By Curt Yeomans
In the two days since WSB-TV aired a report calling into question the residency of Clayton County Board of Education Member Norreese Haynes, he has been busy disputing allegations that he lives in Cobb County, rather than in the district in which he serves on the school board.
On Wednesday, WSB reported the discovery of a Marietta Police Department incident report, in which Marietta resident, Juan Green, called Haynes "his live in boyfriend of five years," and said that Haynes had assaulted him in a what police labeled as a domestic dispute.
Haynes, and his appointed spokesperson, Dr. John Trotter, however, have been telling reporters that Haynes' arrest on Dec. 4 was the result of Haynes defending himself during a dispute over a woman. They said that the claim Haynes lived in Marietta is an "unmitigated lie."
The communication with the Clayton News Daily, and other news organizations stopped, however, when Haynes' attorney, Adrian Patrick, told the board member to stop talking to the media.
Haynes, who was elected to the Clayton School Board in 2006, said earlier that he has no plans of backing down from the challenges to his eligibility to serve on the board. And no plans to resign from his post.
"Politics is dirty in Clayton County," he said in a statement released Wednesday night. "... No matter what someone says about me, and no matter what kind of political games they try to play with me, I am remaining on the Clayton County Board of Education."
Haynes was scheduled to appear in Cobb County Magistrate Court at 8 a.m., today to face a charge of simple battery from the alleged domestic violence incident.
Earlier this week, WSB-TV reported Haynes' possible Cobb County residency after it received the police report about his impending court appearance.
Dr. Mark Elgart, president of SACS' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), had questioned the residency of Clayton's school board members in a scathing report on the county's schools earlier in the month. The report was accompanied by the organization's recommendation that the Clayton School System's accreditation be revoked, as of Sept. 1.
As a result of the concerns raised by SACS, Secretary of State Karen Handel also is investigating whether school board members complied with residency requirements. State law mandates that an elected official live in the district he or she represents.
The penalty for false swearing in such cases could result in up to 12 months in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000, said Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner.
When Haynes ran for office in 2006, he listed 2722 Starr Road in Morrow, as his address on a affidavit to show he qualified to seek the District 8 school board seat. However, the Marietta police report lists 1035 Franklin Road, in Marietta, as Haynes' residence.
Haynes' district includes 11 schools, from Anderson Elementary in northern Clayton County to Forest Park Middle School and Morrow High near the center. His district is bounded by the intersection of Mount Zion Boulevard and Rex Road, a portion of Interstate 675 and state highways 42 and 54.
Chief Turner said that, since last week, his officers have been investigating the residency of each board member at the request of Clayton Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell. The officers have been knocking on the doors of the homes or apartments listed on the affidavits given by each board member. Utility and phone bills have also been checked, Turner said.
The police chief said his officers found "several discrepancies" in Haynes' claims of residence in Morrow. "They talked to neighbors, who said they never saw Mr. Haynes at that address," Turner said. "Through the course of our investigation, what we have come to believe is he never lived at that location."
Trotter argued that the police couldn't find proof Haynes lived at the Morrow address because Haynes moved to 1858 Almach Court in Conley last week.
"Our residence does not come under the purview of Bell, nor the police department," Haynes said. "Election law is a civil matter, which must first be ferreted out in civil court," he said in a press release Thursday night.
The police are continuing their residency investigations of board members, including Rod Johnson and Lois Baines-Hunter, who own more than one piece of property in the county. Turner said determining which properties are the legal addresses of those board members is the focus of the investigation at this time.
Baines-Hunter also owns property outside Clayton County, Turner said. Both out-of-state properties owned by Baines-Hunter appear to be rented, by her, to members of her family, Turner added.
The residency question prompted Clayton County Tax Commissioner Terry Baskin to launch investigations into the homestead-exemption tax records of all nine board members.
Baskin said he expects to have results from his probe of Haynes and Baines-Hunter soon.