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Haynes on BOE fight: 'I'm not gone yet'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Former Clayton County Board of Education member Norreese Haynes said he is preparing to go to the state Court of Appeals, and possibly, a federal court, after a Clayton County Superior Court judge, on Monday, dismissed his efforts to get back on the school board.

Haynes has been trying to stop a July 15 special election to replace him -- and to get his seat back -- since the school board declared his seat vacant on March 3.

Haynes said Tuesday that, "I'm not gone yet." He and his attorneys also vented their anger in a press release, in which they claimed Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield's decision was politically motivated. No date has been set to file the appeal with the higher court, however.

"It's pretty obvious from looking at the judge's rather stark ruling that politics is alive and well in Clayton County," said Preston Haliburton, one of Haynes' attorneys.

"In fact, the heartbeat of politics is strong in Clayton County, but the spirit of the Constitution is regretfully dead. However, Mr. Haynes' redemption will be in courts outside of Clayton County."

While Macon-based attorney, Anderson Ramay, led the local, legal efforts to stop the July 15 special election, Haliburton is going to take over as the lead attorney at the higher court levels. Haynes said his attorneys are willing to take their fight to a federal court, if necessary.

Winston Denmark, the lead attorney for former board of education members Ericka Davis and Eddie White, and current members David Ashe, Yolanda Everett and Rod Johnson, could not be reached for comment.

The case began when Haynes' attorneys requested a temporary restraining order against his former colleagues to stop the special election, even though they are not responsible for setting elections.

Judge Benefield determined, on May 21, that Haynes was suing the wrong party, since the county's board of elections, not the board of education, is the only body which can call an election.

Then on Monday, Benefield rejected a request from Haynes' attorneys to add the Clayton County Board of Elections to the suit, and granted a motion from the five board of education members to dismiss the case.

Benefield's order said that "the petitioner [Haynes] has failed to provide any argument in support of his motion to join new parties, thus the court finds that he has not satisfied his burden in establishing lack of prejudice or excusable delay." She also said, "This court finds that the petitioner has no right ... to appeal the Clayton County Board of Education's decision to remove the petitioner as a member."

In his press release, Haynes called Benefield's order "unconscionable" and said changes are needed in the judicial branch of the county's government. He said he hopes the "Obama Revolution," referring to the campaign of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, "does not skip over Clayton County ..."

"We have a judge ... who apparently would rather affirm the illegal actions of a rogue school board rather than to grant me my right to a evidentiary hearing," Haynes said.

Jack Hancock, the attorney for the board of elections, defended Monday's order, saying, "Judge Benefield was correct."

Hancock also said his client would probably not be a client in any appeal, since Benefield never added the elections board as a party in Superior Court.

The attorney said he and the elections board's' other attorneys will respond in "what ever manner is appropriate," if Haynes pursues further legal action against their client.