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The Rule of Law and the School Board

Bartow County's board of education erred in appointing Anna Sullivan to fill a Post 5 vacancy, and she should step down.

LexisNexis defines the Rule of Law as follows:

“The Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law. The rule follows logically from the idea that truth, and therefore law, is based upon fundamental principles which can be discovered, but which cannot be created through an act of will. The most important application of the rule of law is the principle that governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedural steps that are referred to as due process. The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus, the rule of law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy.”

A few of us to the , superintendent and legal counsel that to the law in its appointment of a new Post 5 representative to replace , Larry Parker.

Was the board wrong? Did it and school officials make a mistake or is there more to it? Should they make a statement or release more information, as ? Tell us in the comments.

The law clearly states the board must immediately call a special election to fill any vacancies. In the 2003-2004 session of the Georgia legislature, the law governing this procedure was amended to specifically lay out the procedure for filling an unexpected vacancy and it requires the seat must be filled by special election. The law can be found here.

Now, I would like to make very clear that my standing up for the Rule of Law in no way speaks to my opinion of Anna Sullivan, who . By all accounts and public opinion, Mrs. Sullivan is a wonderful person and is more than capable of performing the duties of the position.

We simply have to consider the precedent that would be set and the intent of the law as written. The law defers in every case to the people of Post 5 and grants us the ability to choose our representative on the board.

As far as I know, Mrs. Sullivan probably would have ran unopposed in the required special election and would have been duly elected by the people.

Now some may argue what’s the point then? The point is that we have laws for a reason. In the future, God forbid, the board could be comprised of people who have less-than-honorable intentions. If we set a precedent of allowing them to sidestep the laws, we have set ourselves up for trouble and put our children’s education at risk.

My guess is that if the board had appointed someone the community widely opposed, we wouldn’t be having this debate. That is why we have laws and that is why we don’t govern by emotion and personality.

The most common-sense solution to this problem is for Mrs. Sullivan to step down until such time as she is legally elected by the people of Post 5.

I am convinced that she had no knowledge laws were not properly followed, and has every intention of representing Post 5 in a competent and honorable way—the beginning of which will be doing the right thing and demonstrating to the people of Post 5 how the Rule of Law works and why it is important.

That’s the beginning of good leadership.

Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Melissa, We felt like the law was an organizational threat. Lamar just had the most standing within our organization. Any institution public or private has the right to seek redress of grievances when they think the government has gone to far. The State of Georgia did the same thing with Obamacare. As for the current issue...I think your anger should be pointed towards the Board of Elections. They should be the deciding voice on this issue.
BP News April 29, 2012 at 01:05 PM
We will just have to agree to disagree on the lawsuit. As far as anger being directed at the Board of Elections, people need to know that they have and had no authority over this issue. In fact, they were not even made aware of the vacancy, because the appointment was made and then transmitted to the Governor, State Superintendent and Secretary of State. In fact, the Board of Elections cannot even call for an election until the school board tells them that one is needed. The school board made a mistake; they need to fix it.
Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Part of the problem is that the leadership of the party is so anti-public education that no one takes it seriously on education issues anymore.
BP News April 29, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Respectfully, this issue has nothing at all to do with education. This is a rule of law issue, and was brought forward by a resident of Post 5 who is not affiliated with the party. Shouldn't elected officials follow the law?
Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 01:29 PM
The local party has no credibility on public education. The homeschool bias that exists taints every comment and decision related to public education. If they screwed up they should fix it but I think I will wait for another voice to call for that change.
BP News April 29, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Have you even read the law? So because you don't like the views of the people bringing the issue forward, you are unwilling to look at the actual issue? The local party didn't even bring the issue into the public view, Bartowpolitics.com and the Farrs did. I find your unwillingness to look at the issue intellectually both disturbing and surprising. You benefitted from this law, because your election in 2004 was the first and only time it has been applied. I am on my way to church, so I can't continue this very enlightening conversation. I hope you can look past YOUR bias and study the issue objectively before dismissing it completely.
Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I have read the information and there seems to be a difference of opinion. I just don't trust the local party to be the tiebreaker. The local party has weighed in rather loudly on this matter as well as your website. If it is such a major offense then let the Sec. Of State deal with it.
BP News April 29, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I'm sorry to hear you can read both the state law and local legislation and conclude only that there is a "difference of opinion." It really isn't in dispute that the law says we must elect and not appoint in Bartow County. Legislative counsel and an unofficial opinion Sen. Loudermilk got from the Attorney General's office concur. The laws in question are very clear. The only question is who has the authority to make sure the laws are followed as they are written.
Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 05:23 PM
It's not Bartowheadlines.com or the local GOP for sure....
Rob Adkerson April 29, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Another voice has agreed that they broke the law. His name is Sam Olens, but if they refuse to abide by the law apparently someone from Post 5 would have to spend the money to file a lawsuit to get the Board members to do the right thing. I find it hilarious that a former board member is defending the board. Do they give you a lifetime membership to Costco or what? As a citizen of Post 5 I demand that they follow the law and give us the opportunity to vote for our representative, instead of choosing someone that they can intimidate. I had a current Board Member tell me last week that she is outright against every option except public education. I find it very interesting that lifelong teachers and former board member seem incapable of admitting that this system is failing and that our very paradigm regarding education needs to change. I'll ask like a previous commenter, Matt, did you reimburse the tax payers for the lawsuit?
Rob Adkerson April 29, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Furthermore, Matt. If there is a homeschool bias on the Bartow GOP it's because we're Conservatives and we don't take the education of our children lightly. We don't put the pride of Government School administrators ahead of the interest of the children. To say that people who've made the commitment to assure that their children get the best education have no credibility in this discussion is just plain asinine. I for one am not anti-public education, I am a Christian who believes in the two greatest commandments according to Jesus and a Conservative who loves my country and wants to see all of our citizens as well educated as they can be. Our Republic will cease to exist otherwise. All that aside though, every property owning citizen of Bartow County has a say so in these matters since they are paying the bill. The paradigm is going to shift whether all the government school people like it or not. You might as well come to the table and let's brainstorm on how to make it better. Starting with electing a School Board who understands that the Rule of Law id the basis of a civilized society.
BP News April 29, 2012 at 07:34 PM
You heard it here, "We the people" should just be quiet and not speak out against wrong-doing because we don't have any power. At least we know exactly where you stand on the public speaking out and the public's right to know what is going on in government. By the way, Matt, if you are going to criticize our website for telling the truth on an issue of public interest, you should at least get it right. BartowHeadlines is based out of Rome and run by a man named John Druckenmiller (great website, just not ours). We are www.bartowpolitics.com, and we are only interested in informing the public about politics and politicians in Bartow County. Now, I'm really going to enjoy the rest of the Sabbath...
Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 07:48 PM
I did not...nor should I. I am not defending the board. There are plenty of things that I think they are doing wrong.
Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Apologies....www.bartowpolitics.com.
Matt Shultz April 29, 2012 at 07:49 PM
The local party has turned into a running joke.
Rob Adkerson April 30, 2012 at 02:43 AM
The local party may be a running joke to RINOs and Democrats masquerading as Republicans. Conservatives know that we are standing up for the principles that made this nation great. The people whom we irk the most are the ones who live at odds with those principles. It's really easy for people to sit at home and snipe the people who are out trying to make a difference. No point arguing with you or any of the Government School apologists. Those of us who actually care about the children in those schools and the dedicated teachers who put the children first will continue the fight to give them the opportunities for education that they should have as citizens of the greatest country on earth. The rest of you can sit home and pontificate and blindly defend the failed system.
