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Private-Sector Corruption Busters

A pair of watchdog groups are using unorthodox tools to fish for information about Grady Memorial Hospital.

It's difficult to say if the groups' tactics - namely, cash rewards - are working. But the pleas for information signify a move by the private, nonprofit sector into the hunt for corrupt politicians.

Doctors for Open Government, an independent public interest group, and sister group the New Grady Coalition, a nonprofit "concerned about patient care at Grady and all public hospitals," are offering $500 to $700 for information on the cozy relationship between former state Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, and Grady Memorial Hospital.

Walker, one of the most powerful African-Americans in Georgia politics, was convicted June 3 of 127 counts stemming from the use of his political office for personal gain. His companies did more than $2.5 million in business with Grady between 1996 and 2000.

Joyce Harris, who was senior vice president for human resources at Grady, blew the whistle on Walker in a 1999 TV interview, claiming he demanded that Grady hire as many as 50 workers per day from his temporary employment agency. Harris claims she was fired from Grady in retaliation for her complaints against Walker.

"We're hoping to bring more whistle-blowers forward by allowing ... them the flexibility to be anonymous," says Ron Marshall, who chairs the New Grady Coalition and Doctors for Open Government. "We got about five or six tips from people who are legitimately concerned about the conditions at Grady Hospital."

Marshall says the tips "corroborated the evidence we already have about the corruption. We're going to pass them along to the district attorney and the FBI."

Marshall also is offering a $12,000 reward for information about an "attempted poisoning of a witness," according to the New Grady Coalition website. But Marshall, citing a lawsuit, wouldn't provide details on the alleged poisoning.

Businessman and self-made millionaire Bill Corey also is attempting to root out funny business in local government, specifically between Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport contractors and Atlanta City Hall. Corey has billboards around Atlanta advertising a toll-free phone number to report "Atlanta Airport Corruption." But Corey's impetus isn't exactly selfless. For him, a multimillion-dollar contract is at stake.

Corey, who owns Corey Airport Services, a division of the outdoor billboard company U.S. Enterprises Inc., is suing the city because his company lost a bid for an airport advertising contract. Corey alleges that the bidder who got the contract, Barbara Fouch, won because of political ties. City attorneys and Fouch say the contract was won fair and square.

Corey says his hotline has generated several tips, but he won't describe what information, if any, the tips have generated. "My lawyer is still going over them," he says.

For more info on the New Grady Coalition and Doctors for Open Government, visit www.newcriminologist.co.uk/grady.asp. If you have a tip to report on airport corruption, call 1-800-77-COREY.??



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