0

King suspected of violating ethics policy again

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Board of Education Member Michael King's behavior as an attorney is once again under scrutiny from the school system, because he may have - once again - violated the board's ethics policy.

King is defending College Park resident, James Edward Portlock, 38, in Clayton County State Court against charges of public drunkenness, obstructing an officer, disorderly conduct, and simple assault.

Portlock was arrested by a School Resource Officer, who was on duty at the time at North Clayton Middle School. Witnesses to the arrest include school system employees.

School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said King's involvement in the case is being investigated by School System General Counsel Julie Lewis to see if it is a violation of the board's ethics policy.

King is already facing possible removal from office for representing a former teacher in a lawsuit against the school board.

"If it's dealing with Clayton County, period, you can't be involved," Anderson said. "If it is a conflict of interest, we are going to have to censure him again, and forward the issue to the ethics commission - if he is still on the board [by that time]."

King has already been censured by the board for representing a former teacher in a lawsuit against the school board. The board's ethics commission recommended, recently, that King be removed from office, because he failed to notify officials of his conflict of interest when he took office in August 2008.

The board has not set a date to vote on whether to remove King. It is still waiting to hear his response, Anderson said.

Portlock is accused of interfering with School Resource Officers Reynard Walker-Wilson's, and Dwayne Ahmad Penn's questioning of a group of about 10 teenagers. The youths were being asked about reports of a similar-sized group of North Clayton High School students heading to North Clayton Middle School to fight a middle school student after school.

According to the police report, Portlock claimed the teenagers were "my kids," but three female students in the group denied knowing him. Walker-Wilson told Portlock he was interfering in an investigation, to which Portlock allegedly said, "I don't give a [expletive deleted]" in front of the youths.

After the female students were allowed to leave, Portlock allegedly told Walker-Wilson "he was tired of police [expletive deleted] with all of our black males," according to the police report.

The report said Portlock allegedly told Walker-Wilson and Penn he would "beat yo [expletive deleted]" and "[expletive deleted] you up." He then, allegedly, moved toward Walker-Wilson with his fists clenched. In response, Walker-Wilson "took him to the ground" and placed Portlock in handcuffs, with Penn's assistance, according to the police report.

Walker-Wilson said Portlock's breath had a strong smell of alcohol on it, and his eyes were bloodshot.

According to court records, Portlock was released from jail a day later, on $6,500 bond set by a Clayton County Magistrate Court judge. The case was transferred from Magistrate Court to State Court in October.

King became Portlock's attorney on Jan. 23 of this year. Portlock was previously represented by a court-appointed attorney.

The case is scheduled for a jury trial Monday, at 9 a.m., in Courtroom 302. Clayton County State Court Judge Linda Cowen will preside over the case.

The case raises the issue of whether King should be in a position to question people who work for the school system in a courtroom setting.

The school board's ethics policy says board members cannot accept private employment which conflicts "with the proper discharge of such person's official duties," or impairs the board member's "independence of judgment, or action, in the performance of his, or her official duties."

Walker-Wilson, Penn, North Clayton Middle School Assistant Principal Frederick Stamper, and Graduation Coach Jared Fowler are witnesses for the state in the case. King has requested personal information on all of the witnesses, including home addresses and phone numbers.

As a school board member, King is technically Stamper and Fowler's employer. The school system is preparing to distribute new contracts to teachers and staff members. The board will vote on the re-appointment, or re-hiring, of all administrators, including assistant principals, in April.

School Resource Officers are hired by the Clayton County Police Department, but the officers are provided to the district through a contract that was approved last year by the school board. Under that agreement, the school system is required to pay 80 percent of the salaries for each SRO.

Solicitor General Tasha Mosley, whose office is prosecuting the case, said she was unaware of its details. However, she planned to spend Thursday night looking into the case after discovering King's connection to four of the state's five witnesses.

Mosley said that connection could be a conflict of interest for King, in his role as an attorney. "If there is a conflict, then I'll put it before the judge to see what she wants to do," Mosley said.

King said he was not deterred by what he called a "false accusation" involving the alleged conflict of interest concerning the former teacher's lawsuit against the school board. He also said he failed to see any connection between the Portlock case and his role as a school board member.

"It's not a violation, so no, I don't have any hesitation taking this case," King said. He also said he will abstain from a vote to re-appoint Stamper in April.

School System Spokesman Charles White said Lewis, the school district's general counsel, declined a request for comment, citing attorney-client privilege.