0

King barred from sitting with school board

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Before the Clayton County Board of Education's work session Monday, Michael King said he would comply if his colleagues did not want him sitting next to them at the meeting.

King's removal from office was ordered by the school system's state-mandated ethics commission on Feb. 11, but he can reclaim his seat if he files an appeal. He had not filed an appeal before the work session began, and in the minutes leading up to the meeting, King was unsure of what to expect.

He said he planned to accept whatever happened.

"If they ask me to leave, then I'll leave," King said.

King's tone changed, however, when he was asked to leave the work session by Jonesboro Police Officer Anthony Lumpkin. Lumpkin led King away from his seat at the board's desk, and through a door that led to a hallway behind the boardroom.

Two more Jonesboro Police officers then went behind another closed door into the same hallway. They were followed by school system General Counsel Julie Lewis and Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham-Lawson. Lewis could be heard saying, "He knew better. He knew better."

Roughly 10 minutes later, the police officers led King through the boardroom - while the work session was taking place - and escorted him to the lobby area of the district's central administration complex. Once the group reached the lobby, King and Lumpkin began to argue.

Lumpkin said he removed King from his seat because school system officials showed him the ethics commission's order to remove King from office.

"In essence, this is false imprisonment," King said.

"It wasn't false imprisonment, Mr. King. I said you were free to sit in there and watch the meeting," Lumpkin said.

"But, not in my official capacity as a board member," King said in response.

The board never stopped to explain what happened with King, nor did it take a vote to bar him from sitting at the desk.

The ethics commission ordered King's removal from office because he represented a teacher in a lawsuit against the school system last year. There has been confusion since then, however, because no one is sure how to interpret the law which created the ethics commission.

Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson deferred questions about the commission's order to Lewis. Lewis did not return phone calls before the work session. When Lewis was asked in person, minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, she said she did not have time to answer the question.

King, however, argued he could not be denied his seat, citing a passage in the legislation which created the ethics commission. The legislation says, "No disciplinary action shall occur until all appeals have been exhausted, and the accused member shall remain a voting member of the board until that time."

King also argued the work session was illegally held because he could not take his seat.

"The people of District 4 have no representation on the school board," King said.

The state law which created the commission leaves open a possibility for King's return. If King files an appeal within 15 days of the commission's decision, he can remain a board member during the appeal process, Winston Denmark, the commission's legal counsel, said Monday afternoon.

King has until Thursday to file an appeal, Robert Flournoy, the commission's chairperson, said before the board's work session.

King has said he plans to appeal the commission's decision by Friday.

For King, Monday was a day filled with professional trouble.

It began in the morning, when he was removed as the attorney of record in a state court case.

State Court Judge Linda Cowen disqualified him as the legal representative for James Edward Portlock, citing King's authority over two of the state's witnesses in the case who are school system employees.