Resident files ethics complaint against BCBOE
by Mark Andrews
Oct 16, 2012 | 3356 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Resident and Bartow County chief magistrate candidate Paul Nally on Monday filed an ethics complaint against the Bartow County Board of Education following the board’s regular business session.

“It’s pretty simple. The conduct that appeared on [www.bartowforabetterboe.com] was embarrassing, and of course, I can’t say the information that was on that website was [regarding] who it says to be but, if it is, it’s my opinion that is a breach of ethics,” Nally said.

Nally was referring to a cellphone conversation recorded between a county employee and board member Angie Cornett as well as screen shots of text messages between a county employee and Cornett that contain coarse and offensive language. Cornett has not denied taking part in the conversations and text messages and has ignored previous attempts by The Daily Tribune News to acquire a response to public outrage at recent board meetings regarding the content posted on the website.

The information has been online since mid-September and some residents have proposed Cornett resign during the public participation portion of recent meetings.

“What really got my goat was the [text message] comment which was made concerning [personnel matters], that pretty much has been a problem in this county for at least 20 years, in fact longer, that I know of, where certain individuals in this organization develop the opinion that they’re little gods and this is their factum, and quite frankly, I’m tired of it,” Nally said. “I’m not saying Ms. Cornett made those statements, but if she did, she needs to be removed from any personnel decision whatsoever.”

While the complaint does cite Cornett, Nally said he wants to make it clear he feels Superintendent John Harper ultimately is responsible for ensuring the board abide by local and state policies.

“The duty belongs to the superintendent. He is charged both by state law and local board policy with enforcing the board policies, including [the ethics policy] for board members,” Nally said. “If he refuses to at least investigate this and give me a much better statement of his investigation and the results of it, then he can be criminally prosecuted with willful intention of violation of his role of office.”

Residents: ‘This isn’t going away’

The public participation portion of the meeting consisted of three residents questioning the board’s “appearances of wrongdoing,” including contracts between the system and outside entities as well as the spring board retreat in Rome, statements made last month by Cornett regarding a personnel matter during a business session and the content published on www.bartowforabetterboe.com. Residents also showed dissatisfaction with the written responses they’ve received by Harper.

Two responses viewed by DTN were identical.

“With Excel, the volleyball team and the board retreat, the perception is something isn’t right,” resident Marshall Aiken said. “This is because, in my opinion, Roberts Rules of Order, the Sunshine Laws and part of the ethics laws were not followed.”

Other areas addressed by Aiken and other residents include the appointment of Anna Sullivan to the board as well as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools complaint filed by residents and board member Wanda Cagle Gray.

Aiken questioned if Cornett had participated in personnel votes during executive session in light of the conversations posted online.

“All that was in the past as far as those decision and that participation and so that was a question that was really already answered by her serving on the board,” Harper said.

While no lawsuit has been filed at this time, resident Kim Wagnon has said board actions will eventually cost the system financially.

“Everyone has their opinion about what has transpired on the board and it would be regretful if it did [result in a lawsuit], but if it did, we have legal counsel that works with us in what we should be doing as a school board and we will continue to follow that person’s advice in doing what we do,” Harper said.