A witness in a South Carolina corruption case testified in court Monday that DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson attended a restaurant meeting that included discussions of illegal payoffs.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a 51-count indictment against South Carolina businessmen Jonathon Pinson and Eric Robinson includes two counts of fraud for a kickback scheme involving “an elected official” in DeKalb County. No one in DeKalb has been charged in the case.
The businessmen are on trial for racketeering, bribery and theft.
The witness who testified Monday already pleaded guilty in connection with the case. He was a business associate of one of the defendants and said he attended that meeting at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Columbia, SC, which Watson and several other DeKalb County officials attended, reports WSB TV.
The case alleges bribes would have been paid by Florida developer Rick Zahn, who has pleaded guilty to a different charge. Prosecutors allege Pinson and Robinson discussed inflating the cost and keeping money for themselves.
The scheme called for Florida developer Rick Zahn to pay the bribes to the DeKalb official in exchange for expected favorable treatment, the paper reported, citing the indictment.
WSB asked Watson if he ever did business with Robinson or Pinson, which he denied.
“You have no connection to that
South Carolina case whatsoever?” a TV reporter asked Watson.
“None whatsoever," Watson replied.
The AJC reported in April that the six sitting county commissioners and interim CEO Lee May, who was a commissioner during the 2011 incidents, denied being the official, called a “councilman” in the South Carolina indictment.
“I can’t believe there is another cloud rising with DeKalb County’s name to it,” May told the paper in April. “It’s another black eye at a time when my biggest heartburn is how to build confidence back in our government.”
Watson and May both told the newspaper they know Robinson from his management of Arizona’s Steakhouse at Stonecrest Mall, which is in their districts.
The DeKalb County district attorney’s office is aware of the county’s role in the case and is conducting its own investigation, a spokeswoman for the office told the AJR.