COLUMBUS, Ga. — Muscogee County School Board members are set to hire independent counsel to investigate overall board conduct. Board chair Pat Hugley Green says the counsel will advise how to protect the district’s accreditation. However, board member Frank Myers failed to add a key amendment to the vote. The district 8 representative believes the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should look into alleged wrongdoing in the school district.
However, Myers’ efforts to get local judges involved did not pick up steam, after running into resistance. Hugley Green says independent counsel on board conduct and a GBI investigation are two separate matters. As such, the amendment could not be added to the main question of hiring independent council.
Myers says the two issues go hand in hand.
“They’re trying to protect the status quo, and John Thomas and I are trying to be reformers,” Myers told News 3. “There is no lawyer in the world that is going to keep me from telling the truth.”
Myers motioned Tuesday night for the seven Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Superior Court judges to ask the GBI to investigate potential wrongdoing in the school district. He believes the school district wants to cover up two investigations. The first surrounds the death of school bus driver Roy Newman, who died in a 2016 bus crash. The other incident involved the alleged body-slamming of then 13-year-old Montravious Thomas.
The school board approved hiring independent counsel to investigate the school board. Hugley Green says the priority lies in maintaining the school district’s accreditation. With AdvanceEd coming in October to evaluate the school district, Hugley Green says they will take the conduct of board members into account.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had a display of board conduct,” Hugley Green said. “We want to make sure with those accusations sprawled out there against our current council that we have someone independent that can offer us any advice that we need. The amendment was apples compared to the oranges of the question. The amendment was about asking the GBI for an investigation. The question was about the board considering independent counsel.”
Myers, meanwhile, says the question and the amendment are related, because he believes the particular conduct in question deals with his and fellow board member John Thomas’s decisions to depose information to attorneys involving the two aforementioned investigations.
“All of this is bundled in to one,” Myers said. “It’s right and wrong. It’s the facts that are surrounding all of these instances. They know that. They have tortured themselves to try and come up with a reason to keep the public in the dark about what has happened.”
Myers even scrutinized the school district’s attorney Greg Ellington for snubbing his motion. Hugley Green chose to back Ellington in this matter.
“We have very capable attorneys who are uniquely qualified to handle those specific litigations,” Hugley Green said. “That has nothing to do with being prepared for accreditation. That’s asking the GBI to investigate current litigation. That’s absolutely different.”
The school board chair says she is not opposed to a GBI investigation into any potential wrongdoing. However, she wants to focus on keeping the school district’s accreditation. Myers believes this is a smokescreen tactic to try and distract the board from other issues.
News 3 spoke with District Attorney Julia Slater as well. She says Superior Court judges and chief law enforcement officers are authorized to request help from the GBI. She even requested assistance from the GBI back in December 2016. However, the GBI told News 3 the agency was not conducting a separate investigation into either the bus crash or the alleged body slamming incident.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Monday July 17.