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School attorney: Board broke the law

Photo by Bill Strickland

Photo by Bill Strickland

The Dougherty County School Board's attorney, Tommy Coleman, has advised the School Board that it has violated state law by naming a lone candidate to be the system's next school superintendent and that it is his "strong recommendation that the Board take every step to rectify this violation at the earliest possible time."

The earliest that the School Board can act is noon Wednesday when it conducts a called board meeting at the request of Michael Windom. The meeting will be conducted at in the board room at the School Administration Building, 200 Pine Ave.

In a letter dated Monday, Coleman, who was not present at any of the closed board sessions during the superintendent selection process, said two board members noted in press reports there were two other finalists. Windom and Anita Williams-Brown each told The Albany Herald that there were two other names. Coleman also said it was his understanding that the agency that conducted the search called three applicants who were under consideration to notify them they could become a finalist and to offer them an opportunity to withdraw from consideration before the information was released.

"It is my opinion that the Board's action to designate only one finalist at the meeting of last Wednesday violates Article 4 of Chapter 18 of Title 50 of the Official Code of Georgia," Coleman wrote.

As first reported Sunday by The Albany Herald, Windom e-mailed board chairman David Maschke on Saturday asking for the special meeting to discuss the board's recent decision to name ASU executive Joshua Murfree as the system's only finalist for the position of superintendent.

The Georgia Open Records Law requires government agencies to name at least three finalists for an excessive position like school system superintendent, but the school board members supporting Murfree's effective appointment argue they're not bound to produce three finalists.

Also, The Herald found that Murfree and the board member who made the motion to make him the lone finalist, Anita Williams-Brown, have a long-standing business relationship with a non-profit arm of Williams-Brown's church in Hawkinsville. Williams-Brown is CEO of the non-profit and Murfree is CFO.

In addition, The Herald learned that out of 37 candidates for the job who followed through on the application process, the Georgia School Board Association, which conducted the national search for Superintendent Sally Whatley's successor, ranked Murfree No. 34 according to the criteria the Dougherty School Board established.