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BOE ethics meeting set for today

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education's Ethics Commission will give its first meeting the old college try -- again.

The seven-member commission will meet today at 5:30 p.m., at the school system's central administration complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro. It will be an organizational meeting, where only the commission's future procedures will be discussed and voted upon.

The commission was created earlier this year by a state law to help the school system recover from its accreditation woes. Unethical behavior by school board members played a large part in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) revoking the district's accreditation in September.

The role of the commission is to receive and review ethics complaints made against board members, and make a recommendation for sanctions to the full school board.

"We've got a formula in mind [for conducting business], but we need to discuss it in a full forum," said commission member Larry O'Keeffe, following the group's first attempt to meet on Nov. 13.

The commission canceled its first meeting, involving such housekeeping items as selecting officers and a process for handling ethics complaints, because a quorum was not present.

According to the state law which created the commission, five members of the body must be present to have a quorum. When the group tried to meet last time, one commission member, Mike Barnes, could not attend because he has not yet gone through mandatory training, and cannot participate in commission meetings until he remedies the situation.

Another member was stuck in traffic after work, and a third member had a family emergency and could not attend.

In addition to selecting the commission's leaders, and a way to process complaints, the commission also will adopt an operating budget, and guidelines for sanctioning school board members who act unethically.

The members will also introduce themselves to the audience after the chairperson and vice chairperson are elected.

In addition to O'Keeffe and Barnes, other commission members are Sam Burston, Robert Flournoy, Deborah Jester, Karolen Mazyck-Dowdell, and Stephanie Turnipseed.

Once the commission takes care of its organizational issues, it will move to a four-times-per-year meeting schedule.

The school system has also announced that the commission will meet next on Jan. 7, 2009.