By Curt Yeomans
The Clayton County Board of Education upheld the recommendation of its ethics commission Monday to remove board member Michael King from office for representing a teacher in a lawsuit against the school system while he was sitting on the school board.
King's removal was the first test of the commission's authority to enforce the school board's ethics policy, and the board members voted 6-3 to side with their ethics watchdogs. King and board members Jessie Goree and Trinia Garrett were the dissenting voices in the vote.
Even though board Chairperson Alieka Anderson asked the commission last November to review King's representation of former Mt. Zion High School teacher Lakeetra Mason in a wrongful termination lawsuit against the district, King, an attorney, said he was still surprised by his ouster.
"I thought they were ready to move forward in terms of their roles and responsibilities, but I guess they are not," King said.
Under the state law which created the ethics commission, King has 10 days to file an appeal with Clayton County Superior Court, or the board's decision will become final. King has already filed a motion in superior court seeking declaratory judgment on the constitutionality of the law which created the commission, but he said Monday he also plans to appeal the board's decision.
King began representing Mason before he took office in August 2008, but he did not recuse himself in the case. When board members were given conflict-of-interest affidavits to sign in September, King crossed out the word "not" when board members were asked to swear they did not have a conflict of interest.
King said that was his notification to the school system that he was representing Mason. School system General Counsel Julie Lewis discovered King was Mason's attorney when new documents in the case were sent to her office. School system officials complained that he never explained the intent behind the editing. As a result, the board censured King in October.
Anderson said little about the board's decision after the vote, only that King's removal from office was simply a matter of board members doing what the ethics commission decided was appropriate.
"At this point, the board has rendered its decision to uphold the ethics commission's decision to remove Mr. King, and we are moving forward," Anderson said.