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Judge expunges Baker school probe

NEWTON -- Baker County Superior Court Judge J. Kevin Chason has ordered the expungement of all portions of the Baker County Grand Jury's July term presentment requesting a probe of the Baker County School Board.

In the order issued late Monday, Chason wrote that he found "such portions of the subject presentments were, and are, overbroad and beyond specific statutory powers contained in OCGA 15-12-71 as a matter of law and, accordingly, must be expunged from the record of this Court."

School Board Attorney Alex Kaplan of McCall Williams was delighted with the judge's ruling.

"I was not surprised that we won, but I am surprised that the judge ruled so quickly," Kaplan said. "We feel vindicated in that any false allegations of wrongdoing by the Baker County School Board has been wiped away."

Chason's order further stated that the minutes of the Baker County Superior Court in regard to the School Board be stricken, withheld from further publication and that a corrective publication is published in the county's legal organ of record.

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 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 Mulholland to look into the matter. Chason's expungement order effectively ends that probe.

"I'm not speaking for the Baker County Concerned Citizens for Education," Delucca said, "but after reviewing open records requests (from the School Board) I feel certain that extortion and corruption existed in the previous administration (under former superintendent Tommy Rogers).

"Despite Judge Cason's ruling, and even if the BCCCE decides no further action is called for, it doesn't matter. I think the issue still needs to be pursued and I will continue to do so."

On Aug. 3, two weeks after a Baker County Grand Jury ordered a probe into the finances of the county school system, Kaplan filed his motion for expungement of the action in Baker County Superior Court, arguing the Grand Jury's Presentment was overreaching and illegal.

The Grand Jury has been recalled and will meet again Monday.