District 4 board rep Paul Womack calls for criminal investigation of school board finances

DeKalb school board member calls for criminal investigation

District 4 DeKalb County School Board member H. Paul Womack is not backing off his calls for a criminal investigation into the system’s finance and human resources departments’ handling of funds.

Womack publicly expressed his desire about the proposed inquiry during the board’s last meeting June 21. He recently acknowledged having since taken it a step further.

“I have called and contacted state agencies and requested that the state investigate our finance and human resources departments,” Womack said.

Read more: NeighborNewspapers.com – DeKalb school board member calls for criminal investigation

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Nice to see that Paul Womack has finally begun to see the light!

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82 Responses to District 4 board rep Paul Womack calls for criminal investigation of school board finances

  1. With more headlines like this, it makes the DA’s “police themselves” press conference with Walker and Bowen standing behind him, more ridiculous everyday. However, our did DA call for a second Grand Jury to look at more dealings with our BOE and DCSS. I thought the new Grand Jury would look at the Finance and HR Depts. specifically. The new school year will begin with even more investigations and the Clew Trial starts. We’re going to need a lot of popcorn this fall!

  2. Actually, two Grand Juries have – on their own – strongly suggested that the DA call a Special Grand Jury to investigate the school board. The DA so far, has not. This would be another expensive burden on the taxpayers so the DA has said they will monitor the school board closely instead. We already have a $100 million civil case which has racked up over $36 million in legal fees to King & Spalding, as well as a criminal trial, where taxpayers are not only paying for the prosecution of Lewis & Pope, but paid quite a lot toward their defense. Taxpayers also have had to pay for attorneys for the 7 (mostly former) board members named in the civil case. Add to this the lawsuit filed by the teachers for taking their retirement contributions along with so many other lawsuits and it’s a miracle the school leadership can even begin to think about education!

  3. How interesting to do so with an election right around the corner….This issue was not new- why not act upon it prior to now?

  4. PolitiMom says:

    I still don’t understand all the legal fees business. Doesn’t D&O (director & officer) insurance cover legal expenses? I believe that insurance is required when you have an organization with a Board–at least it is in the nonprofit world. I know the insurance premium hits the budget but the actual fees for the 7 board members in the suit shouldn’t be. And why are we paying for Lewis/Pope defense? Lewis and Pope were staff that were accused of breaking the law. If I’m accused of stealing from my company, my company doesn’t foot my legal bills! That is just crazy! Was it part of their contract that DCSS pay their legal fees? If not, what if DCSS just said we weren’t paying for their defense anymore because of our budget woes? Can someone explain why we are on the hook for all this?

  5. justwatch says:

    We are not still paying for Lewis’ legal fees — as part of his you are gone settlement, the system gave him a one time sum of money towards his legal fees. If someone knows otherwise, please let me know.

    We are paying for their prosecution, which hopefully will eventually happen. It is the craziest situation, that our DA won’t move forward with these trials.

  6. whoshelpingthekids says:

    These trials shouldn’t even be in DeKalb. They can’t get an impartial jury and it appears the DA isn’t anxious to bring them to trial. Why haven’t they been moved? Oh wait…that will be the next stall technique. Silly me.

  7. For the longest time, Womack was in denial. He voted to give Dr Lewis a raise just before the world found out he had been indicted on charges of racketeering. Womack also fully supported Marcus Turk, but now it has come to be known that Turk’s books were a big mess. Womack fully supported the new superintendent Cheryl Atkinson, flipping on his fellow board members Jester, McChesney and Speaks, who did not endorse hiring Atkinson. But now he is witnessing her inability to turn this ship around – ignoring the recommendations of a salary audit that she herself commissioned, having so far only been able to hire more insiders and raise taxes while making horrific cuts directly and indirectly to the classroom. Womack voted for TWO budgets that cut parapros from the everyday classroom and librarians and in-school tech support, while saving transportation for specialty programs. Womack also fought to try to put a military academy in a very tiny former elementary school (without even a gymnasium!) virtually kicking out the severely disabled students who had been using the building successfully for years, leaving a vacant building in the end. And then we all know that it was Womack who brought us the cell tower debacle. It’s always been Womack who has most vocally called this blog all kinds of names and publicly stated that we ‘don’t know what we’re talking about’ when we tried to expose waste and corruption. We hope this call for an investigation is a sign that he has found Aha!

