AG sees no violations of sunshine law
by Kim Isaza and Lindsay Field
newseditor@mdjonline.com, lfield@mdjonline.com
July 31, 2011 01:20 AM | 4467 views | 28 28 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Although north Cobb resident Mike Sansone addressed the Cobb school board Thursday night about perceived violations of Georgia’s open meetings and open records laws — and a so-called “blacklist” regarding the board’s calendar controversy — the Attorney General’s office this week told Sansone that they do not see any violations.

Beginning in April, Sansone filed multiple open records requests with the school district, seeking copies of all e-mails regarding board business sent or received since Jan. 6 on any email address used by any of the seven board members. The district compiled the documents onto a CD and made it available to Sansone on May 25.

On July 5, Sansone and Thomas W. Gray, of Acworth, complained to the Attorney General’s Office that they believed board member Kathleen Angelucci had violated the Open Records Act by failing to turn over 148 emails. Sansone and Gray say Angelucci was copied on the emails that were released by other board members.

In a July 27 letter to Sansone, Stefan Ritter, a senior assistant attorney general, wrote: “It appears … the Board has now provided all documents … and has otherwise taken corrective measures to ensure that communications between public officials and citizens and each other, relating to school board business, are not conducted on personal e-mail accounts. I believe the school system has adequately responded to your complaint.”

At least two other citizens, Dara Fairgrieves of Mableton, and Tricia Knor, have also complained to Ritter about the actions of Angelucci and other board members, though those complaint files are apparently still open. Fairgrieves had requested cellphone bills and copies of text messages on board member’s phones, while Knor’s complaints focused on alleged meetings violations.

During his investigation of the Sansone-Gray complaint, Ritter asked the district’s lawyers at the Brock and Clay firm for their side of the story. On July 22, Carol Callaway, a lawyer at Brock Clay, wrote to Ritter that her staff had interviewed three board members — Kathleen Angelucci, Alison Bartlett and Tim Stultz — as well as the district’s communications director, Jay Dillon and his assistant, Michelle Mizzell, “to determine how this somewhat complicated Open Records process developed and proceeded.”

Angelucci, Callaway wrote, has four personal email accounts and “cannot keep people from sending her email” on those. But ultimately, Callaway notes that her office has since advised all school board members simply “to forward all emails that mention the Board in any way to the Board email account.”

The action, she wrote, will “provide easier accessibility for staff responding to Open Records requests.”

Then there’s the so-called “blacklist,” as Sansone referred to it Thursday night, a list of names of those who signed an online petition early this year in favor of keeping the balanced calendar. Sansone said he received a copy of the list, which apparently stretched dozens of pages and included the addresses, phone numbers, work titles and salaries of the signers who work for the school district.

Wanda Becker, an east Cobb mother and activist who supports the traditional calendar, acknowledged she created the list by copying and pasting information from the Facebook page of the “Restore the Trust” group — and did so to combat “misinformation” about the calendar issue. Becker, who could not recall everyone she then emailed the list to, said she had absolutely no sinister intent.

“It was to find out where this hysterical misinformation was coming from so we knew how to address it,” Becker said. “There were addresses on it, to see who this ‘board member’ was that people said they talked to.”

“Someone said that their children’s names were on there. How would I know their children’s names?” she asked. “I don’t know these people, so I don’t know anything about their families.”

Becker added that she didn’t believe that anyone was being “tracked” because of this list.

“They have the right to sign the (Restore the Trust) petition. (The list) was just to see how can we go about correcting misinformation,” she said. “The whole purpose was to combat misinformation on the calendar issues.”

Salaries of all school district employees are public information available to anyone on the state-financed website at www.open.georgia.gov/.

Board members denied knowing anything about the list before Thursday night’s meeting.

And Angelucci, the apparent target of most of the complaints, said she didn’t make or even read the list until it was brought up this week, and prefers to focus on real problems.

“Any citizen has the right to contact any board member with information or their opinion as long as their intent is not to defame, whether I agree with it or not,” Angelucci said. “I would recommend that the board focus their energies on the important issues facing our students and district.”

On Friday, Sansone said he simply “would love for the board members to work as a team so that our school system can benefit.” He also does not foresee filing any new open records requests.

“There’s already too much conflict … too much division on the school board, and that was extremely apparent (Thursday) night,” he said. “That needs to be resolved and fixed and hopefully the new superintendent can help.”
Comments
(28)
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Sprayberry Parent
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August 02, 2011
For full disclosure: I do not support the balanced calendar.

I have seen a list with a large number of names on it. No where does it say black list. This appears to be a title given by Mr. Sansone or Mr. Williams. In addition, they want someone gone? Giving a public list the name "blacklist" and claiming you want someone to move out of our community are both the actions of a bully, Period.

To bully the community by implying the board would threaten the jobs of teachers is just a little over the top.

To use the ORR and read the private emails sent to board members and spread this information throughout the community, including LCE and DB are the acts of group of bullies.

