Bend over taxpayers of DeKalb! You are now on the hook for MORE lawyers …

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52 Responses to Bend over taxpayers of DeKalb! You are now on the hook for MORE lawyers …

  1. So to recap: We are paying multi-millions to King & Spalding for a civil lawsuit against Heery Mitchell that could have been settled for under $1.5 million at the start. We are paying several other law firms for the defense of Crawford Lewis and several former school board members in that civil case as well. As taxpayers, we are also paying for the prosecution of former superintendent Crawford Lewis and his COO Pat Reid (Pope). Neither case has seen a courtroom in the 2-1/2+ years since they were filed. Now, we are paying an out-going superintendent as well as a new interim superintendent and another new law firm to help our school board fight the threat from the state to remove them due to the fact that our accrediting agency (SACS) put them on probation.

    Is it any wonder we are B-R-O-K-E-!

  2. no name says:

    “When I say bend over, even on Sunday, they bend over.” – Eddie Long

    That quote is taken from this CNN article about Bishop Eddie Long:
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/09/22/Bishop.long.sex.lawsuit/index.html

  3. Guy Midvale says:

    Dekalbschoolwatch you forgot one. We are still paying Ramona Tyson $245,000 a year to be in charge of “Accountability”. She should hold herself accountable for the embarrassing technology the county implemented when she was in charge of that. Can we get some computers in the classrooms that work? Please? Students should be working with computers not using them as coat trees and spitball targets.

  4. Concerned Citizen says:

    If the DeKalb B of Ed takes on the responsibility for the taxpayers to pay more for foolishness, this time might be the real end of this board. I wonder how much more nonsense they can dream up. DeKalb is in the wrong and will have to pay the piper. I mean the board positions, not the money for more lawyers. People of DeKalb, let’s make a plan to stop this board once and for all, And SHAME ON YOU, EUGENE WALKER. You’ve been asked to resign repeatedly, so do it – every single one of you on the board. We are so doomed in DeKalb with your totally irresponsible behavior. Quit blamig others and MAN UP!

  5. Wanda Rowe says:

    $245,000 is almost as much as the former superintendent. No one should be making anything close to that!!!!!!!!!!! I am a teacher that is making the same pay I was making 5 years ago. I guess I don’t belong to the right sorority or fraternity like the people in the county office do.

  6. Betsy Parks says:

    Is say lets roll up our sleeves and get this party started. DO I HAVE ANY VOLUNTEERS?
    Betsy Parks

    The Constitution of the State of Georgia authorizes the General Assembly to “provide by general law for the recall of public officials who hold elective office.” This provision is found in Article II, Section II, Paragraph IV. Georgia law provides for the recall of all elected officials.
    Registration of a recall committee

    The relevant legislation requires at least one of the following grounds for calling a recall election:
    an act of malfeasance or misconduct while in office,
    violation of the oath of office,
    failure to perform duties prescribed by law, or
    willfully misusing, converting, or misappropriating, without authority, public property or public funds entrusted to or associated with the elective office to which the official has been elected or appointed.
    Signature requirement

    The number of valid signatures required for a recall election is 15 percent of the number of persons that voted in the last preceding election for the office of incumbent being recalled.
    Circulating the recall petition

    Circulation of the recall petition must be completed within 90 days after registration.
    Contact information

    Georgia State Elections Division
    1104 West Tower, 2 MLK, Jr. Dr.
    Atlanta, GA 30334-1530
    Phone: 404.656.2871

  7. concerned citizen says:

    Can someone please initiate recall petitions for the Board members that should be removed!

  8. howdy1942 says:

    I am sick of this crap from Gene Walker! As one who pays a lot of tax in Dekalb County and has been doing so for almost 40 years, I will strongly oppose any effort by this School Board to fight a state law that protects the interests of the State and its citizens when a school board has failed so miserably that its district has been put on probation by an accrediting agency. This board has been repeatedly warned by SACS about its shortcomings, it has been asked to explain itself, it has been given more than ample opportunity to respond, and it has been given abundant time to rectify its shortcomings. In each instance, it has failed.

