MWA hears new claims member Desmond Brown “targets elderly”

Macon Water Authority stripped Brown from committees Thursday, contemplates removal from office for ethics violations


Liz Fabian

Former district attorney David Cooke shares new information Thursday about the conduct of Macon Water Authority District 2’s Desmond Brown, who was removed from committees at the called meeting.

The Macon Water Authority agreed Thursday to await further evidence before deciding whether to ask the governor to remove an authority member from office after hearing information of potential criminal misconduct and accusations he preys on elderly single women.

The authority formally censured District 2’s Desmond Brown last month for his “blatant conflict of interest” in billing the authority and Macon-Bibb County for flood damage on behalf of a client of his disaster mitigation company, Blue Armour Network of America.

After a presentation of new information at a called meeting Thursday, he was officially removed from all but an ad-hoc committee that oversees the fishing derby and hunting access to authority land.

Desmond Brown

Without Brown in the meeting, the authority learned more about his existing legal issues and questionable business dealings that could be considered a “breach of public trust” in violation of Georgia’s code of behavior for authority members. As a result, the board’s special legal counsel concluded the authority could appeal to Gov. Brian Kemp to get him off the authority.

Former district attorney David Cooke, whom the authority hired to investigate Brown’s conduct, brought new evidence Thursday, including allegations that Brown targets “elderly women.”

In a supplemental report presented at the meeting, Cooke also included Brown’s legal trouble related to a 2019 court order for Brown to repay a client’s $40,000 investment, plus 25 percent interest, for failing to perform promised services. On Feb. 4, the Center for Collaborative Journalism first reported that case where Judge Verda Colvin concluded Brown abused his D-Money Enterprises corporation, co-mingled corporate and personal funds, did not have sufficient capital, did not properly operate his company or document its financial dealings.

Two weeks ago, Cooke presented findings that Brown had “potential criminal liability” related to unethical conduct while representing the authority. That report resulted in a censure that called for Brown’s removal from standing committees, which Chairman Sam Hart resisted until after Cooke shared the new information this week.

Cooke’s new report included information from another woman who claimed Brown failed to repay a $10,000 investment. The woman said she contacted Cooke after learning about the censure.

Both of those cases happened before Brown was elected, so would not apply to any state ethics violation other than to establish a pattern of conduct, Cooke noted in the supplemental report.

‘Preys on women’ living alone

New information surfaced Feb. 9 when Deborah Little called Cooke to say Brown took $39,000 of her insurance money in September of 2020 “for work never completed” after her roof collapsed in a storm.

When Little tried to get her insurance company to stop payment on the checks, Brown threatened to sue her, according to Cooke’s supplemental report.

The elderly woman told Cooke that while Brown was working on her home, he packed up her belongings without her permission.

“She believes that Brown preys on women who live by themselves,” Cooke said in the report.

Little’s niece said Brown approached her aunt after the 2020 storm and said he could help.

“Brown was supposed to install a new roof and clean up from the damage. He did not do anything that he was paid to do although he did destroy Little’s floor,” according to the niece’s account in the report.

He stopped working on the home after Christmas, so Little had to hire another contractor to complete the work. Her family did the cleanup Brown had been paid to do, Cooke reported.

In the October 2021 incident that launched Cooke’s inquiry, elderly homeowner Diane Noble experienced a similar scenario when her house flooded, although in this case Brown was called in as her Macon Water Authority representative.

Noble also reached out to Cooke about a week after his Jan. 27 report. She called to say she didn’t personally know Brown until he arrived at her home, although Cooke’s prior report indicated Noble had been paying his company $99 a year for the last two years for someone to come out and “make repairs when needed.”

Noble, who was present for a MWA executive session to discuss the matter in December, told Cooke she did not realize MWA did not approve the claim until that closed door meeting. Noble said she is frustrated at being “caught in the middle” and for the perception that she was “part of a conspiracy” with Brown, she told Cooke.

The authority previously questioned the amount of the roughly $40,000 bill Brown’s company sent for “pack-out” and “dry-out” charges at Noble’s Lancelot Place home. She was also accruing about $530 monthly for storage rental.

MWA staff flagged the bills and denied payment.

The authority already refused a prior claim about the property in August because the damage was related to a private easement which MWA concluded it was not liable for.

When Noble questioned Brown about why he hasn’t finished the job, “he responded that he was waiting for a check for $11,000 from the Macon Water Authority for the work he had already done before he would finish the job,” the supplemental report stated.

Cooke’s supplemental report concluded: “Ultimately, in both cases, Brown failed to do the work he promised to do, caused further damages to the subject homes, and left the elderly women who depended on him to fend for themselves.”

The investigation continues

Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Bill Howell, who represents the county on the authority, said Brown’s company continues to pursue payment from Macon-Bibb County, which was responsible for maintaining the stormwater system prior to 2021.

Now Noble is “stuck with her walls torn out and having to confine herself to the upstairs of her home with her downstairs damaged by Brown and in disrepair,” the supplemental report read.

In Cooke’s initial report, he noted Noble’s independent insurance adjuster Audrey Hicks, who represented Noble in her claim with the authority, did not make the house available for ServPro, a third party disaster mitigation company, to evaluate the appropriateness of Blue Armour’s charges.

Authority members now hope Noble will agree to an inspection so they could better conclude whether Brown charged too much, which could constitute insurance fraud and strengthen an argument for further disciplinary action and potential criminal charges.

District 3’s Dwight Jones recommended the authority pause before deciding whether to pursue appealing to the governor for Brown’s removal.

“As I understand there are still more matters arising by the day, and this issue we talked about with ServPro and the county may evolve where there are… more or less criminal charges potentially,” Jones said.

Cooke pointed out that Noble recently clarified that “she was led to believe this was already approved” by MWA when Brown began working at her home. The former district attorney said this was a crucial distinction that shows Brown likely violated the state ethics code which prohibits using information coming to an authority member under his governmental duties “as a means for making private profit.”

“He’s standing in her home and she doesn’t know which hat he’s wearing at the time he recommends she move forward with hiring him,” Cooke said.       Brown did not attend Thursday’s called meeting and did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him for comment on the allegations.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabians covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.