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Pulliam pays for damage to her school system car

By Justin Boron

Clayton County School Superintendent Barbara Pulliam has written a $3,016 check for the damage done to her assigned vehicle while her niece was behind the wheel, school officials said Wednesday.

She wrote the check on the morning a story on the subject appeared last week in the News Daily. In it, the superintendent explained how her Jeep Cherokee ended up needing repairs for what she said a transportation official told her was consistent with a collision with a curb.

In confirming that the check had been presented on Thursday last week, a school system spokesman said Pulliam did it totally of her own volition to avoid the appearance of any impropriety.

“Dr. Pulliam paid for it out of her own pocket,” Charles White said.

About three weeks ago, by Pulliam's account, her niece was returning from a school-related errand in the Jeep Cherokee and lost control of the vehicle in Jonesboro at Fifth Avenue and Ga. Highway 54, possibly due to trouble with the brakes. The car could only drive in reverse and had to be towed to the school system's transportation facilities.

No police report was filed because Pulliam said no accident occurred.

Not speaking about the incident specifically, Clayton County Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner said if a car does damage to public property, the incident would need to be reported.

Having consulted school system attorneys, school officials continue to maintain they don't have to file a police report and have yet to do so. Since the incident happened in Jonesboro any report would have to be filed with the city and they confirmed Wednesday that none had been filed.

White also said insurance for the vehicle would cover Pulliam's niece and any other people that the superintendent permits to driver her car.

But in general, county vehicles don't carry collision coverage, said Ericka Davis, the chairwoman of the Clayton County Board of Education.

In the incident with Pulliam's car, she said the damage would not be covered by insurance, meaning that taxpayer money would have paid for the damage if Pulliam didn't step up to the plate.

Acknowledging Pulliam wasn't obligated to write the check, Davis said the idea of taxpayer money paying for damage caused by a non-county employee is a concept that constituents have a tough time grasping.

“I think it is a testament to her character that she did it on her own,” Davis said.

Davis also said the incident exposed a point of potential vulnerability for the school system because it currently has no policy for reporting damage done to its vehicles.

She said the board is looking into creating a policy that would ensure a “paper trail” for damage to each vehicle in its fleet. Davis said Pulliam also may implement the policy.