This comes after Marlow was allowed to stay in office as felony charges she lied to police move forward in court.
A letter written by Cherokee School Board member Michael Geist in support of Marlow and used in her hearing before a panel appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday has members of the Special Committee to Recall Marlow ready to take action.
SCRAM! Treasurer Christine Rea said the group will try to oust Geist in next year’s election. Marlow, who took office in January, is not up for re-election.
“We’re going to try extra hard next year to get some great people elected to do the job that she was there to do, and Michael Geist is a replacement we’re going to be looking at because he is up for re-election,” Rea said Friday.
Geist could not be reached for comment in response to the SCRAM! members’ plans for the upcoming election. Geist also did not provide a copy of the letter Friday.
According to Marlow’s attorney during the hearing on Thursday, Geist indicated the school board was working well together in the letter that was presented to the panel charged with deciding whether Marlow’s felony indictment would impact her ability to do her job.
Though Rea said a recall of Marlow was “not off the table,” the group is planning to focus on the upcoming election for now until Marlow’s criminal case concludes.
If found guilty, Marlow would face suspension and ultimately removal from office upon final conviction, state law says.
“If we can minimize (Marlow’s impact) as much as possible and get somebody else elected next year, then we’ll be doing good. … We’re hopeful that somehow karma will fix things,” Rea said. “There’s still a bunch of work to be done, and our kids deserve it.”
Geist said Marlow asked him if he would write a letter earlier in November, and he agreed.
“Shortly after the Nov. 7 meeting of the board, I told Ms. Marlow that I thought that she had been working well with the board in recent months, in spite of the ethics hearing and her
legal troubles. I also indicated that I thought she had been particularly effective and professional in the way in which she offered changes to the board’s proposed 2014 Legislative Priorities, some of which were adopted by the board,” Geist said Friday. “Ms. Marlow asked if I would consider writing a letter to the panel to that effect and I told her that I would.”
Geist said earlier Friday he hasn’t received any feedback from the community about his letter so far, but believes the panel’s decision not to remove Marlow will help the board get back to business.
“I think that this gets the Board of Education one big step closer to putting our focus back on regular business. For that I am relieved,” Geist said. “In regard to the decision itself, I had no expectations about the outcome before the hearing. There is so much about these events that we don’t know and that we haven’t seen. I have been reserving my own judgment until more of the evidence became public.”
SCRAM! Chairwoman Michelle Albers, said she wasn’t aware the panel appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal would accept letters from outside sources.
“I’m concerned about the significance of that support. I was under the impression, as were most members of SCRAM!, that the panel was an unbiased group and should not be outwardly influenced,” Albers said. “If we had been aware that ‘letters of support’ were allowed, I’m sure there would have been many, many letters supporting a suspension.”
But Geist said that he didn’t think his letter was the main influence on the panel’s decision.
“It is my understanding that the governor’s panel watched the much-talked-about video of the incident and I assume that it was the video that had the most influence on their decision. The panel also had the opportunity to watch recordings of recent meetings of the CCSD board and witness firsthand how Ms. Marlow and the rest of the board work together,” Geist said. “I have also been told that Mr. Steel (Marlow’s attorney) referred to my letter in the course of his comments but did not read it. From that I would tend to conclude that it would only serve to confirm what the panel members could discover for themselves.”
Albers said the panel’s meeting didn’t go as expected, and she was surprised that evidence in a criminal case would be presented outside of court. She said Marlow’s indictment “absolutely influences her ability to perform her duties.”
“I was aware that Ms. Marlow could have her attorney present and I knew that each side would have an opportunity to state its case. However, I was under the impression that the hearing was to determine if Ms. Marlow’s ability to fulfill her role as a member of the Cherokee County Board of Education would be affected by the reality of her accusations against Dr. Petruzielo,” Albers said. “I am highly concerned about her ability to affect our county’s public education system.”
The governor’s three-person panel, made up of Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, Cobb School Board member Tim Stultz and Forsyth School Board member Ann K. Crow, recommended Deal allow Marlow to stay in office while her four-count felony case proceeds.
Marlow and two of her associates, political adviser Robert Trim and Cherokee GOP Secretary Barbara Knowles, were indicted in October in Cherokee County on multiple felony counts of making a false statement.
The indictments are related to a June 13 incident when Knowles allegedly called 911 and reported to the Canton Police Department that Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo almost ran them over with his car after a school board meeting.
Rea said she was disappointed, but not surprised, Geist wrote a letter in support of Marlow.
“Not surprised in the least,” Rea said. “I think I would’ve been more surprised had we not heard that he wrote a letter on her behalf. If you look at the past 10 months that she’s been on the board, they’re a twosome. Was I surprised? No, not in the least. Did I expect it? No, but I was not surprised.”
Albers said the group has a “strategy for a recall.”
“We had one if a suspension had occurred and we have one since it did not. Obviously, a suspension was preferred by our group, but it wasn’t required. Is this an obstacle? Of course. Can we overcome it? I believe we can,” Albers said. “The students of CCSD cannot afford another three-plus years of this distraction. We have to act in their best interest, they are counting on us.”
But Rea said right now, the recall is just “a waiting game.”
“Had she been suspended we would’ve moved ahead, that would’ve given us some great leverage. Her ethics hearing is still leverage, however, it’s just not enough as we’re concerned,” Rea said.