Quality of Life Ethics Complaint

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By Viola Davis with Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter and Coalition Members (C-TEA)

In the name of transparency, ethics, and accountability, Citizens for  T  Transparency, ransparency, Education, Ethic Ethics, s, and Accountability submit the Quality Quality Life for DeKalb Ethics Complaint against the DeKalb County Board of Education on the issue of ‘No Cell T Towers owers On School Grounds’ to identify violations of  the board’s fiduciary responsibility to uphold their oath of office. We have evidence of several violations of policy and ethics that have  jeopardized the health health of our children, pr property operty value of our homes, and decrease the overall quality of life of our citizens. To ensure the highest level of education for our children, we submit this ethics complaint to hold our elected officials accountable for actions that undermined their oath of office to work in the best interest of the children and our school system.

We will examine the school policies that were allegedly violated in the following areas: 1. Domain II: Strategic Planning - Each member of the Board agrees that he or she will: •







Reflect through actions that his or her first and foremost concer Reflect concern n is for the educational welfare and academic achievement of  children attending schools within the District. DeKalb Board of Education work with the Board and the Superintendent to ensure prudent and accountable uses of the District’s resour resources. ces. Render all decisions decisions based on available facts and his or her independent judgment, and refuse to surrender his or her  judgment to individuals, special interest interest groups, or partisan bias. Uphold and enforce all applicable laws, the rules and regulations of the State Board of  Education, the policies of this Board, and all court orders

 

pertaining to the District.

2. Domain III: Board and Community Relations - Each member of  the Board agrees that he or she will: •

Seek regular and systemic communications among the Board, students, staff, and community.



Not use District resources for community programs without the approval of the Board.

3. Domain IV: Policy Development - Each member of the Board agrees that he or she will: •



Work with other Board members to establish effective policies for Work the District. Be familiar with the Board policies in effect during his or her tenure in office.





Periodically review and evaluate the effectiveness of the Periodically District’s programs and performance. Make decisions on policy matters only after full discussion at publicly held Board meetings.

4. Domain V: Board Meetings - Each member of the Board agrees that he or she will: •

Be informed and prepared to discuss agenda items to be considered or acted upon by the Board.







Work with other Board members in a spirit of harmony, Work cooperation, and respect in spite of differences of opinion that may arise during the discussion and resolution of issues at Board meetings. Vote for a closed executive session of the Board only when applicable law or Board policy permits consideration of a matter in ex executive ecutive session. Make decisions in accordance with the interests of the District as a whole and not any

 

particular segment thereof.

5. Domain VII: Financial Governance - Each member of the Board agrees that he or she will: •





Refrain from using his or her position as a Board member for Refrain personal or partisan gain or to benefit any person or entity over the interest the school system. Not surrender his or her responsibilities as a Board member to any other person, group, or organization. Not provide Board members, staff, or the public with intentionally misleading information about matters pertaining to the Board or the District.

6. Conflicts of Interest - Each member of the Board agrees that he or she will: •

Announce potential conflicts of interest before Board action is taken. No Board member shall use, or knowingly allow to be used, his or her official position or any information not generally available to the public which he or she receives or acquires in his or her capacity as a Board member for the purpose of securing financial gain for himself or herself, any member of his or her immediate family, or any business organization with which he or she is associated.

7. Disc Disclosur losure e of Conf Conflict licting ing Intere Interest st Polic Policy y •

Whenever a Board member is requir required ed by this policy to refrain from voting on a matter, the Board member shall fully disclose the reason for not voting to the other Board members and the public.

The Quality of Life Ethics Complaint on Cell Towers includes: A. DeKalb Board of Educ Education ation did not follow school p policy olicy..

 

B. DeKalb Board o off Education did not properly iinform nform the parent parents s and homeowners of the placement of cell towers on school grounds. C. DeKalb Board of Educati Education on had a co conflict nflict of interest tto o solely work with the PTA as an avenue to inform the public on the cell tower construction. D. DeKalb Board o off Education si signed gned a 20+ year co contract ntract knowing that the board had denied a prior contract for more money on the policy that the school does not permit cell towers on school grounds.

A. DeKalb Board of Educ Education ation did not follow school p policy olicy.. DeKalb School System has a school notice policy for construction projects.  The Plant Service •





Department shall:

Notify the owner of each parcel of residential or occupied commercial commerci al property located within 250 feet of the school systems property line on which property the board of education proposes the construction… Notify each parcel of residential or occupied commercial property by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery prior to the commencement of any development… Hold a public meeting for such property owners and other interested citizens prior to the commencement of proposed construction for the purpose to exchange inform information ation on the construction project…

 The state law was quoted to say that the school can lease public public school property for private purposes when the school is no longer needed for school purposes. (See Exhibit A: school notice policy)

