By Curt Yeomans
A Clayton County Police Department residency investigation, as well as a December 2007 offense report from the Marietta Police Department, led to the ouster of Clayton County Board of Education Member Norreese Haynes at the board's meeting at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center on Monday.
Haynes' fellow board members passed a resolution which ousted him from office two hours into the meeting, while the board was discussing efforts to comply with nine recommendations from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The accrediting agency recommended revoking the school system's accreditation last month.
The report from the Marietta Police Department surfaced last week. It contained the allegation that Haynes, who represents District 8 on the board, has been living with another man -- in Cobb County -- for the last five years.
"By factual evidence, and by state law, I move to declare this [District 8] seat is vacant," said board chairperson, Ericka Davis, as she read the resolution.
Haynes has 10 days to appeal the decision to the Clayton County Board of Elections, and local court officials. It will be up to the Clayton County Board of Elections to decide to fill the vacancy.
Haynes was elected in 2006, and has been serving on the board of education for a little over a year. The most likely option for replacing him would be a special election, although when it would take place is unclear.
The resolution to remove Haynes was approved by a 5-3-1 vote. Davis, board vice chairman, Eddie White, board members Rod Johnson, David Ashe and Yolanda Everett voted in favor of removing Haynes. Haynes and fellow board members, Sandra Scott and Michelle Strong, voted against the measure, while Lois Baines-Hunter abstained.
"It's not about the residency investigation," said Strong, as she addressed Davis. "It's how it was handled. You had him investigated by Eldrin Bell without consulting the rest of us."
After the vote was completed, the audience erupted into cheers and began waving their arms in the air, while screaming "Get out! Get out! Get out!"
Haynes began to address Glenn Brock, the attorney hired by the board to handle its response to a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) investigation, after the action was taken.
"First of all, I haven't done anything illegal, according to ...," said Haynes.
"Mr. Haynes, according to state law, your seat is vacant, I can't allow you to continue speaking," Davis interrupted to the enthusiastic delight of the audience. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Haynes was then escorted off the stage by three Clayton County Police officers.
Board member Scott began to ask Brock if chairperson Davis' behavior constituted a violation of the board's ethics policy. As she asked her question, though, one audience member shouted, "We want our accreditation, get over it!"
The meeting proved to be a lively one. The 1,800-seat Clayton County Performing Arts Center was filled to capacity, and hundreds of residents had to be turned away at the door. Fifty community members spoke during public comments and demanded resignations from board members.
As each person spoke, the board members looked like children being scolded for bad behavior. Haynes clinched his fists as a look of displeasure crossed his face.
"If you truly cared about your constituents, you'd resign," said Bridget Harris, a junior at Jonesboro High School. "You may have the right to do a lot of things, but you do not have the right to take away our futures," she continued.
"If you were in the military, you all would have been court-martialed by now," said retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Searless Hathaway.
"Do you realize you are holding an entire community hostage," said Clayton County resident, Jacqueline Taylor.
"I don't want to have to leave Clayton County to attend a good school, but I will," said Dion Cook, a third-grader at Jackson Elementary School.
"There may have been four board members named in the report, however, there were five other board members who did nothing to stop what was going on," said Josh Penny, a junior at Jonesboro High School, and president of the Clayton Students Coalition. "This has become a mudslinging contest ... Your arrogance will not save you from your constituents."
Haynes' ouster was not the only vacancy which occurred on the board on Monday.
Earlier in the day, inquiries from Gov. Sonny Perdue, as well as investigations into the residencies of all nine members of the Clayton County Board of Education, led board member, Rod Johnson, to announce his resignation from the District 5 seat.
There is currently no date set for when his resignation will become official, he said in a telephone interview on Monday. "I'm going to do what's in the best interest of the children," Johnson said.
On Feb. 22, Perdue announced he was sending two members of the state board of education to act as liaisons between the governor's office and the school system. Secretary of State Karen Handel has also been instructed to investigate the residencies of each board member, and other state offices are looking into the school district's attendance and financial records.
"I already had plans to step down, but there are key areas [such as residency questions] that have come to the forefront," Johnson said. "With the governor's office, and the secretary of state's office stepping in, I can step down ... We can move forward ..."