Abuse of power in the University System of Georgia (USG) has reached such extremes that the commission of major felonies, whether to advance a personal financial agenda or a broader conspiracy, is commonplace and merely considered regular course of business. Retaliation, with the goal of complete destruction of anyone who dares to oppose the system-wide corruption, is also routine, and rampant throughout the University system.
While corruption in the USG is nothing new, it has amplified considerably as the amount of money flowing through the system has risen to $7.7 billion in direct spending by the USG in 2015, at a time when Governor Nathan Deal, skipping from one ethics controversy to the next, led Georgia to a number one rating in the Center for Public Integrity’s government corruption index.
Nathan Deal resigned from Congress three days ahead of a House committee vote on articles of impeachment against him for ethical violations. He then ran and unbelievably was elected Governor of Georgia. When the director of the Georgia Ethics Commission was fired for pursing an ethics investigation against Deal’s gubernatorial campaign, the Attorney General of Georgia was fined for withholding evidence in that case—evidence showing the Governor’s office pressured the Ethics Commission to drop the complaint against Deal.
Pattern of retaliation
One clear sign of the impunity that reigns within the USG is the common practice of eliminating anyone who interferes with extreme abuses of power—including falsifications of state spending, extortion, bribery, and outright theft of state funds—eliminating resistance through the systematic manufacture of knowingly false charges and knowingly false evidence against anyone who opposes, or even criticizes, the corruption.
Representative examples include:
The Attorney General of Georgia, at the behest of then-University of Georgia (UGA) President Michael Adams, launched an unsuccessful tenure revocation action against UGA Professor Dezso Benedek. Benedek was an outspoken critic of Adams’ personal use of state funds (as documented in a Deloitte & Touche audit—a blistering indictment of Adams that the USG ignored). All the charges and evidence brought against Benedek were found, in a three-day evidentiary hearing, to be completely contrived.
-Anthony Tricoli was ousted as President of Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) after he discovered, and attempted to terminate, millions in wasteful payments to USG cronies that had been hidden in the GPC budget during his entire term as president, for at least six years, since before Tricoli came to GPC. Within six weeks of Tricoli’s cutting off these payments to the purported outside contractor, who did not perform any discernible services over the six years, USG officials destroyed Tricoli. They started by releasing false stories to the media that Tricoli personally mis-spent the wasted GPC funds, though they knew that official budget reports to Tricoli had been knowingly falsified to hide this misuse of funds. No action was ever taken against the state officials who, as it is now documented and undisputed, knowingly falsified the budget reports, resulting in $9 million in state and federal funds that cannot be accounted for to this day.
Tricoli’s ouster was ultimately achieved by USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby threatening to fire him in the face of these false reports if Tricoli would not resign, When Tricoli would not resign, claiming fraud by GPC and USG budget officials, Huckaby offered Tricoli a job in the USG central office if he would resign quietly at GPC. Under the pressure of the false media stories, Tricoli accepted the alternate position. Once Huckaby had Tricoli’s resignation at GPC in hand, Huckaby simply reneged on the new position, purporting to non-renew Tricoli’s annual contract—in violation of existing USG policy, which the USG changed after the fact to make it appear to be in compliance.
-Medical College of Georgia (MCG) X-ray tech Todd Brandenburg was terminated on the spot and denied any hearing–based on a charge that he insulted a patient’s family with a remark about the patient’s foot odor, a claim the family denied when the charge was leveled, weeks after the incident supposedly occurred, by state officials who were not present at the time. This clearly pretextual termination, for which all recourse has been denied and Open Records requests for documents refused, occurred after Brandenburg reported a violation of Georgia state purchasing law by USG Regent Don Leebern. Leebern’s company was selling bottled water to the USG as a preferred vendor, which also violated the Board of Regent’s code of ethics.
