Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday signed an executive order removing Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins from office.
Riggins was indicted in April on four felony counts — two counts of theft by taking, one count of public record fraud and one count of providing false information to obtain free school meals for a child.
In a news release issued by the governor’s office, Deal ordered that Riggins be suspended as a member of the DCSS Board of Education “pending the disposition of the charges against her or the end of her term, whichever comes first.”
Riggins’ term as the District 3 board representative expires in January of next year. However, she is running unopposed for a second four-year term.
“The law is ambiguous because it authorizes the governor to appoint a replacement unless there is a local ordinance in place,” school board attorney Tommy Coleman said. “There is an ordinance in place to ‘appoint to a vacancy,’ but I think it means a permanent, rather than a temporary vacancy. But if she is convicted of a felony then she can’t hold office.
“I am still trying to get some direction from the governor’s attorneys.”
The lunch fraud indictments of Riggins and Morningside Elementary Principal Gloria Baker caught the attention of the state board of education, which sent a five-member complaint investigation team to the DCSS in May seeking to verify Free and Reduced Lunch approval numbers the system sent to the state in FY 2011-12.
Those numbers are used by the Georgia Department of Education to allocate Federal Title I money to the state’s school districts. State officials said they had reason to believe that the numbers the DCSS submitted “were not entirely accurate.”
In FY 2012, the school system received $8.3 million in Title I funding and $3.2 million in Special Education IDEA money.
While in Albany, the complaint investigation team also conducted a random review of the system’s Title I, Part A expenditures resulting in the Georgia Department of Education asking the DCSS to provide supporting documentation to justify $142,000 in Title I expenditures — including $91,000 paid to Darrell Sabbs and Associates and $18,000 to motivational speaker Joseph Washington of Conyers.
The state asserts that neither expense is allowed under Title I Program rules.
Original Report: 3:04 p.m. July 12
ATLANTA -- A spokesperson for Gov. Nathan Deal's office said this afternoon that the governor has removed Dougherty County School Board member Velvet Riggins from office.
The spokeperson added that the governor's communications office would be issuing a news release with more details later in the day.
Riggins was indicted in April on four felony counts - two counts of theft by taking, one count of public record fraud and one count of providing false information to obtain free school meals for a child.
This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes avaiable.