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King seeks to stop board's ethics vote

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Board of Education member Michael King asked a Clayton County Superior Court judge Wednesday to declare the school board's ethics commission unconstitutional, and to bar the board from accepting the commission's recommendation to remove him from office.

The ethics commission recommended King be removed from office last month for violating provisions of a 2008 ethics law by representing a former Clayton County teacher in a lawsuit against the school system. The law was passed by the Georgia General Assembly to provide a specific code of ethics only for Clayton County school board members.

In his "Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Preliminary and Permanent Injunction," King said the code of ethics for Clayton County school board members contradicts a general code of ethics for elected officials, which is part of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.

"I didn't want the board to take any action on an unconstitutional statute," King said. "I believe the ethics commission is an unconstitutional body because the Georgia Constitution prohibits special laws when there is a general law that speaks to the same matter."

In his complaint to the court, King said "Plaintiff anticipates that the Board of Education will unlawfully vote to affirm the ethics commission's decision during the next board meeting on March 23, 2009 and immediately remove him from his board seat."

King has already appealed the ethics commission's decision to the school board and the commission itself.

If King's request for a ruling declaring the commission unconstitutional is granted by the court, it could undo efforts by the school board, and school system, to meet one of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' nine mandates for improvement. Mandate No. 3 calls for the school board to put a strong ethics policy in place, and to abide by it.

The law which established the ethics commission is being touted by school system officials as a sign the board and the district have met this mandate. King voted against approving the district's accreditation report Thursday, and he said it was partly because of his belief that the commission is unconstitutional.

"If it is unconstitutional, then we have not met that third mandate," King said.

School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson declined to comment in depth about King's request, except to reiterate the board is scheduled to vote on the ethic commission's decision later this month.

"If there is an injunction, then we're going to follow the letter of the law," Anderson said. She deferred all other questions about the issue to School System General Counsel Julie Lewis. Lewis said she has not seen the complaint, and declined to comment.

No court date has been set to hear arguments in the case. King will represent himself as he argues to have his complaint granted, according to court records.