    That Fox 5 News report showing Walker and Copelin-Wood sleeping during the State Board meeting called to decide the fate of the Dekalb County School Board is beyond belief. Then Walker denies he is sleeping. It seems like that if he cares in the least about Dekalb County, its children, and it people, he could at least sit up and look at the board. The same goes for Copelin-Wood.

    We are wasting enough money in Dekalb paying three Superintendents, paying the legal expenses of an indicted superintendent, paying lawyers an amount to sue Heery Construction that dwarfs the original amount in question, and now this.

    Frankly, I hope and pray that our State Board removes the Dekalb Board. Then I hope that DSW will lead the uprising in Dekalb County that I’m sure will follow if the Dekalb Board tries to sue. If McMahon supports such a move, I will be the first to begin efforts to recall him. I have never in my life seen a more self-centered, arrogant, and insensitive group of people than this School Board. This board does not have the support of the people, nor the television stations, nor the Atlanta Journal Constitution. This board has looked inept and incompetent for a long time. Does it really want to look stupid?

    Now, would you like to know how I really feel.

  9. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    DSW, Good idea. Add this to the list …

    Alexander & Associates – handle HR issues
    Sutherland Asbill & Brennan – handle most of DCSD legal issues
    Bob Wilson – Sue the state so the board can keep their jobs
    ? – Atkinson’s lawyers regarding text messages

  10. TracyW says:

    I agree! We the residents of DeKalb County need to clean house. Recall them all, impeach them, do whatever we need to do before that idiot steals more money out of our schools to protect his fat rear end.

  11. walk to school says:

    I’m just wondering if they are looking at a former commissioner of labor to fill this position because of all the legal ramifications of rifs from last year. Hopefully, he would understand how you can legally fire and hire, so we don’t have continueing lawsuits. Dekalb continues to be driven by egos and nepotism; and, not what is legal, ethical, and best practice for educating children.

    At least, I am hopeful their is some basis for this appointment other than his connections to board members or school employees.

  12. Refugee from DCSS says:

    If the school board can sue the state for their jobs, can taxpayers sue the school board for unethical conduct, breech of contract, or anything like that? If enough plaintiffs sign on, it could be class-action.

  13. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Howdy
    I appreciate your point of view, but you are demonstrably part of a shrinking vocal minority. Womack and McChesney stood against everything Walker stands for. The people spoke and voted in reps that align themselves with Walker and the Democratic Delegation.

    Walker and the Democratic Delegation is who a majority of DeKalb wants running DCSD.

  14. September says:

    @dekalb inside out. I disagree. Nobody voted for school board representatives with the expectation that there would be yet another lawsuit. Especially one by school board members trying to keep their jobs. Employees who sued because they were riffed last summer used their own funds or professional membership benefits. School board members are elected government officials. We are paying them to do a job. Why is it OK for them to use school system funds to sue to keep their jobs? They may have a right to sue, but not with my tax dollars. Can you cite a statute that allows this type of lawsuit.

  15. dekalbite2 says:

    @DeKalb Inside Out

    I’m a liberal Democrat and this is not a Democrat problem. Womack was/is an uber Republican and has royally messed up my neighborhood with this cellphone mess, not even going into the fact that he consistently voted to cut teaching positions and increase class sizes to protect non teaching jobs. IMHO – Womack was as bad as Walker, much worse for my neighborhood because of his cell phone initiative. I’m relatively certain that Womack would be standing right beside Walker wanting to hire lawyers to retain his spot on the BOE. Womack lost by a landslide in our district for some very good reasons. McChesney would have been preferable to Orson – again IMHO – however, he was not part of my district so that is a moot point.

    The problem is the election of officials who are more interested in the power and perks of the position than serving as a group that can move students forward academically. That’s a personality and ego issue rather than a political party issue – of course that’s just my viewpoint.

  16. @DeKalb Inside Out: You are exactly correct. There are not enough outraged people willing to vote these leaders — in fact, they quite like them!

