Former Bibb Superintendent pleads guilty to filing false tax return, taking bribe

Romain Dallemand / WGXA

MACON, Ga. -- Romain Dallemand, the former superintendent for the Bibb County School District, has pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return that failed to report a $100,000 payment that was meant to influence him to do things in his official capacity as superintendent.

According to a press release from United State Attorney Pete Peterman, Dallemand entered the guilty plea on Wednesday.

The release states that Dallemand admitted that he submitted an IRS Form 1040 in 2014 for the year 2012 that both under-reported his income and over-reported his itemized deductions.

This comes after the Bibb County Board of Education filed a lawsuit against Dallemand in December 2016 claiming that he wasted taxpayer money by making secret deals and manipulated the hiring process to hand-pick employees that he wanted.

The minimum sentence for filing a false tax return is three years in prison, though a sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

As part of his plea agreement, Dallemand will face no more than three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest. He will also have to pay $275,000 in restitution to the IRS.

Two individuals and two organizations were also indicted on Wednesday in connection to the Dallemand case.

Cliffard Whitby, 54, was indicted for one count of conspiracy to pay a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds, one count of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of unlawful activity and five counts of paying a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds. He was arrested on Friday morning.

Harold Knowles, 69, was also indicted on the same charges as Whitby, but with one additional charge of offering to pay a bribe to an agent of an organization receiving federal funds. He was also arrested Friday morning.

Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development (CGPICD) and Positiventures Initiative, LLC, both Macon-based businesses, were each indicted on one count conspiracy to launder the proceeds of unlawful activity.

According to the indictment, Whitby was the executive director of Macon Promise Neighborhood (MPN), which was an effort to provide resources to Macon by targeting four schools in the area that struggled most. The indictment states that CGPICD helped to administer the MPN and Positiventures was a company that listed Whitby as its registered agent.

The indictment states that Whitby and Knowles bribed Dallemand with $100,000 to support the school district selecting the MPN for a 10-year, $10 million deal. It also states that Whitby offered Dallemand $100,000 every year for 10 years for his continued support of the MPN.

Whitby also allegedly suggested creating a company through which to route the money that would be paid to Dallemand in order to hide it. In the meantime, they allegedly used Knowles as a middleman. The indictment also alleges that Positiventures was used as a pass-through for the money as well.

Whitby is the chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, according to their website. In a statement Friday afternoon, the industrial authority states that Vice Chair Robbie Fountain is serving as the acting chairman.

The minimum sentence for a bribe conspiracy is five years while the minimum sentence for substantive bribery is 10 years. Meanwhile, money laundering conspiracy carries a penalty of 20 years and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.

The other charges carry a maximum possible fine of $250,000 each.

Dallemand and Knowles will be tried in the Florida while Whitby will be tried in Macon.

At his initial court appearance on Friday, Whitby was given a $15,000 bond, secured by 10 percent. The judge ordered that he surrender his passport and put a travel restriction to Georgia in place. He was also ordered not to have any contact with witnesses.

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