Felony criminal violations
This retaliation by the USG–for purposes of eliminating state employees who interfered with such abuses as UGA President Adams’ documented personal use of state funds, falsification of GPC budget reports to hide misuse of state money, and ethical violations by Board of Regents members—includes felony violations of the following provisions of the U.S. and Georgia Criminal Codes:
–Evidence tampering: The Georgia Attorney General’s office attempted, in a tenure revocation proceeding governed by USG policy, to conceal UGA records that proved that the charges brought against Professor Dezso Benedek were false, and that President Adams and the Attorney General knowingly brought false charges based on manufactured evidence.
UGA officials and the Attorney General denied, under oath and in official correspondence, the existence of documents in their possession that they sought to conceal. In place of the concealed records, UGA officials attempted to manufacture false evidence contradicting the records they attempted to conceal and deny.
–Perjury: UGA officials, under oath at a tenure revocation hearing, gave false testimony against Bendek that was contradicted by the UGA records in their possession, records that the Attorney General’s office attempted to conceal from Benedek’s counsel.
-Subornation of perjury: The Georgia Attorney General called UGA witnesses to give knowingly false testimony under oath, based on manufactured evidence, that contradicted the UGA records the Attorney General attempted to conceal.
-Improper influencing of witnesses: The Attorney General’s office influenced UGA witnesses to give false testimony under oath against Benedek, in part, by advising them they would be protected from any repercussions by sovereign immunity.
-Identity fraud: UGA officials misappropriated the identities of UGA students online and through the mails in order to manufacture knowingly false evidence against Benedek—to contradict the evidence in the Attorney General’s possession that cleared Benedek of all the charges, and that the Attorney General attempted to conceal.
-Fraudulent use of federal identification documents: UGA officials made unauthorized use of the Social Security numbers of UGA students in documents disseminated in order to manufacture knowingly false evidence against Benedek—false evidence that contradicted the UGA records the Attorney General attempted to conceal.
-Mail fraud: UGA officials sent UGA student information through the mails, in violation of federal student privacy law, to manufacture false evidence against Benedek to destroy his career.
Michael Adams sent tenure revocation certification letters required by USG policy, through the US mail, that were based on knowingly false charges and knowingly manufactured evidence.
-Wire fraud: UGA officials used telephone and computer networks to manufacture false evidence against Benedek to destroy his career.
GPC officials used computer networks to knowingly mislead Anthony Tricoli about the GPC budget. USG officials used telephone and computer networks to broadcast knowingly false media releases to destroy Anthony Tricoli’s career.
USG officials also made knowingly false radio broadcasts for the same purpose.
-Computer fraud: GPC and USG officials used the state computer network to send emails meant to hide budget falsifications from President Anthony Tricoli to destroy his career.
UGA officials created false log-in IDs in the name of UGA students, falsely logged on as the UGA students, and impersonated UGA students online to manufacture false evidence against Benedek to destroy his career.
-Obstruction: Attorney General Sam Olens misrepresented the documentary evidence of all these crimes, and misrepresented his office’s previous actions, for purposes of preventing an independent investigation into criminal wrongdoing, including criminal wrongdoing by his own office.
-Knowing misrepresentations re: official state business (OCGA 16-10-20): USG and GPC officials intentionally falsified and concealed GPC budget reports and information, which is a felony.
Adams issued certification letters in the tenure revocation proceedings based on knowingly manufactured evidence and identity fraud through impersonation of UGA students.
Attorney General Sam Olens falsely claimed, for purposes of preventing an independent investigation, that these cases had already been fully investigated, contradicting previous admissions that they have not been investigated, and claims by the Attorney General that there was never any need to investigate the “frivolous” and “nonsensical” allegations.
Documentation of the criminal violations
These criminal violations are completely documented in the public record. That includes official records of UGA, GPC, MCG, and the USG, as well as statements by public officials to the media. This documentation of the criminal violations has been provided to and and/or was already in the possession of the USG Board of Regents, the Attorney General, and the Governor of Georgia. It includes UGA records of which the Attorney General and UGA officials denied the existence under oath, in official correspondence, and in response to Open Records requests.
