During Thursday’s school board meeting Marlow agreed to work with School Board Attorney Tom Roach to set up a plan to start paying the district back $3,600 for part of the cost of her own ethics violation hearing.
School Board member Rick Steiner asked Roach if the cost for Marlow’s ethics hearing had exceeded the $3,600 fine that Marlow received with her ethics sanction.
Roach said he kept fees for the initial hearing under $5,000, but additional costs for Marlow’s appeal to the state caused a spike in the cost to taxpayers — adding up to a total near $10,000.
“Unfortunately, the appeal to the state Board of Education … has greatly exceeded that,” Roach said. “Unfortunately Ms. Marlow kind of shot-gunned her approach to the state Board of Education, which required a tremendous amount of research.”
Roach said “it’s easy to make an allegation,” but it takes much more time to prepare a defense with researched facts.
The $3,600 fine stemmed from an ethics violation sanction placed on Marlow by her fellow board members during an October hearing, to help repay taxpayers for the cost of the hearing after Marlow was found guilty of violating two school board ethics policies.
Marlow appealed the local board’s sanction, and on April 3 the state Board of Education upheld the decision of the local board.
Marlow made a statement earlier this month, saying she planned to appeal again, this time challenging the local and state decisions to the Superior Court of Cherokee County.
If Marlow doesn’t set up a plan by May 1 to begin paying her fine for the ethics violations, the board will be asked to vote to authorize the school board attorney to take further action to collect the fine.
Marlow had also requested an update and further discussion about various district financial audits, which had been previously discussed at multiple meetings, board work sessions and auditor presentations.
Marlow wrote in her agenda item requests that she had “concern” about findings in the 2011 and 2012 fiscal year audits, and wanted an auditor presentation about the 2013 fiscal year audit.
During board discussion of the first of three items Marlow put on the agenda, School Board Chair Janet Read answered all questions Marlow had, and Marlow said the other agenda items were no longer needed.
Read said she contacted the superintendent to get the information requested by Marlow, and said “any of you guys can do that anytime, as well.”
Read explained that both findings Marlow had concern about had been addressed and would be shown as fully resolved in the 2013 fiscal year audit. Additionally, Read said there would be a presentation in front of the board for the 2013 fiscal year audit.
Marlow thanked Read for the information, saying it was “just what we needed.”
Read thanked the people who put the information together for the meeting, and reiterated that anyone who had questions could ask the superintendent or school district spokeswoman, and get the answers.
“There’s nothing magic about me getting the information,” Read said, adding that anyone can ask for information when they have questions.
Also at the meeting, the board unanimously approved the annual update on the district’s Three-Year Technology Plan.
The plan is funded in large part by education special purpose local option sales tax, approved by voters every five years.
“We are so fortunate to be in a county where the voters support SPLOST and understand its importance not just to buy land and build buildings but also to implement technology,” Read said. “We realize the importance of giving these kids a 21st century education.”
The last SPLOST vote provided $40 million to the school system to provide needed technology to schools, and the next SPLOST renewal vote is scheduled for 2016.