When Cherokee County school board member Kelly Marlow will face a code of ethics violation hearing is still not known, but the school system is moving forward with hiring a hearing officer to oversee the process.
The Cherokee County Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to conduct the hearing to determine if Marlow violated the board’s code of ethics by sending a complaint letter to AdvancED and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency in charge of school accreditation.
Marlow must be given at least 30 days to prepare for the hearing.
School District spokesperson Barbara Jacoby said Friday if the date for the hearing is chosen before the next school board meeting, which is Aug. 15, it will be announced then, but said there is no estimate as to when the hearing will be because it depends “on scheduling the parties.”
Jacoby said School Board Attorney Tom Roach will hire a hearing officer and a court reporter for Marlow’s hearing, and said they will be chosen “as soon as possible.”
According to school board policy, the hearing will be open to the public and Marlow is allowed to bring her own legal representation
For the Aug. 15 meeting, a work session will begin at 6 p.m. and the meeting will start at 7 p.m. Both are open to the public will be at the historic Canton High School Board Auditorium, unless the location is changed prior to the meeting to accommodate a larger crowd.
“The accused board member may bring witnesses on his or her behalf to the hearing, and the board may elect to call witnesses to inquire into the matter,” the school board policy states. “If found by a vote of two-thirds of all the members of the board that the accused board member has violated this Code of Ethics, the board shall determine an appropriate sanction.”
According to policy, if Marlow is found to have violated policy by the board, and is subject to sanction, she can appeal the decision to the State Board of Education.
“A record of the decision of the board to sanction a board member for a violation of this Code of Ethics shall be placed in the permanent minutes of the board,” the school board policy states.
School Board Chair Janet Read cited the policy that she believed Marlow had violated in making her request for the board to hear the issue Wednesday.
Read said Marlow had violated a portion of the code that stated: “Recognize that the authority of the board rests only with the board as a whole and not with individual board members and act accordingly.”
The second violation cited by Read said that a board member should: “Take no private action that will compromise the board or school system administration.”
The opening paragraph of the Board Ethics portion of board policy states that every board member agrees to adopt the board’s code of ethics.
In her email request to add the hearing agenda item to the Wednesday’s board meeting, Read wrote that she spoke with the school board attorney and did an “extensive review of board ethics policy” before deciding to request the hearing.
“My goal, and I hope all of yours as well, is to make sure that we are acting in accordance with our policies and that we are keeping our focus on our responsibilities to the 39,000 students who will enter our schools in less than a month,” Read wrote in her email, obtained last week by the Cherokee Tribune.
A spokesperson for AdvancED SACS said Wednesday a team had reviewed Marlow’s complaint and was not taking any action right now, but said the agency would continue to monitor the situation.
Marlow joined fellow school board members in raising her hand to vote for conducting her own code of ethics violation hearing at Wednesday’s meeting, attended by a record number of about 1,000 people, many of whom responded to the decision with a standing ovation.