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State administrative hearing resumes Aug. 19

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Attorneys for four members of the Clayton County Board of Education will get to produce their witnesses in a state administrative hearing next week.

The hearing is designed to determine whether Michelle Strong, the board's chairperson; Sandra Scott, the vice chairperson, and board members, Lois Baines-Hunter and Yolanda Everett, have committed malfeasance.

The hearing was originally scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday, but was expanded after a team of Jonesboro attorneys seeking to have the board members removed from office spent 20 hours producing evidence. Testimony was heard on Tuesday until 10 p.m., and until almost 7 p.m., on Wednesday.

Attorneys for both sides held a conference call with State Administrative Judge Michael Malihi on Thursday morning to decide the best time to reconvene, and settled on Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 9:30 a.m., at the Office of State Administrative Hearings, (OSAH) 230 Peachtree St., Atlanta. The hearing is also scheduled to continue on Wednesday, Aug. 20, at 8:30 a.m.

Clayton County School System General Counsel Julie Lewis, along with attorney Rodney Moore, will represent the board members. The accused board members will testify first, and be followed by Derrick Manning, assistant superintendent of high schools; Patricia Hill, principal of Morrow High School, and Rose Marie Green, a resident of Jonesboro. Lewis and Moore are also trying to subpoena Gov. Sonny Perdue, but the state attorney general's office filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

"The board members would have liked to move forward with this case [on Wednesday night], but the petitioners said they were tired and wanted to go home," said Lewis on Wednesday night. "We're hopeful this will only last another two days, and that they will move swiftly. This has been very stressful for the board members ... "

On June 23, Jonesboro attorneys Albert Wallace, Robert Oliver, George Glaze, George Brown and retired teacher, Dyane Simmons, filed a complaint with Perdue's office against Strong, Scott, Baines-Hunter, Everett and former board members Rod Johnson, David Ashe and Norreese Haynes.

Perdue forwarded the complaint to OSAH, and it was assigned to Malihi. Malihi is charged with listening to testimony, and determining whether board members have committed malfeasance, or if they violated any other state or local laws. The judge can recommend that Perdue remove the members from office, if wrongdoings are found.

What has happened so far?

Johnson and Ashe have been dropped as respondents because both men resigned from office. Malihi issued a recommendation to Perdue on Wednesday, asking the governor to remove Haynes from office, even though the board voted to declare his seat vacant in March. Alieka Anderson was elected in July to fill Haynes' unexpired term and has already taken office. The recommendation was sent to Perdue in case Haynes won any legal challenges that overturned the board's decision to remove him from office.

Several witnesses have testified about the behavior and mindset of Sandra Scott, before and after, she became a board member. A former Morrow High School football coach testified on Tuesday that Scott once tried to attack a woman with a tire iron, and often harassed the football team's coaching staff.

Mark Elgart, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), testified that he has seen Scott act in a belligerent manner toward staff members during his visits to the districts.

Former board Chairman Eddie White testified on Wednesday that infighting has taken place in closed meetings, and board members have been disrespectful toward staff members and visitors at board meetings. White also said the board took an informal vote, behind closed doors on April 23, to hire Corrective Superintendent John Thompson.

Attorneys for the board members believe their witnesses will be able to counter the earlier testimony and sway Malihi to side with the respondents.

"We have very strong evidence," Lewis said. "It will show the board members did not do anything wrong."