On Nov. 2, Sumter County Superior Court Judge James Sizemore issued an order to deny the Sumter County Board of Education’s petition to expunge a report from the February Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury report, filed with the Clerk or Court on May 7, includes the Grand Jury’s factual findings as a result of a civil inspection into the operations of the Sumter County Board of Education. The order supports the court’s ruling to deny the expungement based on there being “no evidence or legal authority to support the idea that the report should be set aside as racially and/or politically motivated.”
In addition, the order addresses other charges by the BOE’s attorney, Maurice King that the “Grand Jury exceeded its statutory authority.”
The order stated that the entire report would not be expunged due to portions of the report imply misconduct. Instead, those claims of malfeasance, ethics violations, violations of Georgia Sunshine Laws, violations of Georgia Law and violation of the Open Meetings Act will be redacted from the report.
In May the Sumter County BOE voted with a 5-4 majority to instruct its attorney King to “handle” the report from the Sumter County Grand Jury. The report provided a list of 29 recommendations in hopes that the Board would institute in an effort to correct what the investigative committee, found to be “bad habits and lack of proper procedure and policy ... ”
At that meeting Board member Kelvin Pless made a motion that the Board’s attorney be instructed to “handle” the report. Pless alluded to possible “legal ramifications” the report may have. King told the Board at the time that it did not have to accept the Grand Jury’s report and could challenge the report and added that Grand Jury reports cannot be used as a means of ridicule or for political purposes. King interpreted the report as being factually and legally incorrect, calling it “a political report, basically used to ridicule the Board.”
Some Board members, including Mike Mock and Mike Busman, explained their understanding that the civil inspection would not bring with it any charges the Board should discuss the recommendations based on the committee’s findings.
The motion passed with Board members Alice Green, Willa Fitzpatrick, Board Chair Edith Ann Green, Kelvin Pless and Michael Lewis voting for the attorney to handle the report. Board members Busman, Mock, Carolyn Whitehead and Meda Krenson voted in opposition.
In June, a report from AdvanceED/SACS CASI (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement) that led to Sumter Schools being placed on accreditation probation, cites the Grand Jury report to support its observations.
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