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Warren County BOE ratifies decision for payment of legal fees

WARRENTON, Ga. -- School board members in neighboring Warren County met on Monday to ratify actions taken a week ago concerning whether taxpayers should pay legal costs for three of them whom a citizens' group is hoping the governor ousts from office.

The latest meeting began with a 50-minute executive session involving school board members and attorney Mike Dishman. After the meeting, Mr. Dishman explained to the more than 80 in attendance, including a group of Warren County High School students, that because the public might not properly have been informed by posted notices that what was done might not have been proper.

"It needs to be a properly called meeting," Mr. Dishman said after the closed-door session with school board members on Monday morning.

The vote was the same as the one taken last week for taxpayers to foot that bill which could rise to $20,000.

It's money not budgeted by school system officials.

Like was the case during last week's regular school board meeting, Dr. Charles Culver and Clara Roberts made motions in support of taxpayers paying the legal costs they have incurred trying to retain their positions as elected officials. Those two school board members along with Cecil Brown later voted 3-2 to have taxpayers pay their legal tab to Atlanta Attorney Brian Watkins.

School Board Chairwoman Gwendolyn Tucker and Vice-Chairman Randy Morris voted against spending taxpayers' money to pay those legal costs.

Before the controversial vote, School Superintendent Carole Jean Carey pointed out that James Bostic, Jr., a member of the Georgia State School Board, had requested an opportunity to address the school board before the vote on paying the legal fees. Mrs. Carey's request on behalf of Mr. Bostic, however, was rejected.

"We're in the midst of a vote," Mrs. Roberts said during the discussion period prior to Mrs. Tucker calling for the vote about whether to pay the legal costs for Dr. Culver, Mrs. Roberts and Mr. Brown.

Mrs. Roberts noted that Mr. Dishman did not notify the school board that Mr. Bostic wished to address them.

Mr. Bostic, who was present at last week's regular monthly meeting, but was in Washington, D.C. on Monday, had planned to address the five-member school panel. Last week, Mr. Bostic urged school board members not to pay the legal costs using taxpayers' money.

"I believe we should listen to his comments," Mr. Morris said.

Mrs. Roberts disagreed.

"We're here to ratify what actions were taken last week," Mrs. Roberts said.

Mr. Bostic was one of two men appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue earlier this year to try to help school board members in Warren County work together to prevent the school system from losing its SACS accreditation. The school system's accreditation will end July 30.

In a separate legal matter, meanwhile, Administrative Law Judge John B. Gatto is expected to make his recommendation to Gov. Perdue on Wednesday, July 28 concerning the fate of Dr. Culver, Mrs. Roberts and Mr. Brown. The citizens' group wants the governor to boot the three school board members out of office.

The citizens' group has accused those particular school board members of breach of public trusts among other allegations.

Web posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010

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