AJC Watchdog: 5 investigations you may have missed

Start your week off right by catching up on some of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s most intriguing investigative journalism.

Here are some items you may have missed.

Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow spent taxpayer money on her campaign (again), but exactly how much is a mystery. Ethics Officer Nina Hickson said the councilwoman’s records were in such a mess it wasn’t possible to determine exactly what she did. According to a settlement report, Winslow spent $200 on tickets to a jazz festival, donated $100 in city money to a local church and spent more money paying homeless people to wear her campaign t-shirts. Read more here to find out what she has to pay in fines. 

City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow to run with this story. Her discretionary spending will be a focal point. Also take photos of Michael Julian Bond. Some local government officials have turned their discretionary spending accounts into slush funds, spending thousands of taxpayer dollars for things that enable them to score points with constituents and boost re-election chances, an AJC review has found. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow’s discretionary spending accounts have been under investigation for years. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Remember last year’s explosive corruption report on DeKalb County from former Attorney General Mike Bowers and investigator Richard Hyde? It was lambasted by County CEO Lee May, who hired Bowers and Hyde to produce it, but investigations into bribery, extortion and other alleged wrongdoing continue. Some in DeKalb are getting impatient. “If you’re going to prosecute, then for God’s sake let’s prosecute,” one attorney said. Read more here about the hottest of the cases.

Last fall when a special legislative committee met to discuss whether to expand gambling in Georgia, a horse racing group paid $500 to buy them lunch. It’s all part of an explosion of cash — including more than $200,000 in campaign contributions to top lawmakers — by gambling interests eager to pass legislation allowing casinos and horse racing. Read more here on how these groups are evening the odds here.

For the first time, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services is admitting to “significant gaps” in its processes have led to the deaths of children under its supervision. DFCS made the admission in a new report analyzing 169 child deaths in 2014. Read more here about how the agency says it is reforming its practices. 

Two years ago a tea party activist rented a cabin in House Speaker David Ralston’s north Georgia district to work for his primary opponent. Ralston wants to see who is paying these kinds of activists by requiring them to register with the state like a campaign committee, disclosing spending and contributions. Activists say it’s an attack on their free speech. Read more on this attempt to bring light to “dark money” in the first installment of the AJC Watchdog column here. Look for the AJC Watchdog online every Thursday and in print Friday.

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