ALBANY, Ga. — A Dougherty County School Board member and a former elementary school principal have been arraigned on charges a grand jury indicted them on in late April.
Arraignments for Velvet Riggins, District 3 representative for the board, along with former Morningside Elementary School Principal Gloria Baker — and her husband, John Baker — were conducted Tuesday in Dougherty Superior Court.
The three parties, who had been indicted on charges stemming from alleged school lunch fraud, all waived formal arraignments in connection to those charges.
This effectively moves the process forward to bring the cases to trial.
Under law, the purpose of an arraignment is for a defendant to be given a formal notice of what they are charged with. In an instance in which arraignment is waived, defendants are given a copy of the indictment and a witness list, explained South Georgia Assistant District Attorney Heather Lanier.
Riggins was indicted on April 25 by a Dougherty County grand jury on two counts of theft by taking, public record fraud and providing false information to obtain free school meals for a child. The indictment stemmed from two 2011-12 free or reduced school lunch applications filed for her children at Robert Cross Middle Magnet School and Lincoln Elementary Magnet School.
Gloria Baker was indicted on three counts of public record fraud, two counts of theft by taking and two counts of providing false information to obtain free school meals for a child. John Baker was indicted on two counts of public record fraud, one count of theft by taking and two counts of providing false information to obtain free lunch for a child.
The Bakers were charged with fraud that is alleged to have taken place in November 2011.
Immediately following the indictments, Lanier filed a motion of intent to present evidence of similar transactions, pointing to language in lunch applications filed by Riggins for the 2007-08 and 2009-10 school years. The motion asserted that the “applications failed to fully report or disclose all earnings or wages from all employment and/or all monies received in child support payments on behalf of a school child/children...”
The case involving Riggins is being overseen by Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Goss granted the state’s motion to allow them to submit the prior applications as evidence. A deadline of June 19 has been set for the defense to file a motion in the case, Lanier said.
Counsel is looking to get the case before a jury. It will likely be early July before any more trial matters are heard, Lanier said.
The case involving the Bakers are being presided over by Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette. He is expected to be scheduling a day to hear motions in that case. Gloria Baker has already filed a general challenge to the indictment, officials say.