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Clayton Co. Schools accuse BOE member of policy violations

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A member of the Clayton County Board of Education, who has been accusing his colleagues of holding illegal meetings, attempted on Friday to hold his own illegal meeting, according to school system officials.

Michael King, who represents District 4 on the board, walked out of a closed-door board training session on Aug. 29, calling the gathering illegal.

He also refused to vote in the appointment of Jessie Goree to fill the vacant District 3 seat during a Sept. 3 called meeting, and he had to be coaxed into participating in a vote to go into executive session. He abstained from that vote, and refused to go into executive session, claiming it was illegal.

Gov. Sonny Perdue removed four board members on Aug. 28, partially because of violations of the Open Meetings Act.

But, on Friday, King was the one being accused of trying to stage an illegal board meeting at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center. King was the only board member who showed up for the meeting he called.

District Spokesman Charles White, in a statement released on the school system's behalf, outlined six board policies King allegedly violated by advertising a meeting in the Friday edition of the Clayton News Daily.

"Appropriate procedures were not followed in the scheduling of a meeting by a member of the Board of Education, a meeting that listed illegal action items on its agenda, items in violation of Robert's Rules of Order," said White in his statement to the media.

King was also accused of violating policies dealing with board-superintendent relations; duties of officers; board-staff relations; work sessions and board meetings; ethics and civility.

On Thursday, King contacted the Clayton News Daily, the county's legal organ, to place an advertisement in Friday's edition of the newspaper. The ad included a schedule for a meeting, where Goree's appointment and the vote to go into Sept. 3, executive session would have been rescinded; Goree would have been re-appointed, and appointments would have been made to fill vacancies in District's 2 and 5.

King, an attorney who was sworn in as a board member on Aug. 25, after winning a special election in District 4, wanted to appoint Wanda Smith and Ophelia Burroughs, winners of Democratic primaries for the District 2 and 5 seats, respectively. The main problem other board members had with making those appoints was that Smith and Burroughs still have to face Republican challengers in the Nov. 4 general election. They have not yet won those seats. The voters still have to decide who will represent the disctricts.

That, apparently, didn't matter to King. When asked about it, he replied, "I've lived in Clayton County since 1984. I first ran for the school board in 1992. I ran for the state Senate against Terrell Starr in 1994 and 1996, and I ran for District Attorney in 2004. Based on my election experience, I believe this is a Democratic county ..."

King also said the school system should not appeal the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' (SACS) decision to revoke the district's accreditation because, "You're going to spend $10,000, and it won't work because you only met one of the nine mandates."

The board member also said he was disappointed by the absence of fellow board members, Alieka Anderson and Trinia Garrett, on Friday. King said the trio agreed on Thursday morning to hold a meeting. The ad he purchased in the newspaper also stated: "The three sitting school board members for Clayton County Board of Education have called a meeting for Friday, September 5, 2008 ..."

Anderson and Garrett could not be reached for comment.

Hours before the advertised meeting was to take place, White sent out a statement denouncing the ad, and he also said the meeting was not announced in compliance with state law. At the time, the school system did not know King had purchased the ad.

"The ad that has appeared on Page 3 of the September 5 edition of the News Daily newspaper announcing a meeting of the Board for Friday, September 5, at 2:30 p.m., was placed without the knowledge of the Clayton County Public School district," said White.

"Our standard procedure for posting meetings of the Board of Education, which is in complete compliance of the Georgia Open Meetings Act, was not followed ... To the knowledge of the school district, there is no Clayton County Board of Education meeting scheduled for today."

The Georgia Open Meetings acts states: "Whenever any meeting required to be open to the public is to be held at a time or place other than at the time and place prescribed for regular meetings, the agency shall give due notice thereof ...

"'Due notice' shall be the posting of a written notice for at least 24 hours at the place of regular meetings, and giving of written, or oral notice at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting to the legal organ in which notices of sheriff's sales are published in the county where regular meetings are held."

Despite the language in the Open Meetings Act, King said he did nothing wrong in the way he called for his meeting. "It's my understanding that [placing the ad in the newspaper] was the only notice that was required," he said. "Twenty-four hours notice was all that was required."

The confusion over King's called meeting left the handful of attending parents scratching their heads and wondering if the remaining board members were any different from the previous board members.

"Without disrespecting the sitting board members, but it looks like a circus," said Monique Henderson, whose 7-year-old son attends River's Edge Elementary School. "I'm not sure what's going on, and I'm not sure if they know what they should be meeting about."