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Baker school board attorney files for expungement

NEWTON, Ga. -- Less than two weeks after a Baker County grand jury ordered a probe into the finances of the Baker County School System, the system's legal firm of McCall Williams on Thursday filed a motion for expungement of the action in Baker County Superior Court.

In the motion to expunge, lead attorney Alex Kaplan contends the Grand Jury "did not have the authority under Georgia law to act the way it did."

Kaplan is asking that the portion of the Grand Jury presentment relating to "questionable expenditures" be expunged from the record and a notice of correction be published in the Baker County legal organ.

The controversy arose last month when South Georgia District Attorney Joe Mulholland, whose circuit includes Baker County, was approached by members of the group Baker County Citizens Concerned Citizens for Education in regard to expenditures by the school system.

Three of the group's members -- Major Skinner, Mike Tabb and Buster Delucca -- presented evidence to the Grand Jury, which directed Mullholland to look into the matter.

Mulholland, who could not be reached for comment on Thursday, told The Albany Herald on July 21 that "this is just the beginning of us going down the rabbit hole. There are no criminal allegations at this point, but the Grand Jury wanted a review of the system."

Kaplan contends the Grand Jury's action were overbroad and beyond specific statutory powers.

"What are 'questionable expenditures'?" Kaplan asked. "There are no specific allegations, just 'questionable expenditures.' The presentments merely make a general and unfounded allegation of 'questionable expenditures' to cast an intended reflection of misconduct."

In the motion, Kaplan asserts the Grand Jury exceeded its authority in several ways. Foremost, he says, neither Mullholland nor members of his office were members of the Grand Jury that qualified for a committee to inspect or investigate the board.

Kaplan added that because the Grand Jury delegated that investigative power to Mulholland, it violated Georgia law.

"Accordingly, " Kaplan wrote in his motion, "the Board has the authority to demand expungement on its own behalf."

According to a document on the the Baker County Citizens Concerned Citizens for Education website, members contend that the board spends $14,000 per student on education and that school system leaders have been unresponsive to citizen complaints. The group says system officials have refused to produce public documents showing the system's budget, expenses and revenues.