Marlow sanctioned — BoE: Board member violated ethics policy
by Joshua Sharpe and Michelle Babcock
October 03, 2013 12:50 AM | 5022 views | 15 15 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff/Todd Hull
Staff/Todd Hull
slideshow
CANTON — After four hours of testimony and discussion, the Cherokee County School Board voted Wednesday night to sanction School Board Member Kelly Marlow for two violations of the board’s ethics policy.

The board voted 5-2, with Marlow and Michael Geist opposed, that Marlow violated the first policy in question to “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 board then voted 6-1, with only Marlow opposed, that she violated the other policy in question: “Take no private action that will compromise the board or school system administration.”

The School Board then went through a lengthy discussion about how Marlow should be sanctioned, and took several rounds of voting before agreeing in a 5-2 vote that she would pay $3,600 to reimburse the School District to help cover some of the cost of the hearing. Marlow and Geist were the only to oppose making the accused board member pay.

Marlow declined to comment after the hearing Wednesday.

The hearing was called to determine if Marlow violated the school board’s code of ethics by sending a complaint letter in June to AdvancEd and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency in charge of school accreditation, claiming that the district was in violation of their standards and/or policies. The agency later cleared the School District of any violations.

Before the vote to sanction Marlow, Board Member Rob Usher said he was against any financial penalty for Marlow.

“I think the public humiliation that’s involved with this should serve as punishment,” Usher said. “I don’t think the financial impact on this has been severe.”

Geist said Marlow’s action of sending the letter to AdvancED was due to “inexperience” as a board member, but that she wasn’t the first to make such a mistake due to being new on the board.

Board Member Rick Steiner said the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for Marlow’s inexperience.

During the four-hour long hearing, Marlow’s attorney Tom Salata and School Board Attorney Tom Roach called several witnesses, including Marlow and Cherokee Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo.

Petruzeilo described Marlow’s letter to AdvancED without the prior approval of the School Board as “highly inappropriate.”

“I think that is one of the worst things a board member could do,” he said. “This has been more than a distraction.”

In his closing arguments Wednesday night, Salata warned the members of the board not to vote against Marlow, because they might be next.

“Be careful who you write an email to and who you send a letter to,” Salata said. “You may very well be

considered unethical. Everybody’s subject to the same laws. The issue before you is not the contents of the letter. The issue is only whether she sent it. That’s scary. You can be brought up just for sending a letter.”

Roach disagreed during his closing arguments.

“This is not a violation of free speech in my opinion,” Roach said. “It’s not just the fact that she sent the letter. You have to glean the intent from this circumstance.”

Roach said Marlow had an agenda for sending the letter, rather than just to alert SACS of potential issues within the Board.

“Ms. Marlow sent the letter with the intent of bending the will of the Board,” he said.

Salata said his client only sent the letter because she saw issues within the board.

“This person saw something she didn’t like,” he said. “(Petruzielo) was not answering questions.”

Residents in attendance Wednesday night were quick to offer their opinions on the situation.

“It’s a witch hunt,” said Cherokee County resident Debbie Staver.

Carol Taylor, however, said she moved to Cherokee County specifically for the quality school district and Marlow’s actions have been dangerous.

“There’s no question she put our students in jeopardy,” Taylor said. “I’m just ticked. My children were at risk.”

Erica Williams, who said she had a child attending Woodstock High School, said all Marlow did was have concerns and raise questions.

“That’s what we elected her for,” Williams said.

Another resident came prepared to pass out T-shirts that had the slogan “Dr. P IS MY EMPLOYEE,” in large letters across the back, and ‘I’M Dr. P’s BOSS,” on the front.

The hearing in the School Board Auditorium was limited to 100 members of the public, but a live broadcast took place at the Cherokee High School auditorium and a live video stream of the hearing was broadcast online.

In July, Marlow joined the board in a unanimous vote to hold the ethics hearing, and in August AdvancEd found the district was not in violation of the agency’s standards and/or policies.

The two policy violations that were discussed at the hearing come from the School Board Code of Ethics, in the area of “Board Ethics.”

According to policy, Marlow can appeal the decision to the state School Board.

Marlow told local news media in an interview this week that if the school board decided that she had violated the code of ethics, she planned to appeal the decision to the state School Board.

Comments
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I am embarrassed for
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October 03, 2013
I am embarrassed for everyone involved. Thanks to Mr. Roach there are numerous items to appeal on and if this goes before an unbiased group it will be reversed.

The board made rules up as they went along. Roach told Ms. Marlow she had 70 days to prepare for this Tribunal, well so did the BOE and they looked like buffoons during discussion.

Roach went back and forth on whether the contents of the letter mattered. It mattered when it benefited him.

This entire hearing was a joke. Watch the video, stay focused on the discussion when the board gets to participate and rule. The BoE behavior certainly gave credence to Marlow's letter.

Kangaroo Court at its finest.
smutty
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October 03, 2013
she stepped on some toes so they had to do something.
Dr Know
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October 03, 2013
Maybe she can donate the money to EHS. My kids said the rooms are filthy now that the school has only a few custodians and none apparently know how to sweep the rooms. Great decision school board to hire an outside company.
Now For The...
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October 03, 2013
Next segment of Marlow's ongoing drama let's see what the judicial system does on her pending charges.

