Also bought personal clothing tax-free by using city card

by Robin Kemp

Forest Park Ward 2 City Councilman Dabouze Antoine faces possible censure at tonight’s City Council meeting after the City of Forest Park’s outside ethics attorney found that Antoine accepted gifts in excess of the $500 limit from a contractor he allegedly later recommended to repave Perkins Park.

The council meets at 6 p.m. for the work session and 7 p.m. for the regular meeting and vote on Antoine’s censure. You can watch online via the City Council’s YouTube channel or Facebook Live page.

The Clayton Crescent attempted to reach Antoine by his cellphone for comment, but got a message saying the number was not in service. Antoine did not respond to an e-mail sent to Antoine’s city account seeking confirmation of several biographical details.

If censured for what the city calls “unacceptable and inexcusable behavior,” he will be “called upon to cease the afore-mentioned behavior and to conduct himself in a manner fitting the office of City Council Member,” according to a resolution included in tonight’s packet.

The resolution says nothing about referring the case to District Attorney Tasha Mosley, which Special Counsel Anthony O.L. Powell had recommended the city do. If convicted of the allegation in a court of law, Antoine could not only lose his council seat but face prison time.

According to Powell, “there is conclusive evidence that council member Antonine [sic] violated the laws of the State of Georgia, the charter and city codes of the City of Forest Park by accepting gifts from a city private contractor in excess of $500 who was subsequently awarded a city contract to refurbish the basketball courts, fencing and parking lot at Perkins Park on the recommendation of council member [Antoine].”

A hearing was held on August 13, 2021. The investigation’s findings, which were presented to the city on October 20, 2021, allege that Antoine admitted to accepting free gasoline, car tags, and meals from Johnny “Rocko” Coleson.

The Clayton Crescent attempted to reach Coleson by phone but got a message that the number was out of service.

According to documents obtained by The Clayton Crescent in January and published in tonight’s meeting packet, Coleson’s company, Golden Deluxe Management Corporation, got a contract from the city to upgrade Perkins Park, subbed out the work to Atlanta Paving Company and, according to the subcontractor, did not pay when the job was done– even though the city had already paid Coleson’s company in full several months earlier.

The investigation credits Procurement Manager A. Girard Geeter with finding several contract deficiencies in the deal, which Powell said did not implicate Antoine, and that Geeter “should be credited with ending the attempt by the contractor to expand the contract beyond that which had been approved and authorized by the [city] council.”

Golden Deluxe Management Group, Inc. is registered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office at 3379 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 555 in Atlanta. Coleson is listed as chief financial officer. The CEO is Heather Easterling and the secretary is Ashley Richey. All three officers list 591 Sinclair Way in Jonesboro as their address. Last May, Billie Leak, who according to public records was a Clayton County Sheriff Services clerk in 2020, sold the Sinclair Way property to Jeffrey Leckey.

Golden Deluxe hired Atlanta Paving Solutions to resurface the parking lot and replace the path at Perkins Park on West Street in Ward 2. However, three months after documents show that the city had paid Golden Deluxe, Kyle Glazener of Atlanta Paving Solutions sent a letter to Coleson and Heather Easterling, claiming they had been dodging his calls and emails and that they owed Atlanta Paving $5,615 that he personally had had to front for materials on the Perkins Park job:

 

“On Thursday October 15 2020 you replied ‘I will look into this and get back to you’ which you have not done and the second reply was on October 20, 2020 at 10:03 pm you replied ‘I will call you today.’ You never called me so again I called twice and received your voicemail,” Glazener wrote. “I called again on October 21, 2020 and at 1:47 pm you texted me ‘Rocco will take care of it. I’m in a meeting until 4:30.’ I never heard from you or Rocco and I texted you at 5:13 pm ‘Did our check go out today?’ and never heard back from you. Today I went to the business address you have listed on your website: 3379 Peachtree Rd Suite 555 Atlanta, Ga. 30326 and found that this is not your business address but rather a virtual office where you receive your mail and phone calls. I called you from there and received your voicemail.”

Glazener sent copies of his letter to the Georgia Department of Law Consumer Protection Division, as well as to Nekeeta Davis in Accounts Payable and then-Finance Director Ken Thompson at the city.

“A good guy”

During the investigation, Antoine told Powell he considered Coleson “a good guy” who picked up the tab for Antoine’s lunch, gasoline, and even his license plate.