    In fact, they are dazzled by Gene Walker’s use of big words — but what do they mean?

    When asked why the district could not handle the AdvancED concern in-house, Walker said, “If we had felt we could do it in-house we would be looking in that direction. We feel that we’re trying to galvanize the resources necessary to help us be successful in responding to those [AdvancED] requirements.”

  17. @Refugee: We are wondering if there’s a possibility of taxpayers suing the members of the board for legal fees. We’re not certain it’s written anywhere that this kind of lawsuit is an approved use of tax dollars.

    We also wonder “… do board members know about, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871 that allows citizens to sue governmental officials, including board members, personally if they have not performed due diligence responsibilities in monitoring federal school dollars? I doubt it because it took me three years of research to finally identify the full text and meaning of the law that has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

    Get the full article here:
    http://www.educationnews.org/articles/an-interview-with-armand-fusco-about-school-corruption.html

    In addition, go to this link to download a report on how to end corruption and waste in your school system:
    http://www.yankeeinstitute.org/2007/12/ending-corruption-and-waste-in-your-public-school/

  18. Tired Mom says:

    @DeKalb Inside Out…I’d like to point out that there are MANY of us who vote who will NEVER have the opportunity to vote against 7 of the 9 members of the BOE…that’s simply the law of the numbers and how this board is set up. So please, don’t say that the “majority” of DeKalb wants or believes anything…many were voting for change, pure and simple. I would venture a guess that the McMahan supporters had no idea he’d align with Walker. Orson isn’t a shocker…but he’s got the Fernbank block behind him, and again, please don’t try and say that THEY speak for my neck of DeKalb.

  19. Below is an edited version of a viral email circulating the internet:

    9 vs. 699,893 People

    Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

    Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

    Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inequitable school spending, WHY do we have inequitable school spending?

    You and I don’t propose a school system budget. The Board of ‘Education’ does.

    You and I don’t have the authority to vote on contracts and system spending cuts. The Board of ‘Education’ does.

    You and I don’t write the school system policy, the superintendent does, and the Board of ‘Education’ approves it.

    You and I don’t set the school system budget, the superintendent does, and the Board of ‘Education’ approves it.

    You and I don’t control spending decisions, the Board of ‘Education’ does.

    Nine human beings out of the 699,893 in DeKalb are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the problems that plague this Billion Dollar School System.

    Those nine human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

    What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Board Chair, who stood up at a state hearing and proclaimed public and state criticism of the Board’s record and behavior as ‘rumors’.

    It seems inconceivable to me that a county of 699,893 cannot replace 9 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can’t think of a single school system problem that is not traceable directly to those 9 people and their predecessors. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 9 people exercise the power of the Billion Dollar School System, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

    If the spending is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.

    If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.

    If they continue to focus on jobs at the top, spending on buildings and hardware and other expensive services rather than teachers and students, it’s because they want it that way.

    There are no insoluble government problems.

    Do not let these 9 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to vocal communities, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to community leaders, to whom they give the power to influence spending and hiring decisions and and from whom they can take this power.

    Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

    Those 9 people, and they alone, are responsible.

    They, and they alone, have the power.

    They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

    Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees…

    We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

  20. @DIO – I believe it was Mike Bowers who represented Atkinson in her never to be revealed text messages. Not sure how much he’s billed taxpayers for that.

    But we do have this communication via email from Dr. Atkinson last November calculating legal costs through October 2012:


    The information provided by Mr. Perrone and Mr. Ramsey listed below includes expenditures on all law firms from January 2012 to present invoices received. Thx

    Alexander & Associates
    Flat Fee Monthly Rate – 10 months (Jan-Oct) * $85,416.25 = $854,162.50
    Complex Litigation Invoices from 01/01/12 – 09/30/12 = $374,983.85
    Total = $1,229,146.35

    Sutherland Asbill & Brennan
    Flat Fee Monthly Rate – 10 months (Jan-Oct) * $150,454.45 = $1,504,544.50
    Complex Litigation Invoices from 01/01/12 – 09/30/12 = $395.586.81
    Total = $1,900,131.31