  8. That’s true, but we have paid quite a lot in legal fees already.

    DeKalb schools overspent on lawyers (July 2010)
    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-schools-overspent-on-573941.html

    Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show the troubled school system paid lawyers $5,792,239 from July 1, 2009 t0 June 30, 2010. That includes money for 16 firms, although the district’s budget only calls for two firms.

    Ex-schools chief’s trial means more legal fees for DeKalb (July, 2010)
    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/ex-schools-chiefs-trial-582114.html

    Former Superintendent Crawford Lewis’ trial at the end of August likely will mean higher attorney bills for DeKalb County schools, which has already overspent its legal budget by millions of dollars.

    On Friday, the school board learned that the trial for Lewis and former Chief Operating Officer Patricia Reid has been set for Aug. 30.

    While both no longer work for DeKalb schools, district staff and board members will likely end up testifying and having to supply additional records at the trial. And that will mean they will need lawyers to advise them, board Chairman Tom Bowen said.

    “We don’t know the cost, but it is reasonably possible the district will incur additional fees,” Bowen told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday.

    School officials thought they would have a few more months before having to worry about the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.

    However, this week, a Superior Court judge granted Lewis’ request for a speedy trial, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin said.

    DeKalb superintendent takes temporary leave
    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/dekalb-superintendent-takes-temporary-328667.html
    The board voted to appoint Ramona Tyson, the district’s deputy chief superintendent of business operations, as interim superintendent. The board also voted to pay Lewis’ legal expense and allow him to maintain his $255,000 annual salary during his leave.

    We have no idea when they stopped paying Lewis’ salary. We do know that there was a lump sum retainer paid of $100,000 at the beginning for Lewis’ defense. We aren’t certain if more payments were made when he ran out of that money.

    Also – regarding the civil case, Lewis and former board members are costing us legal fees as well:
    Ruling could cost DeKalb schools millions more in legal fees (Feb, 2011)
    http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/ruling-could-cost-dekalb-825555.html

    As it stands, the district will have to pay for its own legal bills and provide lawyers for those 17 individuals, including Lewis, former chief operating officer Patricia Reid and members of the 2006 school board.

    The school system already has spent more than $15.5 million in trial preparation for the suit. The judge’s decision could cost several more million dollars, board chairman Tom Bowen said.

    But then, it grew: (from Maureen Downey’s AJC Get Schooled blog)
    DeKalb lawsuit cost now at $37 million. Pass me the aspirin.
    http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/05/03/dekalb-lawsuit-cost-now-at-37-million-pass-me-the-aspirin/

    The 5-year-old legal battle between the DeKalb County School District and the Heery/Mitchell construction management company has cost the county’s taxpayers $37 million.

    After reading the concerns of the grand jury over the school board’s actions in this suit, I have to wonder, as many of you already do, about the seeming reluctance of SACS to act on what seem like glaring “governance issues,” to use the accreditation agency’s lingo.

  9. Because SACS is part of the problem. AdvancED, a for profit company, should be ashamed of themselves running a ruthless, corrupt organization. Tell me again what SACS has done that has improved DCSS over the past 10 years… NOTHING! Mr. Elghart, you sir hold too much power, in a non-elected position, that is holding our school system back. I still can’t figure out why SACS even exists. How have they improved our schools…..

  10. Concerned says:

    It was my understanding that a September grand jury was being called for this very purpose. Several people have been talking about it. It will be interesting to see what happens when it convenes and the investigation begins.

    I’ve never understood why the county employs a lawyer on staff, but has to have 3 law firms to handle the business. All these costs on law firms alone is enough to bankrupt the system. It’s a wonder we still have one at all.

  11. It would be a “Special” Grand Jury if it’s convened just to look at the school board issue.

  12. Vanessa says:

    Womack is up for reelection. End of story. He has ignored his constituents in the Briarlake area and our unified voice against the cell towers and he has lied publicly about the rationalization for them. If voters don’t send him packing at the end of the month, we deserve this.

  13. Just another day in Paradise says:

    Womack has been part of this the entire time. The cuts were made, then the superintendent (take your pick…including our current one!!!) signed off on new hires, new programs, you name it. He also could have pushed to settle one of the MANY lawsuits that has been bleeding the district dry for over half of a decade. He can’t cast stones now. Since he’s opened his mouth and opened himself up for litigation, have you noticed how people are distancing themselves? He doesn’t have the data to back his claims and he knows it. He just keeps pushing because (a) it’s an election year and (b) if he doesn’t keep this up it will make him look even more foolish than he already does. The AJC contacted everyone of the agencies that could be investigating this…the ones he supposedly contacted already…none of them knew what the AJC reporter was talking about. Just one more example of how Womack blusters and talks before thinking. He loves to be heard, loves to be the one with all of the information. Too bad he doesn’t have any.

