Cherokee County District 1 School Board member Kelly Marlow was immediately suspended from her position on the board Saturday night following her conviction of two felony charges of making false statements to police, but the district is still looking into what comes next, said School District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby.
Marlow will not be seated as a member at Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting, Jacoby said.
“She is automatically suspended upon a felony conviction, according to Georgia Code,” Jacoby explained. “The school board attorney is evaluating the local law and the state law, which would be followed. It may be a situation where the school board would make that appointment; it may be a situation where the governor would make the appointment. But there would be an appointment, possibly, during this suspension. There would not be a special election during a suspension.”
Marlow, her political adviser Robert Trim and former secretary of the Cherokee County Republican Party Barbara Knowles were each convicted of multiple felonies Saturday for lying to police, claiming Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo tried to run them down with his car after a heated school board meeting last year.
Cherokee County Republican Party Chairman Rick Davies said Knowles resigned from her position as the secretary for the Republican Party after her three felony convictions and misdemeanor conviction Saturday.
Davies said Tuesday he had not heard from Trim, a Cherokee Republican Party precinct chairman convicted of two felony charges for lying to police, about whether or not he would resign.
“As of now, he has not communicated to me,” Davies said. “He has not submitted his resignation and as of now, is still a precinct chairman.”
Davies said the executive board would discuss Trim’s status at its next meeting, which he expects to be within the next couple weeks.
Petruzielo, who testified on day four of the six-day trial, said Monday he was relieved for the trial to be over.
“These convictions bring me no joy, but they do provide great relief,” he said. “The allegations made against me by these individuals were very serious and completely without merit; their clear intent was to do irreparable damage to me, my family and my professional reputation. I am relieved that, after 10 months of coping with this distraction, the School Board and I can now return our full focus to the extraordinary success of our schools and our students.”
Jacoby said a special election to fill a school board seat can only be held after a final conviction, if more than half of Marlow’s term remains.
Jacoby explained School Board Attorney Tom Roach is evaluating the local and state laws to determine exactly when Marlow’s final conviction could be.
“Based on his initial research, his opinion is that it would be final conviction after she exhausts her appeals process,” Jacoby said. “An appeal could take years.”
Jacoby said when Marlow is removed by the final conviction, if less than half of Marlow’s four-year term remains an appointed official would fill the seat for the remainder of her term and there would not be a special election.
The halfway mark of Marlow’s term will be Jan. 1.
Sentencing for Marlow, Trim and Knowles is set for Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Cherokee County Courthouse in Canton, and the first school board meeting since Marlow’s suspension is scheduled for Thursday night.
Jacoby said the school board meeting will go on as planned, with only one slight change.
School Board Chair Janet Read decided to extend the deadline for Marlow to set up a payment plan to begin repaying Cherokee taxpayers for the cost of her ethics violation hearing, when Marlow was sanctioned for violating the board’s ethics policies, Jacoby said.
“She is extending the grace period for Ms. Marlow to develop a payment plan for her ethics violation fine,” Jacoby said. “That was something that was pending that was expected to come up at Thursday night’s meeting, but it will not because Ms. Read has extended her that grace period.”
In an email to Marlow on Monday, Read said the original May 1 deadline for Marlow’s payment plan would be extended.
“I will ask the school board at its next regularly scheduled meeting, on May 1, to extend until the June 19, 2014, meeting your grace period to develop with the school board attorney a plan for you to pay the $3,600 you owe the school district for ethics violation hearing costs. If you do not agree to a payment plan by that date, I will ask the school board to authorize the school board attorney to take further action,” Read wrote.
In the message, Read also outlined the other steps the board would take following Marlow’s felony conviction.
“You will not be permitted to perform school board member duties, functions or responsibilities, such as sitting on the dais with the school board or attending school board member training or events; your assignments for graduation ceremonies were reassigned today to other school board members,” Read explained in her email to Marlow. “Your nameplate will be removed from the school board dais.”
Marlow will not receive her school board member stipend, and in the event the conviction is overturned on appeal, the stipend would be paid for the time Marlow is suspended, Read wrote.
“Please return all CCSD property to the CCSD Police Department, at 111 Academy Street, by May 12. This property includes your school board member laptop computer, graduation ceremony attire, nametag, business cards and any other items paid for with CCSD funds,” Read wrote. “Your school board email and voicemail accounts have been disabled, but not deleted; you will not have access to these accounts; nor can constituents send emails/leave voicemails.”
Jacoby said the board will not need to take any action regarding Marlow’s suspension from the board, as Georgia Code states that suspension is immediate, and the meeting will go on as planned.
The school board meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m., at the historic Canton High School Board Auditorium at 111 Academy St. in Canton.
Following the final verdict Saturday night, Knowles resigned from her position in the Cherokee Republican Party, Davies said.
“I have received and accepted the resignation of Barbara Knowles from her position as the secretary of the Cherokee County Republican Party, effective this past Saturday evening,” Davies wrote.
Trim has not made a statement regarding his position in the Cherokee Republican Party following his conviction, Davies said.
“Should the need arise, there will be a discussion item brought up at our next Executive Committee meeting to determine if any additional actions need to be taken by the County Committee in light of this verdict on Saturday in regards to any additional personnel actions,” Davies said in a statement Monday.
On Tuesday, Davies said he would bring the issue to the Cherokee County Republican Party executive board at the next meeting.
“My assumption, based on the bylaws, is that you have to have the ability to vote in order to hold a position (in the Cherokee Republican Party), so that would negate them having the ability to hold any position until such time as their voting rights would be restored,” Davies said.
Georgia Code states that “no person who has been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude may register, remain registered or vote except upon completion of the sentence.”
Davies said he expected the issue to then be taken to the County Committee, which would make the final decision on whether or not to remove Trim as a precinct chairman.
According to the Cherokee County Republican Party bylaws, residents in Cherokee must be “legal and qualified voters.”
Last November, the Cherokee County Republican Party Executive Board passed a resolution allowing Knowles and Trim to continue in their roles as their felony indictments moved forward in court.
On Saturday, Marlow was convicted on two felonies of making a false statement, Trim was convicted of two felonies of making a false statement and Knowles was convicted of three felonies of making a false statement and one misdemeanor of making a false report.
Knowles made the original 911 call outside the Painted Pig Tavern in Canton, falsely accusing the superintendent.
Each felony charge of making a false statement holds a sentence of up to five years, and the misdemeanor charge of filing a false report holds up to a 12-month sentence.