Antoine and his council assistant, Teneisha Dixon, were subpoenaed and questioned under oath at City Hall on August 13, 2021. During that examination, Antoine allegedly “admitted that [he] knew Mr, Coleson and recommended to the city staff that he be considered for this contract. Council member Antonine [sic] admitted that he texted with the contractor representative Johnny ‘Rocko’ Coleson. In the recording between 24 and 27 minutes, Mr. [Antoine] admitted” that he had texted with Coleson, but that he did not remember the content of the texts.

Powell questioned Antoine further:

Powell: “Any of that concerning additional payments to him or?”

Antoine: “Not to him, no.”

Powell: “Or his company…for work at Perkins Park?”

Antoine: “No, if anything, it was just, he’ll ask me or I would ask him, you know, to pay for my gas, you know, he paid for my gas, my license plates. But that’s about it.”

Powell: “So Mr. Coleson helped you out financially?”

Antoine: “He just paid my gas and a couple of other stuff. But it was no city funds. He was just like a regular person, he just wanted to help you out.”

Powell: “Do you recall how much money he spent just helping you out?”

Antoine: “It wasn’t probably less than $1,000.”

Powell: “And it was during the time that he was being reviewed for contract status?”

Antoine: “Um, no, it was before then when I first met him, he would see him at a gas station and he would pay for my gas and he pay for, he took me out to eat and stuff like that.”

Powell: “It was more than $500 but less than $1,000.”

Antoine: “Yeah, it was like different times, it wasn’t like ‘hey, give me $1,000,’ it was like different times. But it wasn’t no city funds.”

Powell: “Right, right, nothing from the city was passed on. This is what you understood to be, ah, either his company or his personal funds.”

Antoine: “This is personal funds, him being a good guy and just like, um, hey, you want to go out to eat? Sure! I’m digging, I’ll like that.”

The Clayton Crescent’s investigation found that Coleson, who has a string of federal fraud and money laundering convictions dating back to at least 1999, was serving a federal sentence at LSCI Allenwood in Pennsylvania when Clayton County had him extradited to Georgia on a 2005 grand jury indictment for identity theft and check fraud.

In that case, Coleson had tried to make a payment at the old Rich’s Department Store in Southlake Mall on an account created with a fake identity. Colson later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve time concurrent with his federal sentence.

(Side note: the grand jury foreperson was the late Frank Brandon, who served on the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority board and who ran a tight race in 2005 for the Ward 2 seat Antoine now holds.)

Coleson has been the subject of several federal cases in the U.S. Southern District Court of New York:

  • In 1998, Coleson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months in federal prison, followed by three years’ supervised release. He was ordered to pay $41,003.70 in restitution–$35,159.21 to Citibank and $5,844.49 to Fleet Bank–and a $100 fee. In 2001, his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to nine months. The judge recommended a psychiatric evaluation.
  • In 2000, he was indicted in federal court. His parents put up their home to bond him out. In 2021, while the trial was still in progress, Coleson was arrested by the New York Police Department. He was sentenced to 18 months and three years’ supervised probation.
  • In 2007, Coleson and two business associates from JDL Phase One, Inc., along with three U.S. Post Office employees, were indicted on various fraud and money laundering charges. Court records show Coleson and a business partner, Carlos Haddock, used a purported third business associate’s identity to purchase a Cadillac Escalade and a Cadillac CTS, along with two Central Parking System spaces in the Bronx. They and another business associate, Dajuan Henderson, were indicted on conspiracy to commit bank fraud after writing checks on bogus accounts created with stolen identities. The indictment also alleged Coleson bought money orders from three postal employees and used them to launder funds.
  • In 2009, Coleson was sentenced to 83 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

Coleson’s New York federal cases

1:00-cr-01168-MBM USA v. Coleson filed 11/03/00   closed 07/16/01
1:00-cr-01168-MBM-1 Johnny Coleson filed 11/03/00   closed 07/13/01
1:00-mj-01671-UA USA v. Coleson filed 09/13/00   closed 11/03/00
1:00-mj-01671-UA-1 Johnny Coleson filed 09/13/00
1:07-cr-00789-LAP USA v. Coleson et al filed 08/22/07   closed 12/18/09
1:07-cr-00789-LAP-1 Johnny Coleson filed 08/22/07   closed 12/18/09
1:98-cr-01036-LAK USA v. Coleson filed 09/24/98   closed 03/01/99
1:98-cr-01036-LAK-1 Johnny Coleson filed 09/24/98   closed 03/01/99

After completing his sentence, in 2019 Coleson became Golden Deluxe’s COO. On July 17, 2020, Coleson took out a $15,050 PPP loan from Cross River Bank.

