Perception Is Stronger Than Reality

Public corruption was not the issue for DeKalb’s County’s recent media attention; however, it is one most are describing as embarrassing. DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann was charged with indecency and obstruction recently. Mann calls the event a misunderstanding.

Newsmakers Live Moderator, Maynard Eaton got down to business when discussing Mann’s incident with the Former District Attorney of DeKalb County and partner in the law firm of Morris Shim and James. Robert James, assuming the incident is real, believed someone should not be scarred for the rest of his or her life over a mistake. Anyone who allegedly sought sexual contact in public should have a fair comparison to minors or other younger individuals committing the same act.

All allegations involve a public official misusing their office to break the public’s trust; however, Mann’s case was qualitatively different, James stated. His “supposed” private and personal affair was separate from his professional work. Should the Sheriff be punished for his sexual behaviors or will the public view him as a healthy man having fun?

“Perception is stronger than reality,” James stated. In his years of service, James witnessed the difference in media coverage of two neighboring counties, relatively the same in size. The press would spend three weeks calling a DeKalb resident a crook but will write only one story to clear his name. Whereas, Gwinnett County can have three commissioners resign and the press not has a field day with it.

James shares more of what his experience in public service has taught him:

  • Not trouble yourself with the worries from your job.
  • The spotlight is hot; he does not miss it.
  • You live one life; you should enjoy it!
  • Do your best to provide for your family.

To be of any value in public service, James recalled, you have to care more about your service than keeping your job. If you are always chasing public opinions, you will never be right.

James described being a black prosecutor as “one hell of a thing.” He stated he had his African American community where they have their expectations and concerns as well as neighboring counties pressuring him to be stricter. Somebody was always mad at him; either James was overzealous or lenient.

The only thing James could do was his job and let the chips fall. He loves serving and fighting for the people. They were his motivation, not the money. Now, James’s primary focus is paying for his kids’ college education.