One example is a UGA memo documenting a decision, by the same UGA officials who accused Benedek, to terminate UGA’s study abroad program at Jilin University in China—contradicting the tenure revocation charge brought against Benedek for terminating the program without authorization. This memo contradicting the tenure revocation charge against Benedek was in the possession of the UGA witnesses against Benedek and the Attorney General—who attempted to conceal it—before the knowingly false charge was brought against Benedek. That is documented in the sworn testimony of a witness called by the Attorney General to testify against Benedek at the tenure revocation hearing.
Another example of the documentation is an email string among GPC and USG budget officials warning, over the course of three months, of an impending financial crisis at GPC—while, during the exact time frame, the same state officials were reporting a budget surplus and “normal budget process” to then-GPC President Anthony Tricoli, right up until Tricoli’s ouster over highly-publicized claims he personally misused funds to create a massive budget deficit.
Every level of state government is implicated.
The fact that similar criminal conspiracies have been uncovered at different USG institutions shows a related pattern. This deeply-entrenched pattern reaches the highest levels of the USG and of every branch of state government.
–Other USG schools:
The representative examples above are not isolated. The Attorney General spent a decade, and millions of dollars, defending the president of Valdosta State University for expelling a student who criticized the president in a Facebook post—all the way to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, that rejected the state’s defense that the student had supposedly threatened the president as completely unfounded.
Macon State College President David Bell fired his executive assistant of fifteen years, Denise Caldon, within days after Caldon refused in writing to continue falsifying the personal leave reports on which Bell’s state pension is fraudulently inflated today.
Also at UGA, Michael Adams, in addition to attempting to revoke Benedek’s tenure on fraudulent grounds, also ousted the Dean of the Journalism School, on knowingly false sexual harassment charges later debunked by a federal judge. The Dean had turned down Adams’ request to support Adams in a faculty vote of confidence–after Adams’ troubles with the Deloitte & Touche audit.
–The Board of Regents:
The Regents ignored extensive documentation of criminal evidence tampering in the failed attempt to revoke Benedek’s tenure, and admitted to CBS News that they never investigated any of the documentation.
The Regents also ignored and admit they did not consider issues of whistleblower retaliation in upholding the dismissal of Denise Caldon.
It is documented, admitted, and undisputed that the Regents changed seven different USG policies, after the fact, to cover up violations committed in the ouster of Anthony Tricoli on fraudulent grounds.
The Attorney General’s office directly participated in fraud and evidence tampering, both by concealing material evidence and manufacturing false evidence, in the failed attempt to revoke Professor Benedek’s tenure.
Attorney General Sam Olens is defending and refusing to investigate this wrongdoing by his own office.
Attorney General Sam Olens is also defending and refusing to investigate the knowing falsification of GPC budget reports resulting in $9 million that remains unaccounted-for to this day.
Attorney General Sam Olens has repeatedly misrepresented that there is no evidence to support these allegations of criminal conduct by state officials, including within his own office.
Attorney General Sam Olens has made such knowing misrepresentations, both publicly and privately, for the express purpose of preventing an independent investigation of these alleged crimes, including those committed within his own office.
For three years Judge Susan Edlein continued to block claims from being brought against the Attorney General in the Benedek case, on grounds clearly contrary to law–that had, in fact, already been rejected by the Court of Appeals for that reason.
It was subsequently discovered that Judge Edlein had extensive political and financial connections to Attorney General Sam Olens, who was directly protected from having claims even filed against him by Edlein’s baseless rulings.
Upon disclosure of these political and financial connections to Olens, Judge Edlein refused to recuse herself on false grounds that are plainly contradicted by the public record.
In a related case, Judge Jerry Baxter dismissed claims against Attorney General Sam Olens, without considering the documentation in evidence, stating on the public record instead that Baxter knew from his personal knowledge that the Attorney General would not commit any of the actions alleged.
