Marlow files appeal of school board sanction
by Michelle Babcock
November 01, 2013 10:32 PM | 3228 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow made an 11th-hour appeal Friday of her ethics violation sanction, noting three areas as grounds for her case.

Marlow was sanctioned Oct. 2 for violating Board of Education policy by sending a letter to school accrediting agency AdvanceEd calling for an investigation, and Friday was the final day for her to appeal the school board’s decision.

Marlow based her appeal on whether her motion to dismiss the charges against her was properly denied and whether it should have been granted, whether sending a letter requesting an investigation is beyond her authority as a school board member and whether by taking private action she compromised the board or school administration.

Cherokee District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby confirmed Friday that Cherokee County School Superintendent Frank Petruzielo received Marlow’s request for an appeal that morning.

“He will transmit it to the state level in accordance with state law,” Jacoby said.

Georgia Board of Education rules state “the local superintendent shall within 10 days after the filing of the appeal, transmit to the state school superintendent a copy of the appeal, together with the transcript of evidence and proceedings, the decision of the local board and other matters in the file relating to the appeal.”

State Board of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza said he was aware the Cherokee Board of Education had received the appeal, but said that his office had not yet seen it.

Cardoza said once the state board reviews the appeal, the next step will be decided, and Cardoza said it will be dealt with in a timely manner.

“I talked with our legal person, and she said things like this can be case by case, depending on what the appeal is about,” Cardoza said. “We get appeals all the time. … The (state) board deals with appeals all the time in executive session. … As far as local board members, it’s just different.”

According to the state board’s rules on School Law Tribunals and Appeals, Marlow’s appeal was required to include the complete record of the sanction, including a certified transcript of the hearing testimony, with her appeal.

In correspondence obtained through open records requests, Marlow did not include a transcript with her appeal, but requested the superintendent to provide the transcript for her.

Marlow had asked how much the cost for the transcript would be and that if it was more than $100 to let her know. The estimate was either $750 or more than $1,000, depending on how quickly the transcript was needed.

On Oct. 24, Court Reporter Wendy Key replied to Marlow’s request for a cost estimate to get the transcript, stating that “standard procedure is to collect the estimated cost up front before producing the transcript.”

According to correspondence obtained through the open records request, Key notified the school board attorney that Marlow never replied to the cost estimated and never requested that a transcript be prepared.

On Friday, along with her appeal, Marlow wrote in a letter to the superintendent to provide her with the certified transcript copy.

Jacoby responded Friday to Marlow’s appeal and request for a transcript, stating that “the school board attorney has received no correspondence from (Marlow’s) attorney since that date.”

“(Marlow was) made aware of the cost and how to order a transcript. Despite the requirement that the appealing party provide the state Board of Education with a transcript of the proceeding, the court reporter informed the school board attorney that you never called back to confirm your transcript order,” Jacoby wrote. “As you are aware, the superintendent is required to transmit your appeal to the state Board of Education within 10 days of receiving your request to appeal. If you want the transmittal to include the transcript, your prompt attention to this matter is required.”

According to state rule, if the transcript is not included in the appeal transmitted to the state board, that “may be grounds for dismissal” of the appeal.

State Board of Education officials said that the appeal procedure will follow the State Board of Education Rule on School Law Tribunals and Appeals.

The state Board of Education rule states that, if the state superintendent decides that the appeal is in the correct form for a hearing, the appeal will be docketed and put on the calendar for review before a hearing officer “at the earliest practical time.”

If the state board decides that the appeal should be heard before the hearing officer, state rule allows the party requesting the appeal to file a brief with the state board within 20 days of the docketing. The opposing party would have 40 days to file a brief.

In conclusion of her appeal, Marlow requested that the state board “set a hearing date” for her to “present oral argument.”

According to state board rule, oral arguments must be requested within 10 days of the date the appeal is put on the schedule by the state board.

“If oral argument is ordered or granted, the appellant may be represented by counsel. The argument shall be confined to the issues in the record and the evidence transmitted from previous proceedings,” the rule reads. “No new evidence shall be received. The state board shall not consider any question not specifically raised in the written appeal or the statement of contentions.”

Also, following Marlow’s felony indictment in October, Gov. Nathan Deal is set to form a panel to look into her possible suspension from the school board, pending the outcome of her trial or the end of her term, whichever comes first.

Brian Robinson, spokesman for the governor’s office, said Friday that Deal had not yet formed a panel.

“We’ll do that next week,” Robinson said.

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