Former DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Crawford Lewis says there are no witnesses and no evidence backing up accusations that he steered school construction work to cronies, according to a motion for summary judgment in civil litigation.
The motion filed Monday asked a judge to throw out the lawsuit against him by the school district’s former project management company, Heery International.
“Discovery over the course of almost six years has failed to reveal any evidence to substantiate Plaintiff’s claims against Crawford Lewis,” said the motion by his attorney, Judy Aust of Goodman McGuffey Lindsey & Johnson.
Similar allegations of corruption form the basis of criminal charges against Lewis, former DeKalb County School District Chief Operating Officer Pat Pope (who now goes by Pat Reid) and her ex-husband, architect Tony Pope.
None of Heery’s employees has testified knowing that Lewis engaged in pay-to-play schemes or tried to move contracts from Heery to friends, family or political allies, according to the motion. Those employees include Heery’s project managers, a company vice president and the company’s CEO.
The CEO, James Moynihan, testified that he had a “gut feel” that DeKalb school officials engaged in improper behavior, but he had no direct evidence of bribery, kickbacks or bid rigging, the motion said.
Heery has until Jan. 28 to respond to Lewis’ request for summary judgment. Stanley Birch Jr., a former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit who is a special master on the case, has scheduled hearings on motions for summary judgment to begin Feb. 19, said Heery spokesman David Rubinger. He declined to comment on Lewis’ motion.
Lewis’ criminal trial is set to begin April 15, and the civil case is scheduled for April 29.
Heery and its joint venture partner, E.R. Mitchell & Co., worked on 298 school projects worth $679 million from 1997 to 2006, when the school district suspended Heery/Mitchell.
Heery sued the DeKalb school system Feb. 20, 2007, over its termination earlier that month, seeking $1.5 million. The school system countersued a month later, eventually claiming that it was owed $120 million.
Heery filed its own motions for summary judgment Monday against the school district’s counterclaims alleging fraudulent billing and mismanagement of school renovation and building projects.
Heery said in its motion that its occasional practice of moving billings from one project to another wasn’t wrongfully done and the overall school building project, which was funded by a 1 percent sale tax, was close to its budget.
“Because the School District was well aware of Heery/Mitchell’s reallocation of time and ultimately abandoned project-based billing altogether, it cannot, as a matter of law, prove that any failure by Heery/Mitchell to adhere to project-based billing was material,” said the motion for Heery, signed by one of its attorneys, Paul Monnin of DLA Piper.
The litigation revolves around the dispute over whether the school district fired Heery/Mitchell because it was displeased with the company’s work or because its leaders were trying to advance a scheme for personal profit.
Lewis’ motion said the school district was concerned about Heery’s management of construction projects before he was appointed as superintendent Oct. 9, 2004.
Heery had multiple billing discrepancies, improperly allocated time across bills for multiple projects and submitted time sheets that were inaccurate, according to the motion. A June 29, 2005, report by construction lawyer Albert Phillips to Lewis said Heery/Mitchell failed to timely inform the school board of a contractor’s claim, approved change orders without imposing damages on contractors for project delays, mismanaged files and had a sloppy and unprofessional approach.
But Heery has said it performed quality work, and the school district’s senior leadership launched a plan shortly after Lewis became superintendent to force the company out, according to the company’s Second Amended Complaint filed in October 2010.
Since the litigation was first filed in 2007, Ault said the plaintiffs haven’t been able to show evidence of corruption by Lewis.
“Nobody has materialized with that statement. There’s nobody out there,” Ault said in an interview.
Prosecutors argue in court filings that Lewis put Reid in a position to steer millions of dollars in construction work to her husband’s firm, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this week. Prosecutors claim Lewis signed off on documents directing the work to Pope even though one of the conditions of Reid’s employment was that Pope’s firm wouldn’t get additional work, the newspaper said.
Reid also sought summary judgment Monday, calling the plaintiffs complaint “a marvelous tale of pay-to-play and conspiracy.”
“The record is clear that the decision to remove Heery/Mitchell was made and set in motion before Ms. Reid was hired,” said Reid’s motion, signed by attorney Chaunda Brock.
The civil case is Heery v. DeKalb County School District, No. 07CV2532. The criminal case is State v. Lewis, No. 12CR3033.