Where does all this money come from to buy these records? I am sure time will tell.
Truth strengthens
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August 01, 2011
The truth needs to come out about the corruption in CCSD. This truth will not destroy the District, but make it stronger. A District, which is strong, would welcome public inquiry. It is our American freedom to question the District and Brock and Clay and when we do, we only strengthen our schools, the educational system for our children, our property values, and our community. Did our forefathers agree with the bully England? No! They questioned England. I'm grateful for those that question this District. Thank you! The District, Brock and Clay, and those who keep the corruption going are tearfully afraid of truths coming out. Their "black lists" try to intimidate--just like the bully England. So by all means, question the District/Brock & Clay/CCSD BOE and uphold your American freedoms for your child, your home, and your community.

@katherinefortruth
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August 01, 2011
So what are you so worried about. You signed a public petition on Facebook and everyone and anyone could view, copy or pass around said list. And PS, once you made the decision to sign a very very public and viral petition, anyone could very easily find out that your Husband works for the CCSD. So Why so worried now? Don't we all have the right to Freedom of Speech?
The Mike
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August 01, 2011
As much as I enjoy reading the very humorous anonymous comments, I do have to throw a small fact out there.

The AG was not investigating and therefore was not attempting to look for Sunshine Law violations, which may be why they did not find any. The AG was only trying to mediate and prevent this from going to court.

I really do enjoy all of these awesome conspiracy theories!

Are you sure that some of you aren't writers for the MDJ?
katherinefortruth
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August 01, 2011
If Wanda Becker put together that list to help provide information to those of us that were misinformed, then why was it important for her to put next to my name on the list "her husband is a TEACHER" and yes in capital letters. Why does that matter. I don't buy it for a moment. My husband is an amazing teacher and passionate about what he does. Why does it matter that I used my right for Freedom of Speech to speak out on something I feel passionate about. This is no longer about a calendar. This is about my right to speak out and not have my husband punished for that. I am thankful that he is at an amazing school with an amazing administration that I know will stand by him no matter what.
anonymous
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August 01, 2011
Just the facts ma'am:

Sansone,Knorr, Williams,Fairgrieves,Eagle, Kelly Duncan, Mayors Mathew and Allegood, Bill Borden and Ed Setzler all live in Kennesaw.

What these people have in common is they have one political ax or another to grind.

Both this article and Friday's article clarify that Sansone and his peons are out to discredit individuals and harm the district.

Banks and Eagle work on a reapportionment map without input from the other board members. Banks states (in the public record), that he met with Rep. Setzler and that Setzler has agreed to carry the Banks map to the legislature's special session.

Questions:

Are Banks and Eagle working with Sansone and his motley crew to bring ignominy and disgrace on our school district? Do they want to see us go the way of Atlanta Public Schools and Clayton County? ls Rep. Setzler actively working with Sansone, Eagle and Banks to harm our district? What could Setzler have to gain or lose by working with David Banks to grow his post? I see little peril in this for Setzler from the perspective that neither post 5 nor 6 voters could vote against him for this, but what does he gain? Why would Setzler want the Walton attendance zones re-drawn? Is Setzler meddling in local school board decisions? Is this sour grapes resulting from Bill Borden's defeat last year? Are these people so small that they would harm our children's educations to exact some revenge for their still-smarting egos? Rep Setzler's children don't attend the Cobb schools- so he has nothing to lose. But what is he doing with my children?

Then again, Post 5 parents were obviously disengaged when they elected Banks in the first place. At least if Post 6 parents are involved, we know they'll be engaged in next year's election cycle and take Banks out.

Where is the TEA Party in all this? Isn't this the kind of corruption they are out to fight?
To Concerned parent
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August 01, 2011
Save your money! Just ask Mr. Sansone for a copy. I bet he will just give them to you for free or a small donation to defray his costs. He has given a copy to LCE and DB and many others throughout the community. But do you really want to be part of destroying this community and a great school system? i hope not
Jeff Jacoby
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August 01, 2011
To "appalled and disgust" (sic):

Apparently, you did not hear - the Attorney General determined that the four board members you seek to damage DID NOT conduct board business with their private emails - and therefore could not have excluded the other three.

Your comment that they "they do nothing to represent the wishes of the constituents in their districts" is patently false and underscores your true intent - to damage the people with whom you have a disagreement. These four sitting board members represent the majority of voters in their posts - as is evidenced by the fact that they won their elections by doing EXACTLY what they said they were going to do. Some in a landslide. You are in the (angry) minority.

I know you are upset that "your side" did not win the calendar arguement, but it is not appropriate to try to destroy the reputation of those whose ideas prevailed. If you want to change the system, put yourself out there - have a platform and speak before the people (using your real name, not some pseudonym) and the RUN FOR OFFICE.

I believe you will find that fewer people agree with you than you would like to believe.
Watcher...
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August 01, 2011
@ appalled and disgust wrote on Monday, Aug 01 at 12:25 AM

"... upset that four board members used their private emails to conduct board business while excluding three of the board members."

