NEWTON -- South Georgia Judicial Circuit Judge Kevin Chason on Tuesday officially ended a six-month probe of the Baker County by taking the Grand Jury's four-page presentments and expunging the report to a mere three paragraphs.
In his sua sponte (of his own accord) order issued Tuesday, Chason wrote: "The Court finds that portion of the Grand Jury presentments of Jan. 13, 2012, the Court, redacted by the court and attached hereto as Exhibit A is proper and within the duties of a Grand Jury as set out by statute(s) and the remaining portions of said Grand Jury presentments are ultra vires (beyond powers).
"The Court orders that the Grand Jury presentment filed on Jan. 13, 2012, be expunged, struck and removed from the minutes of this court and this order be entered on the minutes of this court with Exhibit A hereto being entered as the presentment of Jan. 13, 2012."
School Board attorney Henry Williams was not surprised my Chason's ruling.
"I haven't even had time to file my motion to expunge, but I am not surprised by the judge's action," Williams said. "This is what happens when people with political agendas try to advance their cause by abusing the grand jury process. The judge deserves credit for recognizing this."
The controversy arose in July 2011 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 Friday's second set of presentments.
The second four-page grand jury presentment was later reduced by Chason to just the three paragraphs entered in Exhibit A, which reads:
"After reviewing the records we have received from the Baker County School Board, the Investigative Committee of the July 2011 Grand Jury finds that records appear to be kept so badly that it is almost impossible to determine at what we are actually looking.
"After reviewing minutes of School Board Meetings, the Committee finds that they are very incomplete. They have omitted or not included any record of appearances by individuals. The Committee believes that since they require 5 days notification and the person or group is included on the Agenda, that their appliance before the Board should at least be noted and comments about their reasons for appearing be included in the minutes. We also note there is only a record of items being voted on and votes cast. No record of discussion. The Grand Jury suggests that future Board Meetings be recorded and the recordings kept for future reference. The Grand Jury recommends the County School System develop a web site to include all meeting times and minutes of the meetings.
"The School Board Attorney should not attend Board Meetings more than quarterly, and only when the School System requires legal advice. He should only comment when asked about legal matters."
Calls to Chason and Mullholland requesting comment were not returned.