Larry April 30, 2012 at 10:26 AM
That is becoming more and more evident. It's amazing the local politicians (at the state level) that are "anti-public" schools, yet they are the ones controlling the funds. 'splains a lot...
Matt Shultz April 30, 2012 at 10:40 AM
I did my for the party when no Republican could get elected here...So please save the lecture.
BP News May 01, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Larry, the response would be exactly the same. This is not about the person that was appointed. No one has any idea what her ideology is, and no one is asking. This is a law issue, not an ideology issue. Do you care that our laws are followed? In addition, I would hope a "staunch anti-Tax Tea Party Patriot" would look at the laws, realize a mistake had been made, and step aside as soon as it was made known to him or her. If such a person did not do so, I know a lot of people who would conclude that the person did not believe in the rule of law and would not continue to be supported by Tea Party-types.
Jack Wallace May 02, 2012 at 02:35 PM
The Bartow County GOP members like to accuse others of being RINOs, when they need to be looking in the mirror. There are ZERO Republicans in leadership in the Bartow GOP. The Bartow GOP leaders and members should rename themselves the Bartow John Birch Society and be honest.
BP News May 02, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Jack, the rule of law is the issue here, and that is bipartisan. I have a friend who is a staunch supporter of Obama that believes the board should follow the law. The local law requiring a special election was submitted by 3 Democrats and a Republican. Is it too much to ask for our elected officials to follow the laws on the books?
Rob Adkerson May 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Jack Wallace, I am the vice Chair of Communications for the BCRP as well as the 11th District GOP. I have never heard your name or seen you at a single political, business or any other type of event or group in Bartow so I'd be interested to know how you make such a claim about people you have never met?
String Bean May 02, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Jack, the John Birch Society was huge here in NW GA during the 60's, 70's 80's and many Republicans, AND Democrats were supporters.
BP News May 02, 2012 at 11:09 PM
We have gotten an opinion from legislative counsel (the lawyers for the lawmakers) and Sen. Loudermilk has gotten an unofficial opinion from the Attorney General's office that says our school board vacancies must be filled by election, not appointment. We also got a letter from the AG's office that agreed, though they cannot help private citizens in a matter like this. In addition, the laws are so clear that it doesn't take an attorney to interpret them. Here's how the the state law, § 20-2-54.1, begins: Procedure for filling vacancies on local boards (a) In all instances where local laws applicable to local boards of education do not provide otherwise, a vacancy occurring for any reason on a local board of education shall be filled as follows: As legislative counsel and the AG's office have pointed out, we DO have a local law that governs vacancies--by election, not appointment. It is HB 623, submitted by Childers, Paul Smith, Cummings, and Lewis in 2003, signed by Governor Perdue (and, incidentally, applied in the vacancy in Post 3 in 2004 where Mr. Shultz was elected to the board.) HB 623 can be found here: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20032004/HB/623 At the end of the day, the board attorney is only there to advise the board; they are held accountable for the decisions that are made, and I believe them to be intelligent enough to read the two laws and make the correct determination.
BP News May 03, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Larry, that isn't what I'm saying; however, once this was brought to the board's attention, they need to correct it. You said to bring it to another attorney; I answered that we and Sen. Loudermilk have had multiple attorneys look at this and they all agree. In addition, the board has been asked to provide the specific language and code section that allows for an appointment. This has not been provided. If the people aren't allowed to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions, we no longer have a representative republic. I invite you to go read the two laws in question for yourself and make a determination based on the facts as to whether the board ever had the right to appoint Ms. Sullivan or not. It is as much your right as it is ours to look at the facts and ask your board rep to act accordingly. After all, the board works for the people that elected them to these positions of trust.
BP News May 03, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Here is a link that has links to the two laws in question, plus links to the board agenda and minutes from the meeting where the appointment was made. I invite anyone to read the laws and decide what is right on this issue: http://www.bartowpolitics.com/school_board_information.html
BP News May 03, 2012 at 10:32 AM
Larry, what do you mean, intimidation? The board has been repeatedly asked by voters to do the right thing. Last time I checked, citizens have a fundamental right to "petition for redress of grievances." Citizens should not have to go to court when the issues are so obvious. Going to court should be a very last resort and should only be used after all other means have been exhausted. We waited over a week after this was brought to their attention for them to do the right thing before making it public. It was then very obvious that the board intended to sweep the whole thing under the rug. If you really believed in the rule of law and our system of government, you'd be right there with us asking the board to do the right thing. Did you read the laws? And this action isn't "innocuous." To allow our elected officials (no matter what party or what level of government) to do whatever they want and try to justify it later is a very dangerous thing indeed. All the people protesting this are asking for is for the seat to remain vacant until it is properly and legally filled. That's it. If they would have come out with a statement 6 weeks ago that they thought they were doing the right thing by appointing a member, but now they see that they didn't have the authority and would wait until the special election to fill it, we would have commended them for having the character to correct a mistake.
Matt Shultz May 03, 2012 at 12:10 PM
There is a clear history of the local GOP using the School Board to further its own objectives. It's an easy target with taxing authority and the party leadership gets to boast about how much more Conservative they are. I have been elected, volunteering and working for the Georgia/Bartow GOP since 1994 and evidently I am not Republican enough either. We are reaching the point that we need a viable alternative to our local GOP...To bad the local Democratic party can't get its act together.
Rob Adkerson May 03, 2012 at 02:15 PM
It's not about who's Republican enough, Matt. It's about who, especially who within the current government school system is intellectually honest enough to admit it's failure and join with others to think outside the box and try to change the whole paradigm of education in the U.S. and possibly the world. It will have to start at some local level somewhere on the planet. Why not Bartow?
Concered July 17, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Thank you! You are right on this one!

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