Members of board blast grand jury

By Trina Trice and Ed Brock

For the full text of the Clayton County Board of Education's response to the Grand Jury's report, see Page 2.

Five of the eight members of the Clayton County Board of Education say they object, on several grounds, to the Grand Jury's report based on an investigation it began in February on the board's actions.

The members questioned the authority of the jury to look into and discuss some actions of the board and accused the jury of casting them in a bad light.

But the Grand Jury fired back Wednesday, adding some strong words to its final report, citing the fact that the preliminary report was released to the press. It also cited reports that the ruling members of the board agreed to have a response of all eight members, but went ahead and gave an interview and released the report.

The Grand Jury countered by saying that these latest actions "point out what we believe is at the heart of the problems facing our school system today n that the education of the children of Clayton County is of secondary concern to some members of the Board."

In a written statement prepared by Attorney Charles A. Mathis, Jr. and added to the final jury report, Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware, Board Vice Chairwoman Connie Kitchens, and Board members Linda Crummy, Carol Kellam and LaToya Walker say they believe the report is "legally improper; exceeds the Grand Jury's legal authority; is contrary to established Georgia law, and erroneously and illegally states that wrongdoing and misconduct has been engaged in" by the board.

Although Mathis represented Crummy for her testimony before the grand jury, she said she wasn't aware board members were issuing a response to the grand jury report.

"I have not received the response to the grand jury," Crummy said following Wednesday's called meeting. Board member Dr. Bob Livingston "said I was on it. I'm baffled that my name was on the response."

The Clayton County Grand Jury submitted its official presentments on Wednesday after an investigation into actions by the school board that they found very frustrating, Clayton County District Attorney Bob Keller said.

The Grand Jury did not recommend that anyone be indicted but had some strong words and recommendations for the board, including urging them to cooperate with each other and to again video the board meetings so the public can see it is they can't attend the meeting.

It also implied that the board members should either step down or be replaced by the voters if they can't cooperate and conduct themselves in a positive manner.

While a grand jury often has the opportunity to criticize public officials without those officials having a chance to respond, this grand jury did present the board with copies of their initial presentment so they could respond in writing.

Some members of the board did present a five-page response that was attached to the grand jury's official presentments.

"The grand jury did everything it could to give the board the opportunity to conduct themselves in a professional manner," Keller said.

Regarding accusations in the response that parts of the grand jury's presentments were outside the scope of their investigation, Keller said that is not true and said everything in the presentments was pertinent to the investigation of former superintendent Dan Colwell's termination and the events that followed.

"I've never seen a grand jury work so hard," Keller said. "They considered every phone call, every bit of information they received."

Keller also responded to previous accusations by board members that the probe was motivated by racial differences.

"When you look at the composition of the grand jury, to make an accusation that the grand jury probe was racially motivated is outrageous," Keller said.