court-updates.jpg.gallery.jpg

#DallemandBriberyCase Daily Updates

Check back here for regular updates on the alleged #DallemandBriberyScheme trial.

Day 1

Monday, September 24, 2018

·    Day ran from 9am to after 6pm.  The Jury Pool was over 100 citizens from the Middle District. 

·     Jury was finally selected. 

·     Opening Statements begin at 8am at the Judge William A. Bootle Federal Courthouse on Mulberry Street. Judge Treadwell did a combo deal on the suits so expect to hear at least 5-6 Opening Statements ranging from 45 minutes to an hour long.

·     Local Media trying its best to make an almost decade old story relevant. 

·     The Witness List read like a "Who's Who in Macon-Bibb County".

Day 2

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Opening statements began today from the following:

·     Elizabeth Howard, Assistant US Attorney, spoke for​ an hour trying to build a case for a "web of deceit" around Dallemand (who is a state's witness), Whitby, Knowles, Mercer University's Macon Promise Neighborhood, the Promise Center etc.  

·     Nick Lotito, Defense Attorney for Cliffard Whitby made his opening statement an introduction into a "whoppers of inconsistencies arguments" and topped it off with letting the jury know how the star witness of the government is "liar, thief, and common con man".  Lotito didn't hold back on the indignance the community should feel to have Cliffard Whitby, a well-known community leader and philanthropist, on trial.   Seth Kirschenbaum represents Positiventures LLC an entity founded by Cliffard Whitby.  Kirschenbaum is a noted legal eagle and scholar; his skill set was on full display.  Not only did he beg the jury not to drink the "Dallemand Kool-Aid" but he asserted that the US Gov't was intoxicated by it--he told the jurors to choose sweet tea instead.  He masterfully outlined how effective Positiventures LLC has been in community initiatives.  He also told Cliffard Whitby's life story of growing up in Unionville/Tindall Heights and his incredible success in life.  He spoke of his character being unquestioned until this point and given his many years of construction work had never been sued by a client.  Steve LeBreola represents PICD and he executed an opening statement for the history books.  He tore through the government’s case and promised to deliver evidence to fully exonerate his client. 

·     Attorneys for Harold Knowles also made opening statements.  Harold Knowles is a Civil Rights Legend in Tallahassee, FL with an impeccable business record and philanthropic reputation as well. 

·     ****Interesting Note****:  One familiar name came up a great deal and will continue to come up as the case progresses, Kevin Brown, Esq., Partner at the prestigious firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Bond Attorney. He is also the General Counsel for the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority but his role in this case will become interesting as he was the attorney who setup many of these LLCs, legal processes, leases etc. even setup Dallemand's LLC also known as Belle Hannes.  (Expect to hear that name a great deal.)

·     Dr. Peter Brown, yes THAT PETER BROWN, retired professor, provost, and community development thought leader of Mercer University.  He was a founder, champion, and advocate of the Mercer University Macon Children's Promise Neighborhood initiative.  He spoke about the schools in the zone Ingram-Pye, Hartley, Ballard Hudson Middle, and Southwest High School from the Unionville/Tindall Heights target area.  With accuracy and clarity, he explained the grant writing process, how the initiative was founded, and how it connected to the Bib School System.  He was a witness for the prosecution but you couldn't tell as much of his testimony soundly praised Cliffard Whitby's character, work ethic, leadership and selection as the Executive Director of the MPN.  Whitby was literally drafted, recruited, and sought after to lead the initiative.  Dr. Brown described his passionate love for the children and families in the target zone as well as Whitby's commitment to similar initiatives almost a decade before the MPN with the creation of PICD.  

Day 3

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

  • The day began with Dr. Peter Brown on cross by the defense attorneys. 

  • NOTE:  There are approximately seven lawyers with full rights to object, cross examine, do opening and closing statements.  It makes for a very long day as well as a long day for a jury.  However, Judge Treadwell made the call to try all of the cases together and he has been very strict about ending the day for the jury at 2pm as requested by them. 

