Resident lobs school board tax complaint
by Lindsay Field
lfield@mdjonline.com
April 21, 2013 12:00 AM | 2691 views | 7 7 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Cobb’s school board chair said he was disappointed to hear that a resident has filed a complaint with the state claiming that his district used public funds and facilities to advocate for SPLOST IV.

“It was made explicitly clear that we could not advocate a vote or urge anyone to vote yes or no … from the school board all the way down to any employee,” said Randy Scamihorn.

SPLOST IV was approved by Cobb County voters in March, and passage of it will fund a total of $773 million in projects, maintenance improvements and purchases for both the Cobb and Marietta school districts by collecting a 1 cent sales tax from 2014 to 2018.

Georgia law prohibits government entities from using public funding to promote SPLOST.

Lance Lamberton, president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, mailed a complaint as an individual, not on behalf of his organization, to the Georgia Department of Law on Friday.

“We have no objection to advocate for the Ed-SPLOST using their own resources to support it but using taxpayer money to advocate for the continuation of a sales tax is clearly against the law and a violation of the public trust and the entity response for such violations to be held to account,” said Lamberton.

He isn’t sure if the state has received the complaint, or what the penalties might be if the state finds Cobb in violation of the law.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to jail over this but maybe a fine or warning,” he said.

Scamihorn said he thought any questioning of infractions on behalf of the district or board members was resolved in February after east Cobb resident Kimberley Euston complained that board member Scott Sweeney was in violation of the law by writing articles law by writing articles about SPLOST in a local magazine and speaking publicly at school meetings in his area.

“Based on what Sam Olens concluded, on that event there was no infraction,” Scamihorn said. “That’s why my initial reaction (to Lamberton’s complaint) was disappointment because I thought we had already gotten through all this.”

Lauren Kane with the Georgia Attorney General’s Office previously responded when asked about Sweeney, “Assuming there was no expenditure of public funds, nothing improper occurred.”

“If he has evidence of wrong-doing, I’d appreciate that if he’d share it with the board,” Scamihorn said.

He learned about the complaint Saturday morning during the 11th District Convention in Marietta.

Cobb Schools spokesman Jay Dillon said the district will decline to comment on the complaint until after they have received it from the state.

The complaint

Lamberton’s complaint listed three separate violations that were brought to his attention by CTA members.

He complained about a Mt. Bethel Elementary School newsletter called “The Mt. Bethel Bugle” that “urged a yes vote” from parents.

Lamberton said these letters were put in each students’ folders by employees, whose salaries are paid for by Cobb taxpayers.

He also contests that Walton High School and two Dickerson Middle School newsletters might be in violation because they were sent to parents and stated, “Vote Yes for Ed-SPLOST on Tuesday, March 19.”

Lamberton is not sure if these were all sent out by Parent Teacher Associations or the schools themselves, but has asked that the state look into that.

“The political establishment often does not play by the rules because they don’t think they have to,” he said.

Lamberton hasn’t contacted the school district to let officials know he’s filed the complaint but said it probably wouldn’t surprise them.

“I didn’t see what purpose that would serve,” he said. “They would say they were in compliance.”

Since filing his original complaint, others have come to his attention and Lamberton is considering filing more with the state.

“There was also a robocall that was made on behalf of the district that I was told said ‘the school district is urging you to vote yes,’” he said. “I didn’t include it in this complaint because I didn’t have the audio of it.”

He was told that the marquee outside Ford Elementary School in Acworth read “Vote Yes on SPLOST IV,” but he hasn’t been able to confirm that yet.

Lamberton thinks the Cobb Board of Elections might be in violation as well because he believes there is a law that states that polling places can’t be relocated during a special election .

“There were polling places moved from churches to schools and the law says you can’t do that,” he said. “There may be circumstances that I’m not aware of but it does raise one’s eyebrows.”
Comments
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Tired and Cranky
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April 22, 2013
He was told that the marquee outside Ford Elementary School in Acworth read “Vote Yes on SPLOST IV,” but he hasn’t been able to confirm that yet.

So - waste our time and taxpayer $$$$ on heresay.... nice. AND you are WRONG about this one. Shame on you, sir.
anonymous
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April 22, 2013
AG Olens' comments were specific to the article attribtued to then board Chair Scott Sweeney- who invoked his title as such as well as his board email address in credentialing himself for the article. As he is paid with taxpayer funds in exercise of his office, this was an infraction. Olens obviously wants to skirt the issue and dismissed the complaint saying it was a private publication.

Lamberton's complaint appears to be on something very different. In addition to the newsletters sent home in backpacks, the district did put video's on school websites, using other tax-payer funded resources (i.e. Sweeney, Walton Principal Judy MacNeil, video equipment and the school itself as the video was clearly shot in her office, and the school website that said VOTE YES).

CCSD is in clear violation. It's also clear that Olens will let it slide.

Thanks for fighting the good fight Mr. Lamberton.
Kennesaw Resident
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April 22, 2013
It looks from the comments here as if there are plenty of folks worried about the outcome. Lamberton is right to file a compaint if he thinks there was wrongdoing!

Would that Brooksley Born have been heard.... We would all be better off.
If, If, If
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April 21, 2013
If Lamberton has filed his complaint as an individual, why does he use the word "We" as in the collective, as in "We have no objection..." ???

Who's the "We" Mr. Lamberton?

Love these lines:

- "Lamberton is not sure..."

- "MIGHT be in violation"

- "HASN'T been able to confirm"

- "there MAY BE circumstances"

Just Wait
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April 21, 2013
I'd be disappointed too if I got caught.
Veteran Observer
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April 21, 2013
How many times are we going to be subjected to Mr Lamberton's fantasies and lies! Sadly, he loses these votes over and over again and he can never accept the will of the people! As a Tea Party member, I resent his harassment of the school system! This is a total waste of our tax dollars in a very tight budget year! Mr. Lamberton reminds me of President Obama with his grandstanding and excuses! But what can you expect of a president who does not support education and has his two children in an exclusive private school!
Stop wasting money
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April 21, 2013
This is another resident wasting CCSB funds. The call out we received reminded us of the SPLOST vote and said nothing about voting yes. How about Mr.Lamberton spending his time better used to get the Cobb legislators to repeal the senior tax instead so we won't be short money for the children and future leaders!
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