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.”