Marlow appeal hearing Monday
by Michelle Babcock
January 11, 2014 11:55 PM | 3083 views | 1 1 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff/Todd Hull
Staff/Todd Hull
Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow hopes to overturn her ethics violation sanction with an appeal to the state Board of Education, set to be heard Monday.

The appeal hearing will be at noon by the state board at the Department of Education building in Atlanta.

Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said a decision on Marlow’s appeal should be reached by early February.

“Typically, after oral argument is heard, a decision is rendered by the following month’s board meeting,” he said.

Marlow was sanctioned by the Cherokee Board of Education on Oct. 2 for violating its code of ethics policy and appealed the local board’s decision Nov. 1.

The state board will produce a written order stating their decision to grant or deny Marlow’s appeal within 25 days of the hearing, according to Georgia Code.

With the appeal hearing Monday, the last day the state Board of Education could declare a decision on Marlow’s appeal is Feb. 7.

Georgia Code states Marlow may be represented by counsel at the hearing, but no new evidence will be allowed in the arguments.

“The argument shall be confined to the issues in the record and the evidence transmitted from previous proceedings,” the code states. “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.”

School Board Attorney Thomas A. Roach Jr. will represent the local board at the appeal hearing, said Cherokee School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby.

Marlow did not respond to a request for comment on her representation. During the ethics violation hearing in front of the Cherokee Board of Education Oct. 2, Marlow was represented by her brother, attorney J. Thomas Salata.

Marlow joined the Cherokee Board of Education in a unanimous vote July 24 to hold the ethics hearing to decide whether or not she violated the board’s ethics policy by sending a letter without board approval to AdvancEd, the agency in charge of school accreditation, asking for a formal investigation and accusing the board of being “no longer able to effectively govern.”

The agency later cleared the Cherokee School District of any violations.

After a lengthy hearing Oct. 2, the school board voted 5-2 that Marlow violated the first policy in question, and 6-1 that she violated the second policy in question.

The board then agreed with a 5-2 vote Marlow would pay $3,600 to reimburse the district for part of the cost for her own hearing.

Appeal hearing briefs

Both the Cherokee County Board of Education and Marlow submitted briefs preceding the appeal hearing, as required by Georgia Code, stating their arguments for or against overturning Marlow’s sanction.

Marlow was required to file a brief within 20 days of the decision to hear the appeal, and the school board within 40 days.

In her appeal brief, Marlow stated multiple arguments for dismissing her ethics violation sanction.

In her arguments, Marlow said the sanction was a violation of both Georgia’s Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. She also alleged in the brief the Cherokee school board’s policy regarding ethics is unclear; the school board did not properly follow procedures for the ethics hearing; and due process was denied because of bias.

The school board responded to Marlow’s arguments stating the ethics policies are legal; the policies regarding school board ethics are clear about teamwork; the school board followed proper procedures for the hearing; and the sanction was a result of testimony, evidence and a super-majority vote.

Marlow wrote in her appeal brief the sanction imposed on her by the Cherokee school board was unlawful.

“In October of 2013, the Cherokee County Board of Education voted to sanction one of its own members for the act of sending a letter, which is a violation of both the Constitution of the State of Georgia and the United States Constitution which protect a person’s right to speak, write and publish sentiments on all subjects,” Marlow’s appeal states.

The school board responded to Marlow’s statement in its appeal brief, saying Marlow’s argument failed to recognize “key characteristics that render this particular action unprotected.”

“In misusing her status as a school board member to unilaterally make a complaint to an accreditation body, (Marlow) was not acting as a private citizen nor was she speaking on a matter of public concern. The complaint was merely a political act, an effort by an individual board member to challenge the majority by taking an action to the potential detriment of the entire school system … a government employee’s speech has no protection under the First Amendment unless it is made in her role as a private citizen,” the Cherokee School District brief states.

Marlow argued the board chair was biased against her, and the court reporter was “a known member of a local political organization, who at the time had a stated purpose to organize a recall election against me.”

“I was denied the ability to ensure a fair and honest hearing with unbiased triers of fact and unbiased court reporting,” Marlow said in the brief.

The school district argued that, if the board chair was biased against Marlow, then Marlow must be biased for herself, and said the policy states “all board members” are allowed to participate in the vote.

The district dismissed Marlow’s complaint about the court reporter.

“At no time did the appellant complain about the selection of the court reporter before or during the hearing, therefore she may not now raise the issue of the court reporter’s alleged bias on appeal,” the district’s brief stated.

Marlow stated when the administrative process of a school board breaks down, board members, “especially if they are in the minority,” should be allowed to speak out and ask for help.

“If in fact, you allow this ruling to stand, the message to all school boards across Georgia is this, as long as you have a majority, you can be in cahoots with the administration and you can get away with anything you wish. That would be completely contrary to all things this country was founded upon, for it sets in motion and codifies the tyranny of the majority,” Marlow’s brief said. “Reverse the sanctions imposed upon me and send a message across the state of Georgia that it is not only a right of a school board member to speak up when they see potential problems, it is an obligation.”

The Cherokee school board brief responded, stating Marlow did not attempt to follow the chain of command or administrative process.

“The governor and legislature realized that many school issues that were so prevalent within our state could be curbed by simply requiring Boards of Education to function as a team,” the school board brief states. “The code of ethics adopted by the Cherokee County School Board, as required by state law, requires that the entire governance team act in accordance with their roles under state law. If individual board members are allowed to take action to subvert the board majority whenever such board members deem it appropriate, the ethics code will become toothless, and the governance model will be entirely unworkable.”

Marlow’s appeal brief was 11 pages and the Cherokee School District’s brief was 26 pages.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Just Go Away...
January 12, 2014
The ongoing drama continues... Poor, misunderstood Ms. Marlow desperately trying to save the CCSB from itself by saying other members of the Board are "biased". Hint: When you are out voted 6 to 1, or even 5 to 2, just maybe you are the one that is "biased".

Hopefully 2014 will see a felony conviction in the future of three individuals and this Drama Queen will just go away...
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