Bibb County’s top industry recruiter was arrested Friday morning after a federal grand jury indicted him in a public corruption probe linked to technology sales to the Bibb County school district in 2012.
Grand jurors indicted Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority Chairman Cliffard Whitby, 54, of Forsyth, on charges of conspiracy to pay a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, conspiracy to launder the proceeds of unlawful activity, and five counts of paying a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In a move related to the indictment, former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand, 49, pleaded guilty Wednesday to filing a false tax return for 2012, under-reporting his income and over-reporting his itemized deductions, according to a news release.
Dallemand failed to report an unauthorized $100,000 payment intended to influence him to perform and continue to perform certain actions while he was superintendent related to the Promise Neighborhood plan, according to the statement.
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The indictment, unsealed Friday morning, says that Whitby approached Dallemand sometime between August 2011 and June 2012 “to ensure Dallemand would support” the Macon Promise Neighborhood plan. Later, Whitby “offered Dallemand $100,000 for his support.” Dallemand, the indictment said, “accepted this offer and agreed to support the MPN.”
Later, Whitby offered Dallemand 10 percent of the $1 million the school district would pay for the Promise Neighborhood program each year.
“Thus, Whitby indicated that Dallemand would be paid $100,000 every year for 10 years for his continued support” of the program. Dallemand accepted this offer, the indictment said, and “understood that he needed to ensure the (Bibb County school district) continued to financially support” the Promise Neighborhood plan.
Dallemand received a $100,000 check from Whitby Nov. 19, 2012, “with assistance from” Harold Knowles, part-owner of Pinnacle/CSG that was contracted to provide software to Bibb schools in 2012, according to Dallemand’s plea agreement. The school system has maintained that it didn’t receive the product, but a lawyer representing Pinnacle has said the company tried to deliver and wasn’t allowed.
Knowles, 69, of Tallahassee, also has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to pay a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, conspiracy to launder the proceeds of unlawful activity and paying a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, according to the release.
Dallemand received a $70,000 payment from Whitby in 2013, and in 2015 received another $264,000, according to the plea agreement. Dallemand left Bibb Schools in 2013.
Federal prosecutors allege Dallemand failed to report the bribes on his income tax forms in 2012, 2013 or 2015. He also reported business losses and other deductions on his tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015 that weren’t true statements, according to the plea agreement.
A sentencing date hasn’t yet been scheduled for Dallemand who could face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest.
In exchange for his plea and cooperation with authorities, prosecutors have agreed to recommend that Dallemand receive credit for “acceptance of responsibility,” a factor that could reduce his sentence, assuming no “adverse information” is received suggesting the recommendation is unwarranted, according to the agreement.
As part of the deal, Dallemand has agreed to “cooperate fully” with the investigation and prosecution in the case and produce documents and other objects, according to the agreement.
Dallemand has agreed to pay all taxes, interest and penalties owed from his tax returns in 2012 through 2015. He also must pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
The Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development and Positiventures Initiative LLC, both based in Macon, also were indicted on a conspiracy to launder proceeds of unlawful activity charge.
Check back at macon.com for more on this developing story.