  14. “The AJC contacted everyone of the agencies that could be investigating this…the ones he supposedly contacted already…none of them knew what the AJC reporter was talking about.”

    We are no fans of Paul Womack and agree that he should be replaced in this election. However, we are fans of truth and accuracy. Which agencies were contacted — more specifically who was contacted within each agency? You did not document your claim and we need to confirm that it is accurate.

  15. Just another day in Paradise says:

    I’m trying to pull the AJC article where I read that. I’m having trouble logging in to the print edition site right now. As soon as I can locate it, I’ll upload the article link. Sorry I didn’t include it the first time.

  16. John Hope says:

    There was an article in the Saturday, June 30th AJC about the reference by Just another day in Paradise. It appeared on front page of the Metro section. Below is a direct quote from the article,

    The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia attorney general’s office and the state inspector general — all contacted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — said they had no knowledge of any investigation into DeKalb schools’ finances. Neither did the Georgia education department or the DeKalb district attorney.

    I could not find a link to it as it must have rolled off.

  17. Just another day in Paradise says:

    Here it is…

    Board member calls for inquiry (AJC, June 30, 2012, Metro Section, Page B1)
    “…Womack wouldn’t disclose the names of the investigating agenices, prompting board member Sarah Copelin-Wood, with whom he frequently disagrees, to dismiss his announcement as an election-year stunt.
    The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia attorney general’s office and the state inspector general — all contacted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — said they had no knowledge of any investigation into DeKalb schools’ finances. Neither did the Georgia education department or the DeKalb district attorney.”

  18. Mildred says:

    Not that I’m supporting Womack, who definitely needs to go, but these agencies would not know of an investigation because there is no investigation being conducted by them. All he’s saying, as I understand it, is that he’s asked certain agencies to do an investigation, not that they’ve agreed to do so. It is amazing that he’s having this election eve realization that somethings crooked have been going on…right under his “yea” votes!

    Who is his opponent? I get to vote against McChesney.

  19. anon says:

    we need the feds… FBI/US Attonrey. The Dekalb DA needs to be taken out of this mess — it’s “too close to home.”

  20. justwatch says:

    In my opinion, and I don’t get to vote, McChesney’s opponent is no better than McChesney. Orson led the effort to pass SPLOST IV which sent a not to subtle message to our BoE to continue things as they are, because the voters think they are doing fine. The failure of SPLOST IV would have gotten the attention of really powerful forces in DeKalb that could make a difference in the school board.

  21. Ned says:

    In politics I think this is known as a death-bed conversion.
    Paul, don’t let the door hit you where the good lord . . .

  22. Meanwhile back at the ranch…..teachers and other employees sit on edge still waiting to find if they will or will not have a job in 6 weeks- Somewhere out there are a multitude of international students with language barriers and who will be further behind because oops there are no translators.

    Has anyone wondered, what happens to the students at the international center grades 3-12, who are placed temporarily until they grasp some concepts of English, and can be moved to their home school? With the inability to communicate- where does it put these students?

    Oh, and lest not forget our Children with no Boundaries (Special Ed)… With each student having a need that must be met- who determines how these students get integrated into a standard classroom and still have their needs met

    Those lucky educators, that maintain a contract but have been basically raped must now stumble and fumble through yet another initiative aka Race to the Top. Let’s see, how do we put educators in a facility that may or may not have adequate resource materials, may or may not have technology, and those that do are utilizing dinosaur computers on a slower than thou system to teach. Woe to those who are not blessed to have Promethean boards- hmmm… I must meet the goals and l implement Race to the Tops with no resources, no technology, less time, and more use of copy machines and copy paper…..Something stinks in Denmark- and once again our focus is on the reaction not the necessary actions needed to keep our students and educators afloat.

    You know what? All of this kind of reminds me of that commercial where the two older people show up and the young couple hands them the babies, hop in a car and take off leaving the elderly man befuddled saying…”Don’t forget the babies” “Don’t leave us with the babies…”….. as the car drifts off into the sunset…. SMH in disgust!

  23. We are endorsing Jim McMahan over Paul Womack in District 4.

  24. Thank you! Adding your source gives a whole lot more credibility to your initial statement!

  25. wondering says:

    Question: does anyone know how many paras will still be with DCSS after the layoffs recently approved? Just the 100 that the board “saved” from the original figure to be cut, or were there more that were never considered for layoffs? Also, how will those remaining be allocated?

