DeKalb County schools chief Crawford Lewis temporarily stepped down from his job Feb. 25 after local law enforcement officials raided his home and district offices – the most recent development in a months-long investigation into the district’s construction program.
The decision was announced following a three-hour emergency school board meeting called after board members awoke to discover Lewis had been wrangled into an investigation involving former district Chief Operating Office Pat Pope. District Attorney Gwen Keyes Fleming is trying to determine whether Pope illegally steered construction contracts toward her husband, architect Tony Pope, or contractors he was working with.
It is unclear how long Lewis will be gone from the superintendency. School board Chair Thomas Bowen said he could return after the investigation was completed or when the board felt it was appropriate to invite him back. Regardless, the board’s tone was supportive of Lewis, and two board members said they disagreed with the change, abstaining from the board’s vote.
“(Lewis) fears that if he remains at the helm, the investigation and the press coverage it has incited will become a distraction,” Bowen told a small group of reporters shortly before 8 p.m.
Board Vice Chair Zepora Roberts was one of the abstainers. Rather than accept his temporary resignation, Roberts said the board should have stood up for him.
“Actions speak louder than words,” she said. “Our superintendent has not done anything wrong. I am in support of him.”
Ramona Tyson, the district’s deputy chief superintendent of business operations, will replace Lewis, who will retain his $255,000 salary while on leave.
The board spent three hours behind closed doors to discuss the events, and Lewis did not appear before reporters or the public when the board returned to open session to vote. Board members also declined to answer questions after the meeting, saying, “No comment,” as they shuffled behind closed doors again.
The district released copies of two search warrants for the district’s headquarters on North Decatur Road in Decatur and the Sam Moss Center in Tucker. Items law enforcement officials searched for included:
Investigators spent hours in Lewis’ Stone Mountain home, collecting hard drives and other documents.