Trial Judge Doris Downs and the Georgia Court of Appeals both upheld David Bell’s firing of Denise Caldon, after she objected to the criminal falsification of Bell’s performance records. Those rulings held, contrary to law, that Bell, the person accused of criminal misconduct, only had to allege he had a different reason for firing Caldon to avoid a whistleblower retaliation claim.
Judge Daniel Coursey dismissed claims against GPC and USG officials, holding they were immune as state employees for falsifying the GPC budget to cover the theft of state and federal funds.
Governor Nathan Deal:
On three different occasions, Governor Deal has been requested to appoint an independent investigator, as authorized by OCGA 45-15-18, to look at the documentation of the alleged crimes. This documentation has been sent directly to Governor Deal, along with the Attorney General’s written refusals to investigate. Governor Deal has not responded to any of the requests sent by attorney Stephen F. Humphreys.
Defense of the corruption.
Instead of investigating and prosecuting state officials who committed the alleged crimes, the Attorney General is defending them in court—and is also defending himself and his own office for alleged and documented crimes. The main basis of the defense is sovereign immunity. In addition to defending against falsification of the GPC budget to ruin Tricoli and the manufacture of false evidence at UGA to destroy Benedek’s career, sovereign immunity has been used extensively to defend claims against state employees for criminal acts, as follows:
-State trooper immune from claims for sexually molesting a female motorist during a traffic stop.
-State agriculture inspectors immune from claims for taking bribes to falsely calibrate gas station pumps, cheating consumers out of gas they paid for and damaging competitors through resulting unfair price competition.
-Prison guard immune from claims for prolonged beating of inmate.
-State office supervisor immune from claims for acts committed with intent to harm in concerted eleven-month campaign of sexual harassment of female subordinate.
-Football coach immune from claims for ordering beating of football player.
-Prison officials immune from claims for murder of inmate placed in cell with another inmate who previously threatened to kill him.
-College official immune from claims for rape of female student.
Motivations for the malfeasance.
The main underlying motive, not surprisingly, is the vast amount of money that flows through the University system with hundreds of facilities and tens of thousands of employees statewide.
Then-Board of Regents Chairman Ben Tarbutton led the charge to oust Anthony Tricoli as GPC president, after Tricoli openly opposed a switch to a new company, ADP, to service the payroll system for the entire University System—a switch that, among other things, resulted in the building of an ADP payroll service center in Tarbutton’s hometown of Sandersville, Georgia.
To retaliate against Tricoli, Tarbutton was able to take advantage of the scandal caused by USG and GPC officials who actively hid millions of dollars in payments by GPC to an outside contractor who performed little, if any, services. Those same state officials falsified GPC budget reports and hid overspending from Tricoli right up until the USG’s public announcement that Tricoli personally directed the misuse of the GPC funds.
The impunity has grown to such extremes, however, that the retaliation machinery can be unleashed purely on a personal vendetta. For example, it was Deloitte & Touche that reported that Michael Adams illegally used state funds for his personal benefit. Dezso Benedek was merely a gadfly critic voicing the facts. Yet the full power of the state was brought to bear, and continues to be applied, to destroy him, even after he was cleared of all the knowingly false charges brought against him by President Adams and the Attorney General.
It was Adams’ petty, personal abuse of this illicit power structure that opened a crack to expose the full extent of its abuses. The miserably failed tenure revocation attempt, based on knowingly false charges and knowingly manufactured evidence, identified the same pattern at other USG institutions.
It implicated the USG and Board of Regents at the highest level. It also exposed the deep involvement of the Regents’ legal counsel, the Attorney General’s office—which defends the criminal conspiracies among state officials instead of investigating and prosecuting them.
Perhaps even more troubling, the complicity of the judiciary has been graphically demonstrated by rulings, with no basis in law or fact, protecting Attorney General Olens in his campaign of misrepresentation and obstruction. Meanwhile, the Governor, the figurehead for corruption in Georgia, feigns to be blissfully unaware of the entire RICO conspiracy.