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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Former Bibb County School Superintendent Dr. Romain Dallemand explained how he and former Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority (MBCIA) chairman, Cliffard Whitby funneled alleged bribe money, Friday morning.
Day 5 of trial started with the star witness, Dallemand, back on the stand telling his version of the business deals with Whitby and Tallahassee attorney, Harold Knowles. Dallemand says Whitby was supposed to give him $100,000 in exchange for the Bibb County School District’s (BCSD) support of the Macon Promise Neighborhood (MPN). Dallemand said he and Whitby did not want the payment to go directly from Whitby to him, so that’s when he thought of Knowles.
Dallemand thoughT Knowles would be a “good person” to use for the transaction. He said Knowles told him he was concerned at first because the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was already investigating one of his accounts. Dallemand said Knowles eventually agreed and once Whitby sent the $100,000 to Knowles, Knowles told Dallemand, “The eagle has landed.” Knowles then gave Dallemand a check with the amount of money and the subject line read, ‘trust refund.’
Whitby and Dallemand created Belhannes LLC, according to Dallemand, in order to pass the remainder of the money Whitby promised Dallemand. Dallemand explained to the jury that they took it a step further and made the money look like it was going towards a University Center in Haiti. The prosecution presented the Joint Venture Plan Whitby and Dallemand drafted up, stating that Belhannes and Armstead Investment Group would work on the University Center. Dallemand said he had no intention in actually moving forward with the project, it was just “window dressing.”
Knowles and Dallemand also had a deal of their own, according to Dallemand. He told the jury that he agreed to give Knowles’ construction company, Pinnacle, contracts with the BCSD, in exchange for stocks to Knowles’ company. The BCSD paid Pinnacle about $3.2 million for work, and Dallemand claims he never received money he was promised by Knowles.
The jury then listened to phone recordings between Whitby and Dallemand. The two met at a Denny’s in South Georgia in April of 2017. Dallemand was working with the FBI at that point, so he was wearing a wire. The defense was opposed to providing headphones and transcripts to other people in the courtroom. The recordings were difficult to understand since the speaker volume in the courtroom was low and the recording itself was noisy.
Trial continues Monday morning with Dallemand on the stand, still answering questions from the prosecution. Stay with 41NBC for updates.