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Lawsuit filed against school board

Two Warren County residents have filed a lawsuit in support of school board members who were removed from office last year by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. The plaintiffs, Emily Massey and Willie Foster Moss, have filed a lawsuit against members of the Warren County Board of Education, Warren County School Superintendent Carole Jean Carey and Elections Superintendent Janice Thigpen.

Carey said she received the papers Feb. 8.

"It's just a misunderstanding of the law (on their part), and I am confident that it will be resolved very quickly," Carey said.

Carey said she notified the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Achievement of the lawsuit, and it approved the steps being taken by the school system.

"This system immediately proceeded under the direction of lawyers and judges," Carey said, adding that her personal attorney, the school board's attorney and the county's attorney are working together on the case.

Atlanta attorney Bryan Watkins, who filed the lawsuit, said local legislation requires a special election to fill seats that are vacated more than 90 days before a term ends. Watkins said former board members Charles Culver and Cecil Brown were removed from office in early August, and their terms were not to end until 2012. Carolyn Martin and Patricia Hambsch were appointed to the seats later in August by other members of the school board.

"We are confident that we followed every step of the law," Thigpen said.

Watkins said he contacted both the school system and the elections office to see if a special election would be held and never heard anything back.

"The citizens of Warren County have a right to elect who is going to represent them," he said, adding that both parties have 21 days to respond to the lawsuit notice.

The third member removed from office last year was not involved in the suit. Clara Roberts' term ended in 2010, and she ran again but lost to Sandy Yelton.

Web posted on Thursday, February 17, 2011

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