Criminal charges possible

Based on Antoine’s own admission under oath, Powell recommended that the City Council “consider the evidence in a public hearing” and “remove [Antoine] from his office” according to the city charter.

“Furthermore, Special Counsel recommends that this report and the supporting evidence be forwarded to the Clayton County District Attorney for consideration of additional sanctions based on the admissions of Mr. [Antoine]. In the event Mr. [Antoine] is criminally charged and convicted, he could also be suspended and removed from office.”

Powell also investigated a second allegation that, on December 17, 2020 Antoine had bought Christmas gifts “with funds donated to the city by a private party.” The donor who got the tax break was not named in the documents The Clayton Crescent received.

Powell “interviewed Tenisma [sic] Dixon, a city council aide for the City of Forest Park on this issue. I had been given the documents evidencing these purchases which are attached as Exhibits 18 through 21 [the four receipts]. There was no testimony or entry on the records that Councilmember [Antoine] did anything improper with these funds. I confirmed that a private citizen gave these funds for the restricted purpose of buying these presents for citizens.”

Receipts for those purchases included:

  • D&K Suit City in Morrow, December 17, 2020, $309.94, billed to Ken Thompson as tax exempt. Purchases included a Stacy Adams tie ($14.99), a blue 2-button notch slim fit size 42R suit ($119.99), two hems ($10 each) and a recut ($40), a pair of camel driving shoes ($14.99), a pair of black driving shoes ($29.99), a light blue tailored fit dress shirt ($19.99), and a khaki 2-button notch lapel suit ($49.99). The discount shop listed the estimated retail value of all items at $682. The sale was charged to a Visa ending in 3115. Three copies of this receipt were included.
  • Burlington Coat Factory in Morrow, December 17, 2020, $49.97, customer listed as “city of forest park,” no tax was charged (reason: “government.”) Purchases included a pair of Vulc 13 Fila sneakers ($26.99), a space dye insert panel shirt ($7.99), and a five-pack of white tank tops ($14.99). This sale also was charged to a Visa ending in 3115.
  • Ross Dress for Less in Morrow, December 17, 2020, $33.46, including 8% sales tax of $2.48, also charged to the Visa ending in 3115. Purchases included a Fila 4-pack (either shirts or men’s underwear) in orange and heather ($12.99), and “80G 6 PC SM WHITE Q” ($17.99).
  • Walmart in Morrow, December 17, 2020, $52.49, including 8% sales tax of $3.89, again charged to the Visa ending in 3115. Purchases included “LIGHT UP FO” ($3.96) four Barbie Dolls at $4.94 each, and one item listed as Barbie Doll at $24.88.

Powell concluded that “there is no evidence that council member [Antoine] is guilty of an offense that would justify any disciplinary action.”

However, Powell added,  “The practice of allowing a private citizen to get a federal income tax deduction while using those donated city funds to buy presents for private parties, while using the city’s sales tax exemption to buy the gifts should be discontinued by the city. This practice may not violate the letter of the law, but it surely is beyond the intent of the requirements of the law.”

The report did not note the use of the same Visa card for all four purchases. On two of the four receipts, the transactions showed up as tax-exempt government purchases linked directly to the City of Forest Park–one naming the customer as Ken Thompson, the other listing the customer as the City of Forest Park.

Five months later, in May 2021, the city created a “Credit Card Policy for City Employees” to “establish minimum standards for use of the P-Card to ensure compliance with procurement policies and procedures.” Georgia code makes p-card misuse a felony punishable by one to three years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. It’s not clear whether the card ending in 3115 was a city p-card issued to Antoine or whether Antoine himself made the purchases with that card.

The Clayton Crescent has asked the city whether anyone besides Antoine used the city p-card to make purchases. We will update with any additional information.

This latest investigation is not Antoine’s first entanglement with legal and ethical matters:

The council also is considering a censure vote tonight against Ward 4 Councilwoman Latresa Akins-Wells over complaints and allegations she made about city officials in a Facebook video.

Robin Kemp

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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