If she is found guilty of that as well I would hope no one would want a felon to serve on the school board.

Nothing like ongoing drama to distract the CCSD Board and staff from their duties. Please resign and go away Ms. Marlow, your fifteen minutes of infamy, I meant fame, is up.

necobbmom
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October 03, 2013
Wow, if Ms. Marlow was sanctioned for this, then Mr. David Banks in Cobb Co. should be sanctioned for life and kicked off the Cobb school board for the ethics violations he has committed. What a sham all around. Cobb Co. has had so many problems and issues with Banks, but their board voted not to correct him because they were too concerned with passing SPLOST.
Konnsernd
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October 03, 2013
While I am still amazed that certain fringe citizens continue to support Marlow, I am comforted in knowing the system works and the BOE did their duty.

The next step is to remember the irresponsible position taken by Marlow and Geist in voting against the sanctions, then vote them out of office!
What a joke
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October 03, 2013
The incompetence of superintendent Frankie P and his braindead minion-in-chief Janet Read was staggering. The fact that these two clowns has no procedure in place to issue sanctions and just made it up as the meeting went along should itself be witness to SACS that the Cherokee County School Board is a thoroughly-broken system. I agree that Marlow was guilty of ethics violations but how can you be so unprepared as to not know whether it's a majority vote or a 2/3 vote to issue sanctions? Answer: You are the thoroughly-incompetent superintendent Frank Petruzielo or the completely-ignorant Janet Read...or perhaps the thoroughly-overpaid incompetent attorney Tom Roach.

This in no way should implicate our fine teachers and other district employees but instead should be an indictment of our pathetic bureaucracy.

Though I agree with the verdict, this wasn't a trial - this was a circus, led by 2 clowns: Frankie P and Janet Read. Frank P should be fired immediately and Janet Read should resign. She's a completely-unprepared disgrace to the county.

Konnsernd
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October 03, 2013
If it was not for Dr. P, the Cherokee school system would be in worse shape than Clayton county. Remember, Dr. P was the one who brought us from the brink of collapse.
Susan Smith
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October 03, 2013
What a joke, is that you, me, or us? Hi buddy!
I am embarrassed
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October 03, 2013
I watched this broadcast last night, and I am embarrassed by the behavior of several Board Members and the School Board Attorney, Tom Roach. The arrogance in their tone was so unprofessional. I 100% do not agree with Marlow's actions, and I support the Ethics Hearing process, but this was a joke. It is time for a house cleaning of all of the good ole boys and girls on this Board and their cronies. Although, I understand he is controversial, Mr. Geist was by far the most well-spoken of the group. I absolutely could not believe that I watched a discussion of whether or not there could be a financial sanction imposed with an amount based upon conjectured possible costs based upon speculation. Marlow should appeal based upon that alone. And, thank you so much Mr. Roach for crediting your time back to the Board. How much money have you made over the MANY years from this Board? Another joke. Clean house totally.
Joke's On You
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October 04, 2013
Read the policy, Joke, then you might understand what happened. The superintendent has nothing to do with the hearing or the procedures; he was sitting in the audience except when he was called as a witness. Ms. Read could not decide any sanctions ahead of time or on her own-- the policy states THE BOARD must do it IF they find a member in violation. If the board had already decided on how to sanction Marlow, that would imply both collusion before the hearing and a presumption of guilt. It was painful to watch, but the policy was followed.
Proud Citizen
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October 03, 2013
I am proud of Kelly Marlow and Mr. Salata!! Kelly Marlow stood up for what she believes in and Mr. Salata did an awesome job representing her. "What is good for the goose is good for the gander." Mr. Salata is correct in making that statement. Why does Mrs. Read and other members of the CCSD Board of Education think that they are above the "code of ethics"? Other members of the Board have sent letters to senators, the State Board of Education, Advanced Ed and other members of the Board and have not received a sanction. The CCSD Board of Education really showed how unprepared and ridiculous that they really are in this situation. I think that Kelly Marlow has excellent ground for an appeal! She does not owe the system any monetary reimbursement. The CCSD Board brought this on themselves. Each Board member should have to pay a portion of their salary to cover these expenses. They are all at fault. I think that Mrs. Read and Dr. Petruzielo should have their pockets hit the hardest. This was a circus and a witch hunt! So, Kelly Marlow and Mr. Salata, I applaud you!! I hope that your appeal will show the public more of how the Board of Education, with the exception of Marlow, are just puppets in Dr. Petruzielo's circus! It's time for a clean house. Petruzielo needs to retire and CCSD needs more members that are willing to make a stand for what is right!!
anonymous
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October 03, 2013
I cannot grasp the concept of being proud of unethical behavior! Her role is clearly defined in the school board policy and if she thought her actions were appropriate, then why didn't she bring her letter to the board to be voted on? As usual people like you want to put a spin on the issue to take attention away from the problem at hand. As stated by Mr. Roach there is a big difference between asking a question or submitting a legislative request that had been voted on by the board and demanding an investigation.
Alexander Star
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October 03, 2013
Stand up for what's right, or what right for the tea party.I'm sure most reasonable citizens and several hundred parents of seniors would agree with what the board did.

Enough Tea Already

Don't forget to be awesome!
Chef Boyardee
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October 03, 2013
Hi Kelly Confuso. I loved your t-shirt and your boots.
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