    COMPLEX LITIGATION BILLINGS
    (FEES INCURRED FROM JANUARY, 2012 THROUGH OCTOBER, 2012) Firm Representation Jan. 2012 – Oct. 2012

    Alexander & Associates, Employment Counsel $438,635.17

    Alston & Bird, LLP , Everson v. DCSS
    $16,478.61

    Drew Eckl & Farnham, LLP, Workers Compensation
    $70,849.72

    Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson, Counsel for Former BOE Members, Heery Case
    $438,101.68

    Foltz Martin, LLC, Counsel for Former BOE Member Heery Case (Manning-Moon)
    $81,151.33

    Goodman McGuffey Lindsey & Johnson, LLP Counsel for Former Superintendent Lewis, Heery Case
    $21,955.62

    King & Spalding, Counsel for DCSD, Heery Case
    $823,658.82

    Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, LLP, General Counsel
    $416,268.75

    Cheryl L. H. Atkinson, Ed.D.
    Superintendent
    DeKalb County School District

    Did you catch this one?
    King & Spalding, Counsel for DCSD, Heery Case
    $823,658.82

    Obviously, this billing is outside the bounds of the revised ‘contingency’ contract on the Heery case.

  21. educator90 says:

    I believe that parents need to be banning together and begin writing charters for stand alone charter schools in DeKalb. Schools that will actually educate our children and provide real competition for the school district. Druid Hills is looking into forming a charter cluster, but what they fail to realize is DeKalb is still in charge. Only stand alone charter schools will get our kids out of this mess and actually get them educated. If enough of these schools opened and were filled with DeKalb students, it could really make a difference in the county.

    I am also for suing those that keep wasting money on law suits that could be used to fully fund teacher salaries and TRS and have a smaller number of students in the classroom.

    Now is the time for the DeKalb population to stand up and fight. If they continue to sit back and do nothing, they deserve the crappy schools that they get.

  22. Tired Mom says:

    I keep reading comments that I’m finding frustrating. “If parents continue to sit back and do nothing…” “Why don’t people stand up and fight?” etc…WHAT DO YOU THINK I’VE BEEN DOING SINCE MY CHILDREN ENTERED DEKALB????

    Many, many parents and families have done MUCH to work on behalf of the school system, to fight for change, to challenge the status quo, and they have been disappointed, time and time again, with the results. I, for one, am a tired mom. Not much fight left in me.

  23. educator90 says:

    We are trying to get out of DeKalb. I’ve had enough with the antics of those elected and the stupidity of those that keep voting for stupid people that don’t see the whole picture and only focus on what they can get for their area, their friends, and their family. We home educate and I would not send my child to a public school of any kind here in Georgia.

    Just throwing ideas out to the Druid Hills folks that think that a charter cluster is the way to go. They don’t understand the difference between a new charter school and a charter cluster. A charter cluster will still have strings to the county, something I am guessing that they are trying to get away from.

  24. educator90 says:

    Tired Mom, if you are sending your kids to a DeKalb County School, and you’re not fighting for your kids, because you’re tired, don’t be upset with the outcome of your child’s education and the problems surrounding the system. As a former employee and current tax payer, I understand that you’re tired, but you can’t give up fighting for your kids now, unless you are planning on sending them elsewhere or educating at home. Not fighting for your kids in DeKalb and sending your kids to a DCSS school is equivalent to child abuse, because too many in charge could care less about your child and the outcome he/she receives in his/her education. If you don’t fight for your kids, no one else will.

    Tired Mom, you need to get parents together in your area and be the thorn in the side of the school district. Document injustices to students with as much data that you can. Threaten to sue if change isn’t made now. Find a good lawyer that will take your case pro bono (they are out there especially if you have mass amounts of data, which isn’t difficult). Get the media involved. Do what you have to do to get your kids a good education!!!