B. DeKalb Board o off Education did not properly iinform nform the parent parents s

 

and homeowners of the placement of cell towers on school grounds. DeKalb School System has a responsibility to be transparent by informing parents and homeowners of changes in policy and new construction through the use of open meetings. meetings. The issue of cell towers was docum documented ented in the year of 2010 according to the T-Mobi T-Mobile le Proposal agenda (646815 (64681596-DCSS96-DCSS13T-MobilePr 13T -MobileProposalAgenda). oposalAgenda). We need to know if the DeKalb School System used the RFP process to solicit an a n open bid ffor or the best proposal concerning the cell towers towers as a method of iincreasing ncreasing mone money y for the budget. Second, we need to verify that the DeKalb School System followed their policy and informed the parents as well as the homeowners via certified mail for property owners within 250 feet and state agencies such as parent councils, community papers, PTAs, etc. We will demonstrate how the flyer that was sent out to the parents was too vague and did not identify the locations of the schools the cell towers were to be constructed, thus presenting an element of confusion and misleading information. We requested infor information mation about the attendance to meeti meetings ngs concerning cell towers with the PT PTA A and have not received an answer or reply to our Open Records Request. (See Exhibit B: T-Mobile Proposal Agenda, Cell Tower Flyer for DCSS, Article from CrossRoads CrossRoads Newspaper, etc.)

C. DeKalb Board of Educati Education on had a co conflict nflict of interest tto o solely work with the PTAs as an avenue to inform the public (parents and homeowners) on the cell tower construction. DeKalb School System used the PTAs as an avenue to inform the parents and homeowners of the cell tower tower construction and change in policy. Several Open Records Requests Requests were submitted that requested details on how the Board of Education chose to inform the parents and homeowners by using the PTA. PTA. We requested dates, time, signatu signatures, res, etc; however, our Open Records Request was not answered. Fortunately, Crossroads Newspaper obtained the information and published the results in their newspaper on July 20, 1012. Viola Davis with the Unhappy T Taxpayer axpayer and V Voter oter also recorded a public meeting in which School Board member Jay Cunningham admitted the Board of Education did poor notification.

 

We later learned that the PTAs were due to receive $25,000.00 from the cell tower deal which we viewed viewed as a conflict of inter interest. est. The conflict of inter interest est increased once we knew that Jay Cunningham’s wife was the President of the PTA PT A at MLK High School which reported no signatures for a public meeting on the issue of cell towers. However, ther there e is a conflict with the ver verbal bal report given on the tape recor recording ding and the written answer given in the Open Records Request. (See Exhibit C: Video on T Town own Hall meeting with Jay Cunningham and Articles from Crossroads Newspaper)

D. DeKalb Board o off Education si signed gned a 20+ year co contract ntract knowing that the board had denied a prior contract for more money on the policy that the school does not permit cell towers on school grounds. Viola Davis with the Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter submitted an Open Records Request Reque st for documentation on the cell tower request at Clarkston Community Center and the refusal by the DeKalb County Boar Board d of Education. The Open Records Request was sent to Dr. Cheryl Akinson, Tom Bowen, and the Board of Education. The answer to the Open Records Request was from Audrey Qualls with the Office of Internal I nternal Affairs which said, “a comprehensive search of the Board of Education meetings and minutes. No responsive documents exist.”

During anCenter, informational hall Ransom meeting stated in City that of Clarkston atof the Women’s Mayor town Emanuel our Board Education refused to place a cell tower on the Clarkston Community Center because and I quote, “Cell towers towers were not per permitted mitted on school grounds”. Mayor Ransom repeated this in a meeting held by Representative Karla Drenner in downtown Atlanta.

Mayor Ransom went on to say that the original offer was for $18,000 per year.. He could not understand the rea year reason son the school board would sign contracts contrac ts for such little money money.. We multiplied $18,000 times the 25 years, the total equal $450,000. $450,000. I then multiplied $45 $450,000 0,000 times nine to tower wer and

 

found our school system should have rreceived eceived over $4,050,000 $4,050,000.. The fact that we are receiving just fewer than 3 million dollars over 25 years makes the present contract a travesty especially since the Chairman Tom Bowen is an attorney and accountant.

Why would our Board Board of Education sign a deal for less mo money? ney? Why would our Board of Education Education risk our childr children’s en’s lives for le less ss money? Mayor Ransom said that this is one of the major reasons he opposed these contract. I asked him if I may quote him especially about the amount of the original deal and he said yes.

Since Tom Bowen claims that we needed the money, we submit an ethics complaint to clarify the original amount for cell tower placement on DeKalb County schools compared compared to the pr present esent contracts signed iin n 2011. Did our school board uphold their fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of  the school system?

 The political lies must stop especially especially when it risks the lives lives of our children and threaten to decrease the property value of our community. community. We are losing over 1 million million dollars on these contracts. This also distracts fr from om the fact that the state takes over $100 milli million on out of our school system every year since 2006. 2006. Why didn't the B BOE OE go after that money?

