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Updated: 6:20 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 | Posted: 4:57 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25, 2014

DeKalb Commissioner Boyer resigns, saying, ‘I’ve betrayed the people’

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By Johnny Edwards and Mark Niesse

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer has resigned from office, amid a federal investigation into her spending of taxpayer money.

Boyer told Channel 2 Action News on Monday that she was stepping down immediately.

“It’s a very hard decision, and I’m heartbroken and saddened, but I need to resign,” said Boyer, the commission’s sole Republican and its longest-serving member.

“I’ve betrayed the people and I’ve abused my position of power,” she said, “and so I feel like I need to do this and publicly acknowledge that I’m ending my position today as of 5 o’clock.”

Boyer would not detail what she had done or answer specific questions about her spending, saying her attorney had advised against it because she is cooperating with law enforcement.

Federal prosecutors in June had subpoenaed purchasing card records, including invoices and receipts, from all DeKalb County commissioners as well as nearly 300 county employees.

The federal investigation followed Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories in March revealing that Boyer had rung up thousands of dollars in personal expenses with her county purchasing card. Her purchases included airline tickets, a ski resort booking, rental cars and personal cell phone bills.

The AJC has continued to examine Boyer’s use of taxpayers’ money and in recent weeks has identified other questionable spending totaling more than $90,000.

The newspaper has been seeking information about those expenses, but Boyer has repeatedly refused to talk and did not return messages Monday.

She told the TV station on Monday that she had been thinking about resigning for some time. “This is the moment,” she said.

Boyer also has been facing scrutiny on two other fronts. The AJC stories and related coverage by Channel 2 triggered a county spending audit, which started July 7 and will examine 10 years of purchase-card expenditures. The stories also prompted an investigation by the county ethics board, which has scheduled a preliminary hearing with Boyer in mid-September.

Ethics Chairman John Ernst said it will be up to the board to decide whether to drop the case.

In a written statement, DeKalb interim CEO Lee May said he wished Boyer well. “Recent news stories notwithstanding,” May said, “Elaine Boyer has faithfully served the constituents of District 1 and DeKalb County for over 20 years.”

Boyer, who has represented the county’s affluent northern area, had billed herself as a fiscal conservative and criticized spending by other county officials. But when the AJC uncovered her expenditures this past spring, she blamed sloppy record-keeping and turnover among her staff for the problems.

She later apologized in an interview with Channel 2, saying, “It never dawned on me that what I was doing was wrong.” However, Boyer had signed an agreement with the county stipulating that her card could not be used for personal purchases and that such misuse could result in civil action or criminal prosecution.

In little more than two years, Boyer put $16,800 in personal expenses on her county purchasing card. Under DeKalb’s government structure, commissioners run their individual offices autonomously, with each commanding more than $260,000 in discretionary funds a year.

While Boyer repaid the county for some of the personal purchases within days, weeks or months, she failed to repay about $8,000 until after the AJC asked for receipts to document her spending.

Boyer and her husband have been having personal financial problems throughout the questionable spending, records show.

Boyer, 57, was first elected in 1992 to represent District 1, which includes Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Tucker and Smoke Rise – where she lived until a bank foreclosed on her family’s home and ordered them out this month.

The house appeared to be empty on Monday. The swimming pool was drained, and patio furniture had been set out in the driveway.

A neighbor said a large white moving van backed into the driveway on Sunday, and a few weeks earlier, the Boyers held a garage sale.

Commissioner Jeff Rader, who has frequently sparred with Boyer on the panel, called her resignation “a sad end to a long career in public office.”

“But I think she did the right thing,” he said. “This now gives the voters in District 1 the opportunity choose new representation and help to restore confidence in DeKalb County government.”

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