Court hears lawsuit today on DeKalb school board removal
- Category: Atlanta
- Published on Friday, 01 March 2013 22:42
- Written by The Atlanta Daily World
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- Post 01 March 2013
- By Atlanta Daily World
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A federal court is expected to hear arguments today on Gov. Nathan Deal’s removal of six DeKalb School Board members from office.
Despite the fact that Deal, the Georgia Board of Education and most of their constituents want them out, the six board members refuse to step down.
They continue to use taxpayer money to fight their suspensions, which were handed down by Deal on Monday.
The controversy has sparked fallout that resulted in some new legislation in the Georgia General Assembly.
State Rep. Mike Jacobs, a Republican from Brookhaven, recently introduced a bill that would prevent the use of taxpayer dollars to win back the jobs of suspended or removed officials.
The bill has gained the support of some DeKalb County Democratic lawmakers as well.
"I had to sign the bill based on my concern about the use of taxpayer money to protect their own political office,” State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Democrat, of Decatur told 11 Alive News. "I don't believe that's right; I don't believe my constituents think that's right."
However, there are others like State Rep. Billy Mitchell of Stone Mountain who believe the removal law is unconstitutional since it overrules the wishes of voters.
Mitchell believes taxpayer dollars should be used to defend public officials accused of something they did while on the job.
"If they are being removed, if they are going through this litigious situation because of their membership on the board, then I think that we have some responsibility as taxpayers to absorb those costs," Mitchell explained to 11 Alive.
Mitchell also believes that eliminating public defense funds could discourage people from running for office.
The controversy has also sparked a constitutional amendment. The amendment would allow newly formed cities to break away from the DeKalb County School System and ultimately create their own.
State Rep. Tom Taylor of Dunwoody considers DeKalb's academic probation, which led to the removal of these officials, is driving off potential new businesses and companies.
"When they ask about the school system, how's that? You're on probation? Well, let's go somewhere else then,” Taylor said. “It's really hurting the economic engine, the perimeter area, in North DeKalb."
Both proposals will probably have to wait until next year since this year’s legislative session is more than half way over.
In the meantime, the DeKalb County school board remains in limbo.
A federal judge has ordered the six suspended members not to take any official action, and the same for any replacements that are chosen.
The three remaining members can't act either because the law requires a quorum of five.