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APS Ethics Panel to Hold Hearing on Mr. English with Independent Officer
(APN) ATLANTA -- Last night, Wednesday, February 16, 2011, the Ethics Commission for Atlanta Public Schools voted to hold a hearing regarding the pending complaint that Board of Education Member Courtney English deceived the public.
At issue is whether he deceived the public regarding his misuse of an APS credit card. He told the public in a mass email and press release that he had never misused the APS credit card, but the AdvancED/SACS CASI report of January 2011 revealed that it was his second time.
In what is a three-stage process, the Commission has now decided to move into the third and final stage. The Commission first decided to open an investigation. Now the investigation is complete and they will hold a hearing. The hearing will determine whether English is guilty and what the proposed sanction would be.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, according to the APS Charter, engaging in fraud must result in dismissal of a Board Member.
The Commission met in closed, Executive Session for over three hours, and when they came out, they decided to move forward with the English hearing.
Atlanta Progressive News received one request for information from the Ethics Commission, and responded with a written answer and three exhibits. The exhibits were the mass email and press release sent out by English, as well as two APN articles about English. The Commission wanted to know how the press release impacted APN's coverage of English's misuse of the credit card.
According to a source familiar with the matter, English has now paid his late ethics fine from his previous ethics case. The previous case involved the misuse of the credit card itself.
At Monday's BOE meeting, the Board voted to censure English for not having paid his fine on time. Chairman Khaatim El introduced the resolution, which was amended. English did not have the funds to pay the fine on time, so it is unclear where he got the funds to pay the fines prior to Monday's meeting.
English is now being represented by Glenn Delk, a Buckhead attorney who supports privatization of public schools. Delk represented English in his previous ethics complaint and represented the Gang of Five in their lawsuit with the Board minority regarding what was essentially their takeover of the Board.
In the amendment, the Board also voted to ask the Ethics Commission about how to respond further to English's late payment.
The Ethics Commission at Wednesday's meeting voted to inquire with English as to whether English had made any attempt to inform APS that he was having any difficulty meeting the payment deadline for ethics fine.
The Ethics Commission also decided to have public comment going forward at the end of each meeting, two minutes per person, for a total of fifteen minutes. It is unclear what would happen if more than seven and a half people wanted to speak.
According to email from Atlanta parent Allison Adair to Georgia BOE Member Bostic, which summarized the public comment: "Ms. Carolyn Wood asked for clarification regarding the Commissions definition of a hearing officer and independent counsel. Mr. Chip Miller discussed the critical role of the Commission as related to the district's accreditation. Ms. Janet Kishbaugh emphasized the need for an independent investigator and asked for clarification on several procedural matters. Mr. Joe Beasley vouched for the character of Mr. English, expressed concern about the financial burden of the possible additional fine for late payment penalty, and expressed concern about the financial burden to the district of hiring independent personnel i.e. investigator, hearing officers suggesting that the folks in Buckhead pick up the cost."
The Ethics Commission dedided to hire an independent hearing officer for the English hearing.
The Ethics Commission also addressed the ongoing investigation into the pending ethics complaints involving Chairman Khaatim El.
In the case of El's two complaints, "After much discussion about the need for such an investigator and the role of such an investigator, the Commission agreed to hire prior to the March meeting an independent investigator to provide investigation, compilation and, summary services but not recommendations," Adair wrote.
(END / 2011)
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