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Solicitor seeks King's removal from Portlock case
His status on BOE also in question

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley filed a motion in state court Friday to have attorney, and Clayton Board of Education Member Michael King disqualified as the defense attorney for James Edward Portlock.

Portlock was arrested Jan. 22, 2008, by two school resource officers near North Clayton Middle school, and charged with simple assault, obstructing an officer, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.

Two of the witnesses in the case are North Clayton Middle School employees: an assistant principal and a graduation coach.

"I believe the rule of law is on my side on this," Mosley said. "He should not be Mr. Portlock's attorney because of the fact that he is the employer of two of the witnesses."

Shortly after Mosley filed her motion, Clayton County State Court Judge Linda Cowen issued a Rule Nisi in the case. The rule ordered King and Portlock to appear Monday, at 8:30 a.m., in courtroom 303, of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, 9151 Tara Boulevard, Jonesboro, to respond to Mosley's motion.

A jury trial for Portlock is scheduled to begin 30 minutes later, with Cowen presiding.

King's involvement in the criminal case comes at a time when his status as a school board member is unclear. At a Feb. 11 hearing, the ethics commission -- which was created by state law to oversee the conduct of Clayton's school board members -- publicly announced it was recommending that the school board remove King from office.

However, on Friday, School System Spokesman Charles White said the commission mispoke when it called the action a recommendation, and that it actually removed King from office.

White also released a Feb. 16 letter from Ethics Commission Chairman Robert Flournoy, sent to School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson and Vice Chairperson Ophelia Burroughs, to show the commission's official decision.

Flournoy's letter includes an order which states the commission "hereby orders that Michael B. King be, and he hereby is, removed from his seat as the member of the Clayton County Board of Education from District 4, effective immediately."

The only way King can participate in the school board's next work session, scheduled for Monday, is to file a notice of appeal with Flournoy and Anderson, White said. If King appeals the commission's decision, he can remain a voting member of the board until the appeal process is completed.

King was previously punished by the board for representing a former Clayton County teacher in a lawsuit against the school system, while he was a board member.

The state law, which created the commission, gives King 15 days to appeal the ethics commission's ruling. If and when he files an appeal, the school board has 30 days to vote on accepting, or modifying the decision.

King said he plans to file a motion with the commission on Monday to reconsider its decision, and he also plans to attend the work session.

In her motion, Solicitor General Mosley said King's position as Portlock's attorney created "the impermissible appearance of impropriety," because he may have access to personnel files for witnesses, namely North Clayton Assistant Principal Frederick Stamper and Graduation Coach Jared Fowler, to which other lawyers would not have access. She also said he may be in a position to discipline the state's witnesses outside the courtroom.

When asked Friday about apparent confusion over King's status with the school board, Mosley said: "Until somebody gives me an official document that says he is no longer on the school board, I'm treating it as if he is the Board of Education's Distrct 4 representative, and I am going to move forward with my motion."

King said Mosley's motion was "an erroneous interpretation" and his position as a school board member did not create a conflict of interest, even though the school board votes each spring on the re-appointment of all school and district-level administrators.

"There is nothing unlawful about that, and nothing that warrants disqualification," he said. "Any action that would prevent me from carrying out my duties would be a violation of both Georgia and federal laws," King said. "I may have to get a federal injunction, but I don't want to bring that kind of attention to the school system when we are trying to get our accreditation back."