By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Board of Education Member Norreese Haynes told reporters - while waiting to appear before a Cobb County magistrate judge on Friday - the truth will come out about a December 2007 incident which resulted in Haynes being charged with simple battery.
Haynes stood beside his Atlanta-based attorney, Benjamin Davis, as Davis entered his client's plea of "not guilty" before Cobb County Magistrate Judge Frank Cox. The board member allegedly slapped, threw to the floor and strangled Juan Green, Haynes' roommate at a Marietta apartment, during the early hours of Dec. 2, 2007.
Haynes will appear in Cobb County State Court on May 16 for an arraignment hearing.
"My client [Haynes] maintains his innocence and wants a chance to prove his side of the story," Davis told the judge.
Green told a Marietta police officer Haynes was his "live-in boyfriend of five years" and the fight was over fidelity in the relationship, according to a Marietta Police Department Offense Report. Haynes insists he and Green are "just friends," though. Haynes claims the scuffle was over a love triangle involving both men and a female friend.
Green could not be reached for comment.
Haynes' arrest has raised questions about his residency status in Clayton County and called his second election to the Board of Education into question.
While Haynes is serving in his first term on the Board of Education, he has actually been elected to the board twice. His election in 2000 to the board's District 5 seat was thrown out by the Georgia Supreme Court before he could take office. He was able to take the District 8 seat on the board by defeating incumbent Allen T. Johnson in the 2006 primary election.
In 2000, Haynes defeated Barbara Wells in the race for the District 5 seat. Wells contested the election, however, and claimed Haynes' election was not legal because he was not registered to vote in the district.
According to a summary from the Georgia Supreme Court case of Haynes v. Wells, Haynes moved in with a cousin, who lived in the Board of Education's 5th District, a week before qualifying for the primary election ended.
Haynes told the court he had the address on his diver's license changed to reflect his new home four days before the qualifying deadline. He claimed that change should have served as a "notice of a change of address for voter registration." The Supreme Court rejected Haynes' claims, and called them "meritless." His election to the District 5 seat was voided as a result of the court's decision.
After Haynes defeated Allen Johnson in the 2006 primary election, he faced no opposition in the general election later in the year. Haynes used an address at 2722 Starr Road in Morrow on a residency affidavit, which he was required to sign to run for political office.
A Clayton County Police Department investigation into Haynes' residency concluded that the board member does not live in the county, however. Two photographs, taken by investigating officers of a room in which Haynes kept a few items in the house on Starr Road, show a fax machine on top of a large Rubbermaid-style box. Haynes owns a fax machine, which he uses for transmitting school system documents.
A computer was set up at a short table, which is designed to be used by a small child. The rest of the room is filled with children's items, such as a play kitchen, a rocking horse and toy cars.
Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner said that discrepancies revealed during a police department investigation has led officials in his department to believe Haynes has never lived at the Starr Road address. "They [the investigating officers] talked to neighbors, who said they never saw Mr. Haynes at that address," Turner said.
On Friday, Haynes said the Starr Road house was his domicile, or legal address, but the Marietta apartment he has been sharing with Green for the last three years is a temporary residence he uses while attending the University of Phoenix. While the university is largely known for it's online programs, it has several physical campuses across the United States, including one in Marietta, according to its web site.
"I live in Marietta for school purposes while I attend classes at the University of Phoenix," said Haynes, while waiting for his case to be called before Judge Cox. "I'm going to graduate in April. Once I'm done with school, that will be the end of that residence ... I grew up in Clayton County. I never left the county."
Haynes claims he moved out of his Starr Road domicile, and into one in Conley, last weekend.
Glenn Brock, the attorney handling the Clayton School System's response to a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) investigation of the school board, is requiring all nine board members to sign an affidavit, swearing that they live in the districts in which they serve, before the March 3 board meeting.
SACS investigators uncovered discrepancies and questions about the residencies of some board members, including Haynes.
When Haynes was asked if he had signed his affidavit, he only said he notified Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan of his new address on Feb. 22. Brock would not say on Friday if Haynes had signed an affidavit.
The Metro South Association of Realtors issued a statement an hour and a half after Haynes appeared in court, calling for the resignations of Haynes and fellow board members, Rod Johnson, Sandra Scott and Lois Baines-Hunter. Officials from the realtors association plan on participating in a Clayton County Coalition march to protest the Board of Education.
The march will begin at 8 a.m., today at the intersection of Lake Harbin Road and Maddox Road in Morrow. Bob Hartley, the chairman of the coalition, said he has been receiving phone calls from District 8 residents who want to remove Haynes from office since the board member called SACS' Feb. 15 report on the school board a "farce and a sham."
"District 8 is fired up," Hartley said. "Every time Norreese opens his mouth, he embarrasses his district."