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School board censures member for 1st time

WARRENTON, Ga. -- For the first time in history, members of the Warren County Board of Education censured one of their own for releasing false information to the public concerning an ongoing investigation by state SACS officials.

The public censure of Clara B. Roberts occurred after nearly a five-hour special called school board meeting in the George Holliman Auditorium at Warren County High School. The meeting was attended by 36 persons, including Bunny Wiley Hunter, who brought the allegations of wrongdoing to light that actually led to the action against Mrs. Roberts.

During that lengthy period, Mrs. Hunter levied various accusations against Mrs. Roberts, who stepped down as school board chairwoman earlier this year amid an accreditation investigation that was launched by SACS officials. Mrs. Roberts countered by denying those allegations -- one of which involved reportedly spitting into Mrs. Hunter's hair following a March school board meeting in the high school auditorium.

Both women bickered back and fourth with each other about what was the truth and what wasn't. On several occasions, Mrs. Hunter's husband, Craig, an elected member of the Warrenton City Council, intervened on his wife's behalf.

The portion of the meeting involving censurship was mediated by school board attorney Mike Dishman, who guided school board members along paths never before taken in Warren County.

Mrs. Hunter began her comments to school board members by saying, "It is not my intention to embarrass or humiliate anyone ever. But I feel it is my duty and responsibility to bring this violation of the public trust of C.B. Roberts to the attention of the Board of Education."

She charged that Mrs. Roberts "had intentionally misled and twisted the truth and lied" to her fellow members on the Board of Education, the community and the people who elected her.

Mrs. Hunter contended that when Mrs. Roberts was still serving as chairwoman of the BOE panel she stated in a Jan. 19, 2010 school board meeting that SACS had called her.

"I did not call them, they called me," Mrs. Hunter quoted Mrs. Roberts as saying on a video tape recording of that meeting.

Mrs. Hunter said Mrs. Roberts stated that SACS officials requested to come back to Warren County with a "new team" to correct a previous report. The former school board chairwoman also reportedly informed those attending the meeting that SACS officials had called School Superintendent Carole Jean Carey and told her the same thing.

Again, the tape of that meeting was played at the special called BOE meeting last week.

SACS officials "never said or implied this," Mrs. Hunter said.

As a result, Mrs. Hunter charged that Mrs. Roberts had violated the public's trust and BOE policy and that what had been done was unethical, unprofessional, violated her oath of office as a public official and that she had failed to respond to two certified registered letters sent to her by Mr. Hunter and Joy Morris, wife of BOE Vice-Chairman Randy Morris.

Mrs. Roberts contended that she had modified her statement.

Mrs. Roberts, a retired teacher in the Warren County School System, responded to Mrs. Hunter's accusations by reading from prepared written statements.

"On the night of March 8, 2010, as I was exiting the auditorium and had gotten about halfway of the walkway, I heard someone call my name twice -- Mrs. Roberts -- Mrs. Roberts," Mrs. Roberts recalled. "I turned around to see who it was. It was Mrs. Hunter coming down through the left aisle.

"Meanwhile, Mr. (Cecil) Brown was just a few feet ahead of me, so he came back to where I was standing. Just as Mr. Brown walked up behind me, Mrs. Hunter had reached the walkway and lashed out at me."

Mrs. Roberts claimed that Mrs. Hunter told her, "'You're going to be very disappointed when you reach the Pearlie Gates."'

The school board member replied, "I jokingly said Mrs. Hunter, I probably will be if I do not see you."

Mrs. Roberts recalled Mrs. Hunter telling her, "'I doubt that I will be the only one disappointed when I reach the Pearlie Gates because God does not allow hatred and prejudice where he lives."

Mrs. Roberts remembered that she smiled and asked: "Mrs. Hunter, do you know me? Are you from Georgetown, Ga.?

Mrs. Hunter replied, "'yes."'

At that time, Mrs. Roberts said, "My home is only seven miles from your home. Have you heard of Morris Station?

Again, Mrs. Hunter reportedly said, "'yes"' and that she had relatives there.

"We began to mention families we knew, like the Sparks and the Boyds," Mrs. Roberts told those who attended the meeting, which at times felt like a courtroom setting, as opposed to a school board meeting. "I even told her that my great-great grandfather had owned a plantation in Morris Station."

Mrs. Roberts explained that she originally thought the conversation between herself and Mrs. Hunter was "very pleasant."

The school board member said Mrs. Hunter attempted to mention something about the school board, causing her to raise her right hand and say, "Mrs. Hunter, I am finished with that. I have resigned and let us just please focus on the children."

Mrs. Roberts and Mr. Brown, a fellow school board member, then walked from the school building to where their cars were parked out front.

As to the alleged spitting incident, Mrs. Roberts denied that it ever happened. She even demonstrated where she stood following the March 8 meeting and mentioned again what she and Mrs. Hunter talked about at the time.

Mrs. Hunter was unable to produce any witnesses to support her claim that Mrs. Roberts spat in her hair.

At one point, she even asked several persons attending the latest meeting if they saw the incident.

School board members declined to take action against Mrs. Roberts as to the spitting incident, but decided to censure her for her public statements regarding SACS during the January meeting.

The action was supported by newly-elected School Board Chairwoman Gwen Tucker, Vice-Chairman Randy Morris and Dr. Charles Culver.

Mrs. Roberts and Mr. Brown voted against such action.

Web posted on Thursday, April 29, 2010

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