A Republican gubernatorial candidate’s efforts to get the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office to start a grand jury investigation into what he claims is corruption in Georgia’s public college system have been blocked by the office.
The candidate, Dunwoody resident Marc Alan Urbach, said he requested in November to personally address the DeKalb grand jury to have it investigate possible corruption with the University System of Georgia following the discovery in 2012 there was a $16 million budget shortfall at Georgia Perimeter College (now part of Georgia State University).
Urbach claims the corruption lies in the fact that the state’s public college presidents make an average of about $450,000 a year at a time when tuition at Georgia's public colleges has risen 75 percent since 2008, after adjusting for inflation, making it harder for people to afford to attend college, according to a report released in August by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The report also states overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2016-17 school year was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level.
“The funding decline has contributed to higher tuition and reduced quality on campuses as colleges have had to balance budgets by reducing faculty, limiting course offerings, and in some cases closing campuses,” the report stated.
Urbach, who spent 11 years as a teacher in Gwinnett County, said, “The reason why it’s corrupt is because the men and women (state legislators) in the Gold Dome that pass the laws and change the constitution provided ‘exclusive authority’ with billions of Georgia’s tax dollars allocated annually for ‘education’ with no accountability to anyone, including the appropriations and higher education committees. The result of this has been millions of our dollars, education tax dollars, have been misappropriated, filing and lining the pockets of University System of Georgia officials, ‘normal and acceptable’ for decades.
“… Our property tax dollars are going to these people and there’s an unwritten 90-60 rule (that college presidents get 90 percent of their salary in the first year of retirement and 60 percent every year after that). Then, if they work part-time, two classes a week, they can get paid upwards of $250,000.”
As for the grand jury, Urbach said he should be allowed to address it based on the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which outlines the nation’s judicial system, including the grand jury, and the Georgia Constitution’s Paragraph 12.
“(It) states, ‘No person shall be deprived of the right to prosecute or defend, either in person or by an attorney, that person’s own cause in any of the courts of this state,’” he said. “ … In the bottom of Paragraph 11 it says, ‘And the jury shall be the judges of the law and the facts.’”
But the district attorney’s office, citing another state law, No. 15-12-100, said common citizens cannot request to address the grand jury.
In part, the law states, “The chief judge of the superior court of any county to which this part applies, on his or her own motion, on motion or petition of the district attorney, or on petition of any elected public official of the county or of a municipality lying wholly or partially within the county, may request the judges of the superior court of the county to impanel a special grand jury for the purpose of investigating any alleged violation of the laws of this state or any other matter subject to investigation by grand juries as provided by law.”
In a Nov. 14 letter Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Anna Green Cross sent to Urbach about two weeks after he initially made his request, Cross wrote, “There is no provision in Georgia law that permits an individual to prosecute criminal actions on his own behalf. Felony criminal actions are the right of the state, not an individual, and are brought in the name of the state by the district attorney.”
In an email regarding Urbach's request, Yvette Jones, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, clarified what it entailed.
"His request did not identify a specific case, person or any potential criminal conduct he wished to present to the grand jury," she said. "To reiterate, Mr. Urbach asked to speak to the grand jury, but he did not indicate to our office the nature of what he wished to communicate - only that he wanted the opportunity to appear before the grand jurors."
Stephen Humphreys is an attorney representing former Georgia Perimeter College President Anthony Tricoli, who resigned after the budget shortfall was discovered. Humphreys is investigating the Board of Regents and filed civil RICO lawsuits against the board, but he said his efforts are also being blocked.
“As far as the corruption, it’s totally documented,” he said. “In terms of getting it to trial, I’m trying to bring them to trial. The state, including the attorney general’s office is doing everything it can do stonewall them, mainly on the grounds of sovereign immunity protections.
“Marc is acting as a good citizen and candidate for governor, trying to bring that issue to public attention (through the grand jury). … I’ve tried to bring all that information to the attention of the DA through the proper channels, and they’ve chosen not to act on it.”
Urbach, a journalist and author who ran for president in 2016, getting only five votes as a write-in candidate, said his attempt to get the grand jury to hear this case is not a publicity stunt to cull votes.
“Nonsense. Absolute nonsense,” he said. “I’m doing this to stop the illegal transfer of our property tax dollars to all these officials, to stop the corruption. Our children deserve better."