance that regulated the placement and operation of late-night establishments and nightclubs. As a general matter, the ordinance mandated that new businesses must obtain a Special Land Use Permit if they wanted to operate either as a late-night establishment or as a nightclub. The zoning ordinance provided an exception to the new rule for pre-existing late-night establishments and nightclubs, which allowed those businesses to be grandfathered in under the 2008 zoning ordinance change.
In DeKalb County, the Zoning Board of Appeals hears and decides zoning appeals when a property owner alleges that a county official committed a zoning error. From January 2009 to May 2013, Clark served as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Based on the zoning change, in September 2012, the DeKalb County Department of Planning and Sustainability issued a warning to the owner of a late-night establishment in Tucker, Ga., (“Business Owner”), advising him that the establishment could not operate as a nightclub without a Special Land Use Permit. The Business Owner responded that the establishment had operated as a nightclub prior to the 2008 zoning ordinance – and as a result, should be grandfathered in as a nightclub under the new zoning rule. Notably, almost a year earlier in November 2011, the Department of Planning and Sustainability had advised the late-night establishment in writing that it was grandfathered in only as a late-night business, could not operate as a nightclub, and could not have a dance floor.
Ultimately, the Business Owner appealed the decision to the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals. Prior to the hearing on the appeal, Clark met with the Business Owner. During those meetings, the Business Owner made it clear to Clark, that if the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the Business Owner’s request to operate as a nightclub, Clark would be rewarded. In November 2012, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the Business Owner’s request to operate as a nightclub. Clark voted in favor of the Business Owner. Thereafter, the Business Owner paid Clark approximately $2000 in cash and donated approximately $1,500 to a non-profit interest with which Clark was involved.
On February 10, 2015, Clark, 42, of Lithonia, Ga., was charged in a criminal information with one count of bribery. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 30, 2015, at 10:00 a.m., before United States District Judge Leigh Martin May.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey W. Davis is prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.