 The Board of Education should start this process process over again due to total negligence and disregard disregard for the law and school policy policy.. The Board of  Education members that voted in favor of these leases especially knowing that we were receiving a lesser amount should not see another day in political office.

After further research to locate documentation on a prior cell tower request, we located documentation on the website of the City of 

 

Clarkston City Council minutes dated December 5, 2006:  New Business: Public Hearing to change the permitted use in OI (Office Institutional district) zoning to allow cell towers in institutional zoning zoning on plots larger than 5 acres. Mr. Rhodes stated that cell towers and microwave towers taller than 15 feet are currently permitted uses in C1, C2, C3 and M1 zoning and this ordinance changes so that it is no longer a permitted use in C1 zoning and it is a  permitted use in OI district district on any parcel containing m more ore than 5 acres. He said it has been advertised and is considered for approval under the Zoning Procedures Act. Act. The change will allow a required cell tower to be located at the Community Center. After discussion the Mayor  opened for public comment. Jan Gardner asked how close the tower will be to where children will play. play. Emanuel Ransom stated over 150 feet. Ms. Garner asked what is the requi requirement rement and Mr. Mr. Rhodes stated there is no requirement. Ms. Gardner asked why did the City need a cell tower. Mr. Rhodes stated the City did not want a cell tower but the Federal government has a law, which supersedes all local law law,, which says if a cell company engineer states they need a cell tower to provide continuous telecommunications then the city must make accommodations for them. Dean Moore asked if it could look look like a cell tower and not a fake tr tree. ee. Emanuel Ransom said it would look like a tree but will be in a forested area. There were no further public comments. The Mayor closed the public comments. Wayne Foster made a motion to change the permitted use in OI district zoning to allow cell towers on plots larger than 5 acres. Joyce Wade Wade seconded and the motion passed (6-0).

March 6, 2007 – Clarkston City Council Minutes:

Chris Busing said he was encouraged by the first zoning ordinance public hearing and especially the cottage housing. He discussed carriage house ordinances where larger houses houses have smaller houses on the the property to supplement supplement their income. He mentioned his website about Clarkston.com as a place to discuss issue in Clarkston. Emanuel Ransom said they have started construction at the Community Center and  Joan Swaney can can arrange to tours urs of the construction. construction. He said the status status of the cell tower was that the Board of Education wanted all the revenue from the tower but wanted the Community Center to manage manage and be responsible responsible the site. He would provide further updates.

Conclusion:

 

Amendment to the Bylaws & Polices: Board Duties, Descriptor Code ABB Ms. Judy O’Brien, Attorney, Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, recommended that the Board of Education amend Board Policy ABB, Board Duties. Board Policy Descriptor Code ABB Board Duties

The DeKalb County Board of Education shall faithfully execute all powers and duties assigned to it by the Constitution and laws of Georgia. The Board’s powers and duties include but are not limited to the following: 1. Enact po policie liciess for the efficien efficientt and effective effective govern governance ance of the Distric District. t. 2. Select Select,, hire, hire, and evaluate evaluate the Superinten Superintendent dent.. 3. Ap Appr prov ovee an ann annua uall budg budget et.. 4. Review and approve approve finan financial cial reports reports and and aaudit udits. s. 5. Set the loca locall educational educational millage millage rate as necessary necessary for for the operation operation of the Dist District rict and its its schools. schools. 6. Wi With th the inpu inputt of the Superintende Superintendent nt and staff, staff, establish establish policies policies to strength strengthen en the academ academic ic achievement of all students in the District. 7. Working with with the Superintendent and staff, staff, periodically evaluate the the District’s District’s strengths strengths and weaknesses and develop goals for continuous improvement. 8. Period Periodically ically conduct conduct a self-asse self-assessmen ssmentt of the Board’s Board’s governance governance and perf performan ormance. ce. 9. Work with the Superint Superintenden endentt to ensure that all employment employment decisions decisions are based based on individual individual merit, without regard to family, family, political, or other connections. 10. Enact policies for progressive progressive discipline in stu student dent matters, resorting to suspension suspension and expuls expulsion ion of  students only as necessary to ensure safety in the schools. 11. Ensure that adequate facilities facilities are available to educate all st students udents in the District. District.

 The DeKalb County Board of Education Education has overstepped their constitutional constitutional duties as stated above with the issue of cell tower on school grounds. The telecommunication companies show a method to bypass local zoning ordinances by manipulating our local school board to sign a 20+ year contract tolocal placelaws. cell towers on school grounds to increase their profits while bypassing

 

As defined in the amended bylaws and policies, the Board of Education in DeKalb had no responsibility to provide increase cell service for the region.  The BOE increase increase our childr children’s en’s health risk, decrease our pr property operty value, and decrease our overall quality of life. Their action rreposition eposition the Board of  Education into a quasi-Boar quasi-Board d of Commissioners with the responsibility of  zoning that violated local homeowner property rights, especially those without children, and rights to due process of the law law..

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