There was NO CCSD business conducted in these eMails. There may have been a discussion of ideas/issues/concerns, but there were NO CCSD votes taken.

Is it possible that any of the other three Board Members have used personal eMail accounts in the discussion of CCSD business?

Another one down
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August 01, 2011
EPIC FAIL!

Eagle and Banks loses again! Nice try Sansone and whoever put you up to it.

What will they try next? And who will get get to do their dirty work this time?

Heaven only knows why Crowder-Eagle would want to hitch herself to Banks' runaway freight train of stupidity. We should give them a Hollywood name like Cranks or Beagle!

BTW Lynnda, Nice shoes!
Four who graduated
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August 01, 2011
I'm a mom with four graduates of the CCSD. Over the years I wrote plenty to former board members Lindsey Tippins and Teresa Plenge and never was there a question taht I had to share those e-mails with all the board members, who did not represent my schools or our interests.

Some of these e-mails were on the Cobbk-12 address and some were on their private e-mail accounts. And what about people over the years writing real letters to their board members. Remember, we didn't have e-mail when my kids started school, so pen and paper was all we had. Of course we did not copy all.

This seems like a real hyped up controversy by a bunch of parents who are angry about the calendar. And it's also starting to seem like a vendetta against the new board members who came in and shook things up. As I recall the first thing they did was NOT cowtow to what Lynda Eagle wanted them to do. EGREGIOUS! Who dares to stand up to that woman? Not her former teachers, apparently, not her PTA moms and maybe not even Sanderson. Something else is going on here and I don't think we'll ever know exactly what.

I'd like to know why redistricting should be at all done by elected officials like Banks. I thought that was the state legislature who did that? So why then does Banks seem to have inappropriate influence with Ed Setzler? What private meetings did they hold, and was that appropriate. Some of you parents who don't know about politics need to bone up and ask the right questions.

concerned parent
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August 01, 2011
I am a parent who is starting to distrust many of our elected officials, from the White House to the Cobb School Board. I would be happy to contribute money to help pay for copies of the board's e-mails to explore if and how they are being corrupt. I'm sure I am not the only one and I have no political ties or aspirations, I just want answers. When you ask the board members why they made a decision, you don't get an answer, and if you do, proof is found to dispute it.
Concerned Parent
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August 01, 2011
Transparancy?

Both sides are playing the same game.

I bet though, that there would have been many editorials by CCSD haters, if Morgan, Banks, Crowder had been the ones emailing instead of the "new kids on the block"
Setzler needs 2 hear
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August 01, 2011
As a Walton Parent, I want a Walton or Wheeler parent or resident to represent me on the school board. Why would David Banks, a North Cobb area want the school in the district but not the vast majority of voters?

So he can claim the success of the school but not get beat at the polls is the only answer I can come up with.

Who does he not want to represent under his map? Bet you did not make any friends with that call
appalled and disgust
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August 01, 2011
I find it interesting that not one person commenting on this article is upset that four board members used their private emails to conduct board business while excluding three of the board members. I am very disturbed by this and will from this point on question anything these four do. The fact that they do nothing to represent the wishes of the constituents in their districts is horrifying. Did these four flunk American History? Do they not understand the concept of a representative government? One can only hope that the citizens of their districts remember these times when election season rolls around.
Seems to me
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July 31, 2011
this issue has been put to rest.

Now tell us more about Ed Setzler and David Banks getting together in secret to draw new post maps without including other board members? Is this ethical?

Is it ethical for Banks to try and steal territory, Walton High, away from a fellow Republican who's the current rep for that school?

I would also like to know who is backing Sansone in his expensive open records request. How much did he cost the district, or how much did he pay for this information? And if the cost of procuring the records was in the thousands of dollars, what category does that put his "group" in when it comes to political organizations? My understanding is that once money changes hands, there are requirements he must meet.

Any answers to these questions, MDJ?
still outraged
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July 31, 2011
The MDJ is so in favor of the current board that they will only publish stories in their favor. The TRUTH is that the current board passing the calendar was the worst, most immoral act any school board has ever taken, period.
Unbelievable - not
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July 31, 2011
MDJ - I know you have received counter views about this article than the ones you are publishing. But, you publish only the ones that promote the story. You should be ashamed of yourself and embarrassed. Cowards is the best word to describe it.
anonymous
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July 31, 2011
Boy, thank goodness our 2 are out of school now!!!
anonymous
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July 31, 2011
Do I understand correctly, Mr. Sansone provided a copy of the emails to two board members???!!!!

Now I am beginning to hear there are rumors of a secret group that Mr. Sansone runs trying to create unrest in our schools.

Is this the same man who claimed a few months ago to represent Legacy Park in the Kennesaw area as their HOA president or some sort of officer - when he spoke before the board a while back?

If so, is this HOA about to lose their 501c nonprofit status by having such a high degree of involvement in political activities? I suspect the local IRS office can clear that question up.
kennesawresident
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January 29, 2012
Mike Sansone enjoys stirring up trouble. That's all.
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