  26. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    Investigations do happen. Check out these latest headlines:

    State launches probe into DCSS lunch program
    (That DCSS is – Dougherty County School System…)
    http://www.walb.com/story/18946287/dcss

    Bibb school chief and his miracle plan under fire
    http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/07/05/bibb-school-chief-and-his-miracle-plan-under-fire/

  27. dekalbschoolwatch says:

    According to the State Salary Report, there were 363 parapros/teacher’s aides on the payroll in 2011.

  28. concernedmom30329 says:

    Which is strange because the budget process said there were 800+ and 200 were going to be cut. Very peculiar.

  29. I stand corrected! Upon double-checking – I see that there is an additional category labeled Parapro Personnel Pre-K – there are an additional 108 parapros in this category. So, that makes the total 471. Anyone who would like to double-check, please download the salary schedule as .crv and open in Excel. Then sort according to alphabetizing the job titles – be sure to use the sort tab so that you can take all the columns in the sort.

    Go to http://www.open.georgia.gov/sta/viewMain.aud to download the salary report for DCSS. The most recent available is for 2011.

  30. FWIW, there are also only 56 library clerks listed on the 2011 salary report. 155 Librarian/Media Specialists.

  31. Internet-Libertarian says:

    Denise,
    If you were sitting in the District 6 seat, how would you have voted on this last Budget vote that passed? If you would have voted “no”, how do you rectify that with the “teachers and other employees [siting] on edge still waiting to find if they will or will not have a job in 6 weeks” … back on the ranch.

  32. Mildred says:

    I just got a call from a friend of mine at the Service Center. He said that approximately 50 employees (not supervisors) were just terminated. He also said that there is a rumor about a Service Center employee who tried to commit suicide because of being terminated.

    How can we expect the Central Office administration to care about the welfare of children when they have no concern for the welfare of the adults employed by the system? The Central Office can spend millions on lawsuits, hundreds of thousands on buses, thousands on repairs to the Superintendent’s secretary’s bathroom, and untold tax dollars on worthless, incompetent educrats who add nothing to the education of our children, but when it comes time to cut, it’s the low-salaried employees and those who have direct contact with the children who get axed.

    I pray to God that He will intervene in this mess before all is completely lost.

  33. wondering says:

    So do we think that the cuts are made to the Pre-K parapros PLUS 200 more paras? I think they voted to only fund Pre-K to the extent the state funds it. So that would mean no Pre-K para? So then about 92 other paras gone too? I am trying to figure out about what percentage of paras will be gone per school (just looking for a ballpark). We are trying to do our PTA budget and it is hard w/o this type of info. Because we budget certain expenses per teacher, per para, etc. So any insight anyone can provide would be appreciated. Thank you!

  34. Serta says:

    The lay offs were not done fairly, they are not laying off their friends.

  35. Sorry, we really don’t have any more info than anyone else. We have even asked board reps and they aren’t able to give us exact data. You see, the board merely votes for the superintendent’s recommended budget – ‘in concept’, they have no info on the details of the budget cuts or additions at the time of the vote (which in a way is good, as certainly some would advocate for specific people).

  36. justwatch says:

    I went to the link below and if you do an advanced search you find there were 798 special ed parapros. (type in special ed and the category comes up) I wonder, though, how many of those can be cut without violating some child’s IEP.

  37. PLEASE — we are begging you — provide us (DSW blog) with information or tell us what to look for and where. You hold important pieces of the puzzle, though you may not realize the importance of what you know. You may contact us confidentially at dekalbschoolwatchatgmaildotcom. Only two people — both completely trustworthy — can access DSW e-mail. As long as we know what to ask for and where to look we can do an open records request. If you have a document to share we can meet you and scan it with our portable scanner.

    Are you concerned that your e-mail could be traced? Set up a separate e-mail account, use initials instead of first and last names when you set up the account, and e-mail us from a computer (not your personal computer) in the public library. NEVER e-mail us from a DCSS-issued computer, no matter where you are. NEVER use your DCSS e-mail account. NEVER e-mail us from your personal laptop if it is connected to a DCSS network. We will maintain your confidentiality. Help us help you.

  38. Dekalbite2 says:

    @ Denise

    So true. That’s an apt description of so many of the classrooms our children and teachers are being asked to occupy. Adequately, fund the classroom first and then see what is left over for progams and personnel. Instead, it is just the opposite.

  39. There’s a print edition site??

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