    I don’t send my kids to DCSS. I won’t do it, because too many parents frankly don’t care if their child is educated or not, hence the current conditions of the school district. How many parents really understand or care about the current financial conditions of the district or realize that it didn’t have to be this way, but no one was minding the bank account? How many parents realize that passing your kids on when they haven’t mastered the skills from the previous year sets your child further and further behind and that holding them back in 3rd and 5th grade is way too late? How many parents have talked to a middle school teacher frankly about the skills that their child is missing and should have to be in that grade? How many parents just want their child in a special school in DeKalb and don’t give a hoot about the kids at the neighborhood school, as long as their child is being better educated through a special program?

    Tired Mom and other parents who are fed up and tired of fighting, it is time for you to wake up the people in your area and get them fighting if a DCSS school is your only option. It is not time to put the pitch fork down, as if accreditation is lost or the board members sue for being removed, it will be too late for you do to anything to save your child and his/her future.

  25. I actually agree with Tired Mom. I think it’s frustrating that so many think the answer is for good, hard-working parents to ‘fight’. We have been fighting. And we have discovered that we have very, very little power. That is what we refer to as the Vortex of DeKalb. The cycle of a perception that we are making change and progress (Task Forces, Charettes, New Board Members, New Supers, New Area Leaders, New Buildings, New Laws, SACS, the State Board, etc.) only to be hit with the reality that things have actually gotten worse. The ‘fight’ will not make things better any time soon – and children currently in the system do not have time to waste.

    I think the state has the ability to create change by simply implementing laws that school systems must abide by. Roy Barnes did a very good thing when he mandated class sizes (much smaller!) and mandated a certain percentage of spending be allocated directly to the classroom. Fund the classrooms, teachers and direct support of teachers (determined by a council of teachers) and then use what’s left to fund a very streamlined administration. Parents can’t make that happen. Lawmakers must make that happen. Obviously, our school board won’t.

  26. teachermom says:

    I also agree with Tired Mom. This is wearing thin and we are running out of ideas… I do feel like I’ve seen something similar before and I’ve mentioned it here; the Fulton County foster care system was extremely mismanaged and children were dying. An out of state child advocacy group got involved and an overhaul did happen (don’t know how they are doing now.) I wonder if the NAACP asked the board how the children were doing when they had (did it happen yet?) their meeting??? Who is going to advocate for theses children while the adults spend their money on lawyers and rob them, in plain sight, of their education?? We need to think about who how we can get the attention of SOMEONE. How embarrassing to our state and county that Gene Walker stands up and spits in their face? Surely we teachers have our hands tied and the parents are at the mercy of a corrupt system. This is death by a thousand cuts…

  27. concerned citizen says:

    I don’t live in DeKalb. I have grandchildren in DeKalb.

  28. bettyandveronica1 says:

    dsw, do you know how many law firms are we actively paying for at this point? I have lost track. I am asking about this fiscal year.

  29. Scroll through the comments, I just posted a list of the law firms we had paid for as reported by Dr Atkinson last November. That’s all we know except you can add this new Wilson firm for the board and Mike Bowers as Atkinson’s personal attorney regarding the text messages and her resignation. We have asked for this information via ORR in the past, but our request has been ignored.

  30. gmm says:

    To DeKalb Inside Out and all………..Reason for hiring Alexander and Assoc, according to the brilliant S. Copeland-Wood, is “they represent our culture”. How sad to have that kind of “culture”. [this was her response to the March DeKalb Grand Jury last year.

  31. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Parent Trigger Law
    Perhaps supporting the Parent Trigger Law would be a good short term fix. It allows communities to take back their local public schools. This might be easier than starting your own school.

    Tired Mom
    I would never say “they” speak for you. I’m saying that a majority of people in DeKalb support Walker and those that align with him. And, that majority grew larger in this past election. McMahan was part of Friends of DeKalb, so it can’t be a complete shock that he aligns himself with Orson.

    DekalbBite
    Yeah, I don’t know what to call Womack. DSW’s Buffoon description is the most accurate, He diametrically opposes Walker and then folds to every whim of the administration. The citizens of district #4 only have themselves to blame if they don’t like it. You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.

