Cherokee School Board member Kelly Marlow will have to pay for her own legal representation at the code of ethics violation hearing that she voted for in July regarding her complaint letter to AdvancEd and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency in charge of school accreditation.
The motion to fund Marlow’s attorney with school board money failed 2-5 at the Cherokee Board of Education’s Thursday night meeting before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 250.
Marlow, who voted to give herself the money, and fellow board member Michael Geist were the only two to favor the motion to give Marlow the funds for an attorney for her own ethics violation hearing.
The board unanimously voted to hold the ethics violation hearing at its July 24 meeting.
School Board Member Rob Usher first made a motion to deny the request made by Marlow last week, but the motion failed because no one seconded it.
Then Marlow made a motion to allow the money for her attorney fees and Geist seconded the motion.
Marlow made a motion to amend the original agenda item, which did not include an amount for the request, and said that she wanted to receive $150 per hour for her attorney fees. Geist seconded that motion.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo spoke up and said that he saw the items as two separate policy issues.
“Issue No. 1 is whether the board agrees to provide legal representation for Ms. Marlow,” Petruzielo said. “Issue No. 2 is, if the board agrees to provide, at which financial level do they wish to provide? There’s no way for me as superintendent, filling out this agenda item, to predict the amount of money the board would want to spend on Ms. Marlow’s representation. So, in my view there are really two issues here, this is not a case of amending the a case of amending the item to fill out a blank.”
School Board Attorney Tom Roach said “I don’t disagree with that assessment.”
Following the board’s discussion on Marlow’s motion to put a figure on the request and amend
the item, Geist rescinded his second.
Marlow did not rescind her motion, but without a second, the motion failed.
Geist spoke on the original item of whether or not to provide Marlow with funds for her attorney, and said he wanted to explain why he seconded Marlow’s motion to approve the expenditure.
“My initial reaction to this, I think like many people’s when I heard about Ms. Marlow’s request, with all due respect to Ms. Marlow was, ‘She wants what?’” Geist said. “It occurred to me that … the school system with its nearly unlimited resources went after a board member with almost no resources … we could stand up and stay, well, she got a fair representation.”
Geist said that he understood this was not the best use of money that could be used in the classroom, but voted for the denied expenditure along with Marlow.
Five members of the audience spoke prior to the 2-5 vote, including Carolyn Cosby, who introduced herself as the Canton Tea Party chairman, and spoke in support of Marlow.
“It seems the people of Cherokee County have elected themselves a real representative in Kelly Marlow,“ Cosby said.
Another supporter of Marlow spoke in favor of funding the legal representation with taxpayer dollars.
“It seems to me that she should get and equal amount of public money to defend herself,” said John Hiland of Woodstock.
Woodstock resident and Cherokee County School District teacher Jennifer Hall said she did not support the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for Marlow’s attorney.
“The basis for Ms. Marlow requesting these funds is fundamentally flawed,” Hall said.
Lejean Messer lives on Sixes Road in Post 1, and said she opposed the suggestion that any funds go to pay for Marlow’s attorney.
“I find this request to be the height of hypocrisy,” Messer said.
No date has yet been set for the hearing. Roach
will represent the Board of Education in the hearing and the school board will also pay for a court reporter and a hearing officer.