The recommendation was made to Deal after the panel the governor appointed to review the Cherokee BoE member’s indictment decided the charges did not impact her ability to do her job.
“The review commission determined that the indictment does not relate to or adversely affect Marlow’s ability to perform her official duties. The commission’s ruling is final,” the governor’s office said in a news release.
The 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, met at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Judicial Building in Atlanta to hear arguments about whether or not Marlow’s indictment impacted her ability to do her job.
They then went into a closed session to deliberate about the case against Marlow.
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.
Petruzielo did not comment on the decision Thursday.
“The superintendent will reserve further comment regarding the false charges made against him by Ms. Marlow until after a court judgment is issued regarding the four felony indictments Ms. Marlow faces for making false statements to police,” School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said Thursday.
The panel was charged to determine whether or not Marlow’s indictment “relates to and adversely affects the administration” of the school board and if “the rights and interests of the public are adversely affected, thereby,” according to Georgia Code.
The prosecutor of the case against Marlow, Trim and Knowles, Cherokee County Chief Assistant District Attorney Rachelle Carnesale, presented the state’s argument to suspend Marlow.
“From what I understand there’s a very acrimonious relationship between Ms. Marlow and the county superintendent Frank Petruzielo,” Carnesale said. “There was a very lengthy school board meeting, which I understand was full of dissention and rancor … tempers ran very high that night.”
Marlow was represented by Atlanta attorney Brian Steel, who said the school board has “been very positive together, very professional,” despite the indictment.
“We strongly disagree with a lot of the comments,” Steel said.
Steel presented the panel with a letter written by School Board member Michael Geist, urging the board not to suspend Marlow.
“He claims that, to suspend even for a short period of time Ms. Marlow, would be disruptive to the board. They are working very well together, they are making great progress in the face of these allegations. They’ve actually pulled together more and are more productive,” Steel said of Geist’s comments in the letter.
Geist and Marlow could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The Tribune was unable to obtain a copy Geist’s letter by press time.
The Cherokee County School District had not been provided a copy of the letter written by Geist as of Thursday, Jacoby said.
During the hearing, Steel introduced Ross Gardner, a crime scene analyst, who presented his interpretation of the events surrounding the statements that led to Marlow’s indictment, including part of the surveillance video that was captured of the event.
Carnesale questioned the use of the video at the hearing and said, for the record, she was uncomfortable with it because it may impact the case.
In the video, which was shown to the panel, the entire sidewalk could be seen, and a small part of the road was visible behind parked cars. Knowles, Trim and Marlow are seen stepping onto the sidewalk, and right side tires can be seen passing by on the road.
Gardner said based on estimates made by looking at shadows on the sidewalk under a parked car in the video, made by headlights of the passing car, Marlow was “at or in” the roadway when the car passed.
Carnesale said all three co-defendants were “interviewed repeatedly,” on audio and video.
Marlow, Trim and Knowles claimed as they crossed the center line of the road they saw Petruzielo, who allegedly sped up and changed lanes, according to Carnesale.
“They alleged that Ms. Marlow had to be pushed to safety and out of the way of that car by Mr. Trim,” Carnesale said. “They decided to call 911 after consulting Ms. Knowles’ husband.”
According to the Marlow, Trim and Knowles, there were eight bystanders, but in the video surveillance there weren’t, Carnesale said.
Steel, however, said the charges against Marlow “have no merit.”
“If Ms. Marlow had stopped, she would’ve been struck by that car,” Steel said. “Ms. Marlow never even claimed anything. … Ms. Marlow just cooperated with law enforcement.”
Carnesale said when the car went by, Knowles was walking into the restaurant, Trim and Marlow were stepping onto the sidewalk, and Marlow “was not, in fact, being pushed to safety.”
“There was one bystander that night, he was observed on video,” Carnesale said. “He was interviewed, he had no memory of seeing these people or anything out of the ordinary.”
Carnesale said that Petruzielo was interviewed and said that he slowed down because he saw people when he was passing the Painted Pig Tavern, but never saw Knowles. Petruzielo said he saw Marlow and Trim “arm-in-arm, standing at the front of a car” when he passed, according to Carnesale.
“The intent in this crime was based on … the relationship” between Marlow and Petruzielo,” Carnesale said.
The public meeting concluded with no comments from Stultz and Crow, and the panel went into a private session to discuss the case and make their written recommendation to the governor.