By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Board of Education Member Norreese Haynes, who was recently removed from the board by his colleagues, claims he is the victim of the "most crass of political vendettas."
His attorney is seeking an injunction to stop the board from filling the seat through a special election. Haynes also is asking the court to allow him to continue serving until a judge rules on his residency.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) asked for investigations of the eligibility of every board member, which includes residency, in the agency's Feb. 15 report, which recommended the revoking of the school system's accreditation.
The AdvancED Accreditation Commission, which oversees SACS, will vote on accepting the agency's decision Saturday during its convention in Chicago.
The school board declared Haynes' seat vacant during its March 3 board meeting. Board chairperson Ericka Davis, vice chairman Eddie White, and board members Rod Johnson, Yolanda Everett and David Ashe voted in favor of a resolution which removed Haynes from the board. Haynes and fellow board members Sandra Scott and Michelle Strong voted against the resolution, while their colleague, Lois Baines-Hunter, abstained.
The action was based on the preliminary findings of a police investigation into whether Haynes actually lived in the board's eighth district.
In the 20-page filing Thursday with Superior Court Clerk Linda T. Miller, Haynes also said he wants unspecified damages, and he wants the board to pay his legal expenses.
Board members Davis, White, Johnson, Everett and Ashe are listed as defendants.
"[Davis], without any authority from the Clayton County Board of Education, commenced a police investigation of [Haynes] by requesting her friend, Eldrin Bell, chairman of the Clayton County commission, to 'conduct an inquiry into the certified addresses of the Clayton County Board of Education members,'" according to the appeal filed by Macon-based attorney, J. Anderson Ramay, Jr.
Haynes also claims the person who wrote the Clayton County Police Department's report on his residency shows a "woeful lack of knowledge about Georgia residency laws."
Haynes said statements that he did not appear to live in his district, made by Davis, County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, and Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner, were "misinformed, false and scandalous." He claims the police conducted an "unlawful search" of the house Haynes lived in when he ran for his seat in 2006.
"I'm glad to have it [the appeal/ injunction] filed because what she [Davis] did was unjust and unlawful," said Haynes on Thursday, when he gave a Clayton News Daily reporter a copy of the filing.
Haynes said he expects to sit with the board at its March 24 work session, or possibly during a training session on Saturday, if a judge issues an injunction against the board's decision.
Haynes said the exhibits his attorneys will introduce to the court include e-mails sent between Davis and Bell. Other evidence includes minutes from board meetings, the contracts for Interim Superintendent Dr. Gloria Duncan and legal counsel Dorsey Hopson, and documents related to the school system's purchase of 155 acres of land in Riverdale. Haynes claims he has been targeted because of his opposition to contracts and other board actions.
The question of residency
The Clayton County Police Department determined Haynes lives in a Marietta apartment, and not at a Morrow address he used when he ran for the District 8 seat in 2006. Haynes allegedly has been living in the apartment with another man for the last five years, according to a Marietta Police Department offense report from December 2007.
Haynes admits he has been renting the apartment, but claims he rarely stayed there. He also claims he only had the residence because he was attending classes at the University of Phoenix, and is scheduled to graduate from the Marietta college in April. He claims he currently lives at a home in Conley.
Chief Turner continued to defend his department's investigation on Thursday night. He said the investigation into the residency issue is ongoing and has been tailored to what SACS mentioned in its report.
"Our investigation into his residency data has been fair and unbiased, especially since we are looking at every board member," Turner said. "We have not singled him out."
The move to declare his seat vacant
In his court documents, Haynes calls Davis' and Bell's actions "brown-shirted, strong-armed tactics," and compares the pair to Saddam Hussein and Benito Mussolini.
"Even those accused of treason, drunk driving, murder, or dogfighting are provided due process rights in our constitutional rights," he said in his filing.
Haynes said he should have been given a 10-day notice before his ouster from the board.
Commission Chairman Bell had urged the board to declare the seat vacant. At the March 3 meeting, Davis introduced a resolution, which addressed Bell's request.
According to board policy, a member has to request the addition of an item to the agenda at least seven days before a monthly business meeting. The policy also states the majority of the board has to vote in favor of letting a member introduce a new item, such as a resolution, to the agenda during a business meeting, "provided that no action is taken without a unanimous vote."
Davis read her resolution while Glenn Brock, an attorney hired by the board to handle all SACS-related issues, was giving an update to board members about the district's response to the accrediting agency's report.
Since the board declared his seat vacant, Haynes' district-issued cell phone has been disconnected and he gave the system a fax machine which was purchased with district funds. His photograph and biography have been removed from the school system's web site.
Davis and Brock could not be reached for comment on Thursday. Bell declined to comment for this article. Eddie White said he based his vote on the information he was provided about his colleagues' residency, but declined to comment on the appeal.