Ed. Note: The full text of Sweeney's article is available at the bottom of the page.
Kimberley Euston said she was surprised to pick up a copy of a local magazine and see an article authored by a Cobb school board member promoting the SPLOST IV referendum coming before voters in March.
The article penned by school board member Scott Sweeney likely did not break any laws, according to the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, but it raised eyebrows among those keeping a close watch on the political activities behind the controversial SPLOST renewal.
“When I saw the article (Tuesday) I was shocked because it wasn’t written as Scott Sweeney, a Cobb parent and taxpayer, but Scott Sweeney, the Post 6 (east Cobb) school board representative,” said Euston, chair of the Cobb County School District’s Facilities and Technology Committee. “It is my understanding that an elected official cannot publicly encourage people to vote one way or the other on a referendum.”
Euston was appointed by Sweeney to serve on the F&T Committee, which oversees SPLOST-related projects.
“I support the concept of SPLOST and we need SPLOST to pass, but when the board does things such as publicly promote SPLOST and they still have questionable projects in the SPLOST IV notebook that’s not related to educational purposes, this gives the public ammunition to vote SPLOST down,” Euston said.
Sweeney said he did write the piece, titled “Why you should vote to continue Ed-SPLOST,” for the February edition of “Around Walton” magazine but did not write the headline.
“For several months, I’ve been asked to write and have written articles for Around Walton,” Sweeney said in an email Wednesday. “In the articles, I share my opinions, not those of the board.”
This month’s article outlines what previous SPLOST initiatives have done for east Cobb schools, including Wheeler High and Sope Creek Elementary schools, why a fourth SPLOST is needed and what east Cobb residents will see on the horizon if the referendum is approved next month.
Walton High School is expected to get nearly $40 million in upgrades, and an east Cobb area middle school will be built at a ticket price of $29 million. These are just two of hundreds of projects proposed to be done throughout Cobb Schools with the 1-cent sales tax collection.
In all, Cobb Schools is expected to get around $717 million from SPLOST IV and Marietta City Schools $54 million. It will be collected between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2018. SPLOST III collections conclude Dec. 31.
The second-to-last-line in Sweeney’s article states, “I encourage you to continue Cobb County’s support for Ed-SPLOST,” and he directs readers to where they can learn more about the initiative.
“It’s my personal opinion, that was never intended as a representation of the board,” he explained.
Lauren Kane with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office said, “Assuming there was no expenditure of public funds, nothing improper occurred.”
Euston was very outspoken about her dissatisfaction with the SPLOST IV project list during the public hearings prior to the school board’s approval of it in November.
Euston also said the magazine article isn’t the first time she’s seen or heard Sweeney doing what she believes is advocating for SPLOST IV.
She said he participated in a town hall meeting at Dodgen Middle School Monday night.
“He was advocating for the importance of SPLOST to pass,” she said, adding that she recorded the meeting. “I also know he’s had conversations with individuals promoting the need for SPLOSTs, including with principals in the post that he represents. I was very surprised that he is openly talking about the need for SPLOST to pass and encouraging people to vote in support of SPLOST as an elected official, particularly on school grounds.”
In an email Wednesday, Sweeney addressed the issue of the town hall meeting.
“Acting in my board member capacity during the recent Cobb GOP breakfast and the Area 3 & 4 School Council meeting at Dodgen Middle School, I shared information about the proposed Ed-SPLOST from an educational, not an advocacy, perspective.”