NEWTON — After more than six months of investigation, testimony and on-again/off-again meetings during a probe of the Baker County School Board, a grand jury made its final presentments Friday to South Georgia Judicial Circuit Judge Kevin Chason.
The Baker County Grand Jury looked into eight specific areas of concern — most centering on former school superintendent Tommy Rogers — to be submitted to the system’s five-member School Board.
The controversy arose in July when South Georgia Circuit District Attorney Joe Mulholland, whose circuit includes Baker County, was approached by members of the Baker County Concerned Citizens for Education (BCCCE) in regard to expenditures by the school system.
The Grand Jury’s original presentments were expunged by Chason and the Grand Jury was recalled, resulting in the second set of presentments.
“We found complete mismanagement within the system,” Major Skinner, a member of the BCCCE, said. “The truth is, we found a lot of things wrong and some were probably illegal. We want to be sure these problems are corrected in the future.”
Baker School Board Attorney Henry Williams asserted that individual members of the Grand Jury were using the investigation to pursue personal agendas against Rogers and his wife, Evelyna Rogers.
“Some of those people (on the Grand Jury) have private agendas and are using the auspices of the grand jury to level these kind of baseless charges,” Williams said. “They went far beyond the parameters the law allows. The grand jury’s job is to make recommendations, not editorialize.
“We will be filing another motion to expunge as soon as time permits.”
Among the findings in the presentments in regard to the superintendent’s office, the Grand Jury recommended that the superintendent not receive a bonus or additional salary for managing federal funding; that the superintendent not receive a $5,000 annual automobile expense allowance since he also is paid mileage; and that his health insurance should be paid or charged in the same manner as other school system employees.
The presentments also recommend salary and expense reviews for School Board members and that they “educate themselves in the responsibilities of a School Board Member and how to conduct a proper school board meeting, or resign.”
The grand jury also took aim at Williams, saying “this person (Williams) appears to run most of the Board Meetings. The Grand Jury feels that the School System is paying large amounts of legal fees other counties do not appear to have to pay, simply because the school board does not understand their job.”
The Grand Jury also addressed what it said appeared to be nepotism within the system.
“The Grand Jury believes the previous Superintendent’s wife (Evelyna Rogers) should have never been hired, since he was also her supervisor,” the presentments stated.
The Grand jury also pointed out discrepancies in expense accounts, the hiring of an assistant principal, overall hiring process and a lack of checks and balances in record-keeping within the system.
In summary, the grand jury wrote:
“The Grand Jury now understands why the school system has such a large debt. The School Board is not doing the job they were elected to do. The school system has been mismanaged for a number of years and it appears the mismanagement on the part of the Board is continuing.”