Todd recall awaits Attorney General’s ruling
The effort to recall Fayette County Board of Education member Bob Todd has been put on hold until the Fayette County Board of Elections can take up the matter on Nov. 6. Meantime, Todd on Tuesday weighed in on the ethics violations alleged by recall chairperson and Tyrone resident Melissa Hill.
Hill previously obtained the 100 signatures required for the recall application, though some of the signatures were called into question by the Fayette County Elections Office. A technical question subsequently arose over some of the signatories on the application and whether they could be accepted to move the petition process forward.
The bottom line is that elections supervisor Tom Sawyer is checking with the Ga. Attorney General to determine if Hill’s signatures pass muster. Sawyer said the Fayette County Board of Elections will meet on Nov. 6 to take up the issue.
From Hill’s perspective, she said Tuesday that regardless of the outcome of the election board’s decision, she will either continue with the petition process or, if needed, will start over on the application process.
The recall of an elected official in Georgia is a three-step process, the first of which is to apply for a recall petition, to name a chairperson, cite a reason for the recall efforts and provide the signatures of 100 people who were registered to vote in the preceding election.
If or when an application is found sufficient by the elections office, the recall petition can go forward and will require the signatures of 30 percent of the active voters registered and eligible to vote in the preceding election.
In Fayette County, that number will require more than 21,000 signatures. Those signatures must be obtained within 45 days of the time the petition was issued. If found sufficient, it will trigger a recall election.
Recall efforts in Georgia must fall under at least one of five categories. Hill cited misconduct in office — an unlawful act committed willfully or a willful violation of the state’s code of ethics for government service. State law gives elected officials the right to state their case in Superior Court. To date, Todd has not utilized that option.
In citing the reasons that she believes fall under the misconduct category, Hill on Tuesday noted a recent letter to the editor where Todd criticized Superintendent Jeff Bearden’s leadership and governance and the allegation that Todd had privately stated to an unnamed person that Bearden would lose his job when the new school board is seated in January.
Hill’s other reasons for the claim included the salary and benefits package awarded to Bearden that were a part of his Sept. 19 mutual termination agreement with the school board and Todd’s initial inclusion during the summer of schools that should be considered for potential closure, schools that were not a part of the closures recommended by Bearden. Those schools included Tyrone Elementary and either Brooks or Inman elementary schools.
For his part, Todd on Tuesday said, “Two years ago I was re-elected to the school board by 69 percent of voters. My campaign platform was based on improving fiscal accountability and system quality. The last few years have been challenging for our school system and our community. Now, a Tyrone resident, who is understandably concerned about her neighborhood elementary school, is attempting to recall me.
“But I am puzzled by the premise. The primary complaint appears to be a letter to the editor which was a response to outraged citizens who repeatedly asked me why the board passed budgets for the past two years which drained system resources and financial reserves. The complaint also includes alleged, unattributed and unsubstantiated comments about supposed private conversations. I have looked seriously at these concerns and, while I certainly support everyone’s right to question and yes, even to recall elected officials, I do not see the validity in this particular claim. I do not believe elected officials should pretend to support recommendations that fall short of what financial realities require. I have worked and will continue to work diligently to fulfill my campaign promise to be a good steward for the community.”
Beyond the current recall effort, Hill in an earlier statement said if she had her way nearly all the school board members would be recalled. The one exception is Chairman Leonard Presberg. As for her reasons, Hill said she is upset with Todd and board members Marion Key, Terri Smith and Janet Smola for the way the recent mutual termination agreement with Superintendent Jeff Bearden was handled.
Bearden in the agreement was given a year’s salary and benefits totaling approximately $200,000 without an explanation of why the agreement was reached, Hill said. It seemed as if they were hiding something, Hill added.
And though she would like to initiate recall efforts against Smola, Key and Smith, Hill said that to recall Smola is not relevant since she will be leaving office in December. As for Key, Hill cited state law saying that recall efforts cannot be initiated 180 days before the end of a term or after the beginning of a term. Key’s new term begins in January. Hill said after the initial 180 days she might start a recall effort against Key.
And as for Smith, Hill said she would wait for the outcome of the Nov. 6 election where Smith will face challenger Mary Kay Bacallao.