  • Dr. Mary Alice Morgan, another Mercer University professor and administrator, was the second witness for the prosecution and her testimony didn't deviate too far from Brown's.  Both sounded more like a Whitby Fan Club; not sure of the prosecution's choice or strategy but today had to be disappointing for the prosecution regarding the two Mercer University attorneys. 

  • So how did this case become a case?  Well according to an FBI agent, they "discovered" the discrepancies while on a federal investigation of Dr. Romain Dallemand, however, the agent never said exactly what Dallemand was being investigated for other than some IRS/tax filing issues.  The agent also confirmed that he designed the "sting operation" with Dallemand making calls, requesting meetings, and wearing a wire to converse with Whitby.  Upon cross examination from the defense, the agent couldn't produce his own notes or exhibit a consistent interest or knowledge of the notes he took.  Bruce Morris, Defense Attorney, provided him with a copy of his notes and sought clarity from him on some of his earlier points that didn't match his written record.  One thing is for sure--this jury is getting a business school education in a few days as they are learning about bonds, grants, LLCs, corporations, and other business information. 

Day 4

Thursday, September 27, 2018

  • Day 4 began with Bruce Morris, Defense Attorney finishing cross on the FBI Agent.  The agent struggled with all the details of how Dallemand got on their radar, how many times they met, and accurate accounts from Dallemand on how the money he allegedly received from Whitby and/or Knowles was spent. 

  • The bottom line is this:  they approached Dallemand about his taxes and presented him with options.  Dallemand decided to take a deal for a lesser crime in exchange for implicating others in what he deemed as a “bribery scheme”. 

  • Former School Board President Tommy Barnes was the next witness for the prosecution but ended up expressing his support for the Macon Promise Neighborhood initiative. He noted if presented with the opportunity again to approve the MPN, he would because he knows how much those schools and the Unionville/Tindall Heights community are still in need. When asked if the funds paid to PICD were exorbitant in comparison to what is spent for other schools, Barnes noted the amount was for four schools and the school system spends far more than that on a per school basis.  

  • Barnes also noted the unanimous votes for the MPN were rare compared to the votes taken on a regular basis. 

  • Barnes helped the jury to understand the Bibb BOE by explaining that the School Board has one employee, the Superintendent while the Superintendent should manage all the employees in the school system.  He noted that the annual budget for Bibb Schools was $300 million.

  • In a surprise twist, the prosecution changed its witness list.  Former Bibb Schools Superintendent Steve Smith was the next witness.  Dr. Smith explained his role in stopping a payment on the maintenance fees of The Promise Center as well as being the chief dealmaker for the eventual sale of the building. 

  • On cross, Defense Attorney, Nick Lotito traced Smith’s arrival to the school district which included the following question:  Lotito: “So, Dr. Smith you were sort of drafted to come to Bibb County after Dr. Dallemand left?”  Smith: “Oh no, I wouldn’t put it like that.” Lotito: “It is my understanding Gary Bechtel called you in 2013 to come to the school district as its interim superintendent as well as Sue Sipe.”  Smith: “I seem to recall that.”  The bottom line is this, Steve Smith was handpicked by an ex-board member to serve as Interim School Superintendent because they “the powers that be” knew they could depend on Smith to overturn all the work Dallemand had done while making the white community feel safe even though 80% of the students in Bibb County Schools are black. 

  • Later in cross, Smith droned on about how the building wasn’t in use and the programs weren’t being done even though he offered no proof to that fact.  Additionally, it was noted that the “maintenance fees’ were possibly misunderstood by him.  Smith believed that “maintenance” was only lawn care, painting, infrastructure support when the actual MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and lease clearly outlined how the center would be used to provide a space for additional resources to the students, parents, and families in the Unionville/Tindall Heights area from a bevy of nearly 35 partner organizations. 

  • The most distressing moment in Dr. Smith’s testimony was his callous point about getting the Promise Center back was a business deal regardless of what was planned for the students and children in the community.  While there are several other surplus buildings that weren’t serving a purpose, Smith was brought to the Bibb School System to undo all the changes and return the system to same status quo.  