    September
    Lawsuits are inevitable. There are board members like Nancy Jester that vote NO on lawyers, and then there are board members like Walker who vote YES on lawyers. The people spoke and districts #2 and #4 voted out Nancy Jester types in favor Walker types. I repeat, you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.

    Statute that says they can?
    If you firmly believe the board is prohibited from engaging lawyers in this fashion, then you should sue the school district.

  32. concernedmom30329 says:

    Womack supported the administration because he wanted what he wanted for his district, ie the white prinicipal at Lakesde. (when Lewis was still around.)
    Leverage…

  33. psdad says:

    DIO @ “you are demonstrably part of a shrinking vocal minority.”

    If it so demonstrably evident that this isn’t a growing vocal majority… why don’t you provide some evidence?

  34. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    Is the white principal at Lakeside the only thing Womack got for going along with everything each administration wanted? He talks and votes like a buffoon that thinks he knows more than everyone else.

  35. DeKalb Inside Out says:

    psdad
    My only evidence is that a few months ago district #2 and #4 voted out people in the Jester 4 and voted in people to the Walker 5. It would appear that’s the direction the people of DeKalb want this county to go in.

    What are your thoughts? Thanks.

  36. @gmm: Sarah also said they needed to hire people who ‘understand’ the majority of children in DCSS. As if they are somehow different?!!

  37. dekalbite2 says:

    @ DSW
    This is what was reported to the state as payments from state/other funds in DeKalb Schools.
    SUTHERLAND ASBILL BRENNAN LLP $2,530,906
    ALEXANDER & ASSOCIATES $1,062,509
    KING & SPALDING $713,716
    ELARBEE THOMPSON & TRAPNELL $555,247
    GOODMAN MCGUFFEY LINDSEY & $57,743
    ALEXANDER & ASSOCIATES $402,589
    CF BROCK AND ASSOCIATES LLC $34,477
    WANDA S JACKSON PC $35,000
    FOLTZ MARTIN LLC $32,178

    source:
    http://www.open.georgia.gov/
    Other Expenditure Information>Payments>sort for Fiscal year 2012 and state/other

  38. Weary worker says:

    Any one know the legal $ numbers on other metro systems? I’m sure they are less but the comparison would be important.

  39. dekalbite2 says:

    @Weary worker
    Well, here is what Gwinnett (160,000 students) versus DCSS (100,000 students) paid in school year 2011-2012 per the opengeorgia.gov data.

    Gwinnett:
    AMY SCHMIDT $20,000
    BALCH AND BINGHAM LLP $8,548
    BERNSTEIN AND MCCASLAND MD PC $400
    BURR & FORMAN LLP $7,725
    CHEN EYE CENTER $620
    DIANE M RICE $66,000
    DUNWOODY PSYCHOLOGY CENTER $8,438
    EXPERT MEDIATIONS $600
    FREEMAN MATHIS & GARY LLP $19,630
    GREENBERG TRAURIG LLP $309,194
    HADDOW AND COMPANY $628
    INVESTIGATIVE AND POLYGRAPH GROUP INC $8,430
    KLOB LAW FIRM $3,063
    M & M COURT REPORTERS LLC $593
    MICHAEL C HILTON MD $7,050
    NATIONAL DEPO $9,117
    SEYFARTH SHAW LLP $84,221
    SMITH GAMBRELL & RUSSELL LLP $15,694
    THE GARBER LAW FIRM $142,365
    THOMPSON & SWEENY PC $309,194
    THOMPSON SWEENY KINSINGER & PEREIRA PC $1,034,337

    Total for Gwinnett – around $2,000,000

    Total for DeKalb (see details in comment above your comment) – around $5,400,000

    Gwinnett is really easy to calculate. They have the legal firms listed as PROFESSIONAL LEGAL SERVICES, and apparently their legal entries list the expenses of expert witnesses, court reporters, etc. With DeKalb you have to look up the firms on the Internet to see they are law firms.

    source:
    http://www.open.georgia.gov/

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