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BOE admin hearing date pushed back

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Albert Wallace does not mind waiting an extra month to go before a judge to argue why the Clayton County Board of Education should be removed from office.

Wallace is one of five Clayton County residents who filed a complaint on June 23 with Gov. Sonny Perdue, alleging that board members engaged in micromanagement and violated the state's Open Meetings Act.

Perdue forwarded the complaint to the Governor's Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH) on July 2.

OSAH Deputy Chief Judge Michael Malihi will preside over the hearing next month. It was originally scheduled for July 16 and 17, but Malihi changed the hearing date on Thursday. It will now take place Aug. 16 and 17, at 8:30 a.m., in Courtroom 1, at the OSAH office, 230 Peachtree St., in Atlanta.

If Malihi decides board members violated any state laws, he can recommend that Perdue remove the entire board from office.

"Whenever the court gives us a target, we're going to fire away," Wallace said.

Malihi pushed the hearing date back a month after school system legal counsel Julie Lewis filed a motion on Tuesday, asking for a later date. In her motion, Lewis said Georgia law mandates that the board members listed in the complaint should have 30 days notice before a hearing takes place.

Lewis said on Thursday she expects a "very document intensive" hearing next month.

"We are going to introduce a lot of documents to show the board members did nothing wrong, and the petitioners, who filed the complaint, are probably going to introduce several documents to back up their side as well," Lewis said.

Lewis questioned the validity of some portions of the complaint. She said the group that filed the complaint did not request closed meeting affidavits from the school system until Wednesday.

Every time a governing body holds an executive session, it's chairperson is required -- under the Open Meetings Act -- to sign an affidavit explaining the purpose of the closed meeting. The four Jonesboro attorneys and one retired teacher, who filed the complaint, stated that no affidavits existed.

"It seems like they put the cart before the horse," Lewis said. "On what was their complaint based, if they are now asking for all of the records?

"They say -- in a very accusatory tone in their complaint -- that there are not signed affidavits, and now they have submitted an open records request to see if those affidavits do, in fact, exist."

Wallace, who is the spokesman for the group which filed the complaint, said the group could not file the open records request until after the complaint was filed.

"We didn't have the power of subpoena until we filed our complaint," he said.