  • #MaconFactCheck: The old Ballard-Hudson Building like Miller, Hunt, Eugenia Hamilton and other surplus buildings had been turned into blight.  The Bibb School System has been and continues to be one of the largest producers of blight in Macon-Bibb County.  The old Ballard-Hudson building had several code violations, vandalism, poorly managed landscaping, full disrepair.  Whitby purchased it at an auction for almost $250,000 donated it to the nonprofit PICD and turned it into a million-dollar community center and sports arena.  Even after the building was sold, the school system literally gave PICD the Eugenia Hamilton old school building and they turned it into a million-dollar STEM charter school.  We will have a full story on this coming soon. 

  • Smith sauntered off the witness stand and delivered no real WOW moments for the prosecution or the jury. 

  • THE STAR WITNESS APPEARS:  The prosecution delivered the Dr. Romain Dallemand their star witness around 12:30pm.  

  • US Attorney Beth Howard walked Dallemand through a reading exercise to begin her cross.  He read all the details of his plea deal, charges, tax arrangements etc.  He struggled with some of the legalese but confirmed his understanding of his predicament as a state’s witness. 

  • When asked about his education, Dallemand listed his string of degrees which included three masters’ degrees and a doctorate of education Ed.D. not a Ph.D.  Additionally, when asked about his occupation, Dallemand has become an author and is working on a book on education reform.  While living as a full-time writer, he has been doing some other part-time jobs like part-time sales and Uber driver.  

  • He reviewed a few exhibits as presented to him by the prosecuting attorney i.e., a letter to Ron Collier, CFO, an MOU, lease agreement and a few other documents. 

  • Dallemand opined his initial lack of interest in the MPN but how the trip to DC really sparked his interest.  He also noted how he felt some of the MPN services were redundant and believed they would interfere with his plan AKA the Macon Miracle.  

  • More to come…. interesting to note is the courtroom public seating area.  Lots of strong community support for Cliffard Whitby every day and a few new faces today in anticipation of the star witness. 

Day 5

Friday, September 28, 2018

Day 5 and the prosecution’s Star Witness, Dr. Romain Dallemand is back on the witness stand. 

  • The prosecution worked through Dallemand’s version his connections to Whitby and Knowles.  He’s strong on some details and very fuzzy on others.  

  • Today the jury got a chance to learn more about Harold Knowles, Pinnacle Construction Company, and the connection between Knowles/Dallemand. 

  • Dallemand claims Whitby and Knowles promised him lofty titles, jobs, company shares, and money. 

  • US Attorney Beth Howard was skillful with helping Dallemand to tell his story.  Since Dallemand left the district almost six years ago, few have heard his version of his departure.  His story has been told from many points of views on social media, online blogs, comments sections etc. but few have heard it from his mouth. 

  • In disturbing details, Dallemand retold the stories of death threats, threats against the safety of his home, bullying in the schools from children and adults against his two children, and how the Bibb County Sheriff’s department came to do safety checks at his house daily. 

  • He also described Macon-Bibb County as one of the most racially polarizing and divisive places he had ever visited in his life.

  • The prosecuting attorney even allowed him to describe his beloved “Macon Miracle” to the jury.  Dallemand is still a believer in the Macon Miracle---he still believes the plan would have placed the school system on the national level as well as being a huge benefit to the students, parents, teachers, and community. 

  • He described the condition of the Bibb Schools as the second to last system in the entire state for the worst performing schools. (It’s not the second bottom but still one of the lowest performing in the state.) He relayed how it broke his heart to hear the community, students, and even the teachers share a lack of faith or hope in the achievement of the students.  He mentioned the population trends of the school system and how the system operated way over budget and way over the number of schools needed for the number of students/faculty.  Dallemand still views himself as an “Education Reformer” and forward thinker.  He claims his problems at most school systems is derived from his forward-thinking ability and disdain for the traditional. 

  • One startling revelation was one of the most controversial items of the Macon Miracle, the Mandarin Chinese teachers who came to the system to teach the children Chinese.  Dallemand believed that due to China’s growing economic gains on the world, students who could speak Chinese would have an advantage in jobs, entrepreneurship etc. He believed this initiative was the most controversial and caused him to be labeled as a “Communist” by opponents to his position and the Macon Miracle in the Macon-Bibb County community. 

  • Later in the cross examination, Dallemand discussed how many of his projects and new initiatives never reached fruition because people from Macon-Bibb County would email and call any organizations, institutions, etc. involved with him. 

