“I’m here to talk about [the Sept. 24 business session] … I was appalled … and anybody who was [at the meeting] saw me with my hand up trying to stop a board member from breaking [the board’s] rules. I come in here, I don’t use anybody’s name because the law says not to. I do the right thing, yet somebody who is on the board — I’m going to stick with the rules and not use anybody’s name — broke those rules,” Kim Wagnon said.
During last month’s business session, Cornett addressed a school employee by name and made comments regarding the employee’s work performance. She was interrupted by board attorney Boyd Pettit and told she could not address a personnel matter during the meeting under state law.
“I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed to be a resident of Bartow County because of certain board members,” Wagnon said. “These are the board members who are supposed to represent me, and my child who is with me, who is a special needs child. To hear the words that were in the text [messages] and then to try with coverups.”
Wagnon was referring to text messages and a recorded phone conversation between a system employee and Cornett, available for view at www.bartowforabetterboe.com. The Daily Tribune News is not publishing the conversations due to both containing coarse and offensive language.
“Look, you’re risking all the money and benefits our children need to lawsuits. I pay property taxes, my kid goes to a Bartow County school and deserves to have a board member that does not use foul language, start this meeting in a prayer by using God and God’s will, then oust someone and publically humiliate them,” Wagnon said. “It disgusted me.”
Todd Barnette, husband of the school employee named by Cornett during last month’s meeting, spoke on ethics.
“No. 1 on the board policy concerning records, it states ‘the personnel records kept by each principal shall be kept confidential with access only to those officials with a need to know contents in an official capacity. The records may be reviewed annually by the principal with the individual employee of the school,’” Barnette said. “Nowhere does it say on the board policy … that personnel or discipline records could be discussed during an open meeting.”
When approached by DTN for a response to the public comments immediately following the meeting, Cornett and board member John Howard left the boardroom and walked into the lobby of the central office. After following Cornett and Howard through the lobby and calling out loud for Cornett multiple times, she continued to ignore the press and entered another wing of the building with Howard.
Gail Englehart of the Bartow County Tea Party also addressed the board, stating she has been in communication with the Gov. Nathan Deal’s Office of the Governor regarding what the board’s proposed action will be in case of another vacancy.
Englehart and community member Paul Nally previously filed a writ of quo warranto against board member Anna Sullivan, who was appointed to the board in February, accusing her of being illegally appointed to the board. The judge did not set another court date before Sullivan was elected to the board in July as part of a special election.
She said Superintendent John Harper had responded to her that the board will seek legal advice if put in another situation regarding a vacancy.
“I make a recommendation that whatever your legal council tells you, get it from him in writing because if he doesn’t want to put it in writing then there’s something seriously wrong with his advice, and he could be brought up on ethics charges with the state bar if he has violated ethics and rules,” Englehart said.
She was then reminded by a board attorney present at the meeting to not address individual employees.
The board will hold its business session Monday, Oct. 15, at 6 p.m. in the central office boardroom.