A six-year conspiracy: Whitby paid Dallemand more than $461K in bribes, indictment says

Case against Dallemand and others to move on

Cliffard Whitby and a Florida lawyer paid Romain Dallemand $437,400 in bribes and apparently reneged on promises to pay another half-million.

That's according to a federal indictment against Whitby and Harold Knowles.

The indictment describes a six-year conspiracy that included bribes, paper companies, money laundering and Whitby driving to south Georgia to pay Dallemand $24,000 in cash at a restaurant.

The indictment says payments to Dallemand continued through this April -- more than four years after he resigned as Bibb County school superintendent.

RELATED: Former Bibb superintendent pleads guilty to tax evasion, taking $100k bribe


Two men, two companies indicted

According to a Department of Justice news release, Whitby is charged with conspiracy to pay a bribe to an employee of an agency that receives federal funds; five counts of paying bribes; and money laundering.

Knowles is charged with conspiracy to pay a bribe; paying a bribe, and offering to pay a bribe. He is also charged with money laundering.

The Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development and Positiventures are both also charged with money laundering.

Dallemand was not indicted in the case, but has pleaded guilty to tax evasion in Florida for failing to report the initial $100,000 bribe. He has not been sentenced.

Here's a timeline of the alleged conspiracy, as described in the indictment.

Whitby offered 10 percent of "Promise Neighborhood' deal

In February, 2011, Dallemand took office as Bibb County school superintendent

Sometime in 2011 or 2012, the indictment says, Whitby approached Dallemand about supporting his Macon Promise Neighborhood.

That was a federally funded program where communities work to improve student achievement and graduation rates long-term by boosting the quality of life in city neighborhoods.

Under the local plan, work would begin with Ingram-Pye and Hartley Elementary schools.

Whitby told Dallemand that MPN was a 10-year project, and he was asking the school district to provide $1 million a year to support it.

At a meeting, sometime in 2011 or 2012, the indictment says, Whitby offered Dallemand $100,000 to support the project. Dallemand agreed, according to the indictment.

Whitby later told Dallemand he would pay him $100,000 a year, 10 percent of the school board's contribution, as long as the district backed Macon Promise Neighborhoods.

Bibb school officials tried to stop Promise deal

In June 2012, the Bibb County School board voted to support Macon Promise Neighborhood.

The board voted to support the project through "programs, resources, current-budgeted funds and related in-kind contributions," not cash donations.

In July 2013, Whitby's nonprofit, the Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development, sent the school district a $1 million invoice for renovations to the Macon Promise Center building.

Two Bibb school officials, CFO Ron Collier and accounting director Sharon Roberts, initially refused to pay it. 

They noted that the board had agreed to provide support services, but not cash, and that the district had not budgeted for the $1 million payment.

In October 2012, the board agreed to pay $1 million to renovate the building, and the district wrote a check to Whitby's nonprofit.

Dallemand later removed Collier as the district's CFO, but Collier was eventually reinstated and cleared of any wrongdoing.


Lawyer passed $100,000 from Whitby to Dallemand

The indictment said "Whitby and Dallemand both had concerns over Whitby directly paying Dallemand the first $100,000."

Dallemand put Whitby in touch with Harold Knowles, a lawyer he'd met in Tallahassee, Florida. Whitby paid the $100,000 to Knowles, who passed it along to Dallemand, according to the indictment.

Dallemand and Knowles allegedly tried to hide the payment by describing it as a refund on money that Dallemand paid to Knowles' trust fund to purchase a house.

The indictment also says Knowles offered to give Dallemand stock in the Pinnacle Construction Co. if Dallemand helped the company get contracts with Bibb County. But the company never got a contract, and Dallemand never got any Pinnacle stock, the document says.

Dallemand creates company to hide payments

In November 2012, the indictment says, Dallemand created a company names Belhannes, to transfer money from Whitby to Dallemand.

The company paid Dallemand $337,400 between August 2013 and June 2016 -- more than three years after Dallemand left his Bibb County job. That was money promised to Dallemand for his support of Macon Promise Neighborhood.

Whitby also paid Dallemand $24,000 in cash in April 2017, at a restaurant in South Georgia, the indictment says.

Dallemand allegedly promised $500,000 from software deal

The indictment also describes Whitby and Dallemand's role in the school district buying $3.2 million in software from a company named Proscenium Software, through a "paper" company named Pinnacle.

Whitby and Knowles promised Dallemand $500,000 for helping to push the sale through.

"Somewhere in or 2015," the indictment continues, Dallemand contacted Knowles to ask about the money due to him from the Proscenium purchase.

"Knowles told Dallemand that there was no money left to pay Dallemand after Knowles had to pay taxes and hire people to work on the project," the indictment says.

Dallemand takes buyout in 2013; Promise payments end

Dallemand accepted a buyout from the Bibb County school board in January 2013, just two years after arriving. The district stopped all payments to the Macon Promise Neighborhood project after he left, the indictment says.

 

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