  • When asked if he wanted to leave the Bibb County School System after all his troubles, Dallemand said he didn’t want to leave.  He claims to have been advised by his attorney to leave due to lawsuits brought by local citizens against his new contract. Dallemand’s hiring salary was $198,000.00 per year and his new contracted salary was $227,000.00 per year. Either is a decent and very livable wage in many places in the US.  

  • After the first morning break, the prosecuting attorney set up headsets and copies of transcripts for the jury and legal teams to hear the recordings of the sting operation. There were questions about the distribution of headsets to everyone or just the jury, witnesses, legal team, and court personnel. It was settled that only the would have access to headsets while the public and media listened to the audio overhead. 

  • On cross, Dallemand was asked about his business ventures, specifically the ventures which were largely connected to the case.  Dallemand mentioned a project in Haiti where he planned to build a university center on 45 acres of land owned by his family.  The center would include a mobile hospital unit, teaching hospital, shops, pre-K to high school learning center, affordable apartments, and restaurants. He said the idea came to him after the death of his mother. When asked if his plans were documented, he mentioned a physical plan he wrote as well as speaking engagements to pitch his idea. One speaking engagement occurred in Albany, GA at a ministers’ convention. 

  • When presented with a joint venture agreement regarding investments into his Haiti project, Dallemand claimed it was just a shell organization and that he had never met any of the people behind it. Yet the document had his signature on it. 

  • Belle Hannes is the official name of his company. The naming of the company was after his two children and suggested to him by the attorney Kevin Brown. 

  • Dallemand also mentioned the SDRC (School District Reform Collaborative) as one of his ventures to train and develop education reformers across the nation.  He claims to have investor interest as well as a university sponsor at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut with 50 participants pre-registered.  The investors and university pulled out of the deal due to harassing calls and emails from people in Macon-Bibb County. 

  • Education 2050 was another education reform initiative mentioned by Dallemand that was designed for education reform initiatives worldwide but he was never able to get enough investors to build the organization. 

  • Finally, the prosecution was ready to play the recordings.  This was supposed to be the BIG GOTCHA but it was barely a whimper.  The sound quality was very poor and Dallemand didn’t appear to be coached very well on how to use the recording device. 

  • After listening to two very short calls to setup the meeting with Whitby, no one heard the meeting in south Georgia’s call until after another break.  

  • So, here’s a quick rundown on the call:  The local media’s account is bit sensationalized because no one in the public gallery could really hear enough to really retell what happened on an April 1, 2017 morning at a Denny’s in South Georgia. What you expect to hear at a Denny’s is what you heard most—lots of people talking, plates, glass, and ambient sound of a truck stop alongside one of the busiest interstates in America. What you don’t hear is a conversation between two men who have a bribery deal going.  Whitby was giving Dallemand the rundown on all the happenings in Macon and the school system, the board, people he knew in the area, etc.  Whitby provided him with updates and a general overview of the dismantling of all the critical work.  He also repeatedly advised Dallemand to seek legal counsel. Even the money exchange seemed to be more of a gesture of kindness from Whitby to a man who was totally down on his luck. 

  • One startling revelation that was a real highlight of the day, when asked about what he did with the money, Dallemand admitted that he spent the money for travel, gifts, and bills.  People who thought they were giving him money to invest in philanthropic ventures in Haiti or on education reform were financing his missing income from being unable to secure a salary equal to what he was accustomed to.  

  • While the local media is fascinated with discovering what “code words” were, #MaconFactCheck wants to know when the bleeding tax dollars of Macon-Bibb County citizens on Romain Dallemand will ever stop.  From his tenure as superintendent to his golden parachute package to his new status as “state’s witness”, Macon-Bibb County taxpayers keep paying Dallemand.  Maybe it is the Kool-Aid but one thing is for sure…it’s not helping the children/students in this community one bit. As a matter of fact, the REAL initiatives that were designed to help these kids and their struggling communities have all been dismantled and little has changed for the outcomes of its residents. 

  • We will be back on Monday, October 1st at 8:00am. 

Check back here for the daily Court Updates.