Many of you were surprised to learn recently that Gwinnett County Public Schools has been using education funds to pay for the salaries of Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce employees. These payments started in 2007 and continue in 2012, even as school board members Mary Kay Murphy, Carole Boyce, Louise Radloff, Robert McClure, Daniel D. Seckinger and Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks publicly complain about a lack of funds for education. With a shockingly low high school graduation rate of only 67.4%, the board members of Gwinnett County Public Schools should explain why paying the salaries of chamber employees takes precedence over spending that money on educating Gwinnett students.
Because school board members refused to answer questions about the payments to the chamber, documents from open records requests were sent to the Georgia Department of Education. The Director, Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, Education Audit Division, concluded:
“These types of payroll expenditures do not appear to meet the criteria in Official Code of Georgia Annotated §20-2-411 which states, "The school funds shall be used to pay the salaries of personnel and to pay for the utilization of school facilities, and for no other purpose.
"We recommend the Department of Education seek legal advice from the State Attorney General's office regarding the legality of these types of expenditures and take appropriate action with Gwinnett County Board of Education based on the outcome.”
School board members owe Gwinnett County taxpayers answers to these questions:
- Why did open records requests reveal there are there no minutes for the board's meeting to approve these multi-year payments that now total over $900,000?
- Why did GCPS classify the salaries for chamber employees in their financial records as “Banking Fees and services for central office and local schools (including fees for investment advisor)"?
- Were these payments an incentive to the Gwinnett Chamber for the tasks listed in the Partnership Gwinnett Report Card which included advocating for SPLOST initiatives, millage rate increases and to support GCPS in their legal action involving constitutional local control of charter schools?
- Because responses to open records requests did not produce any substantiation to claims that GCPS received $6 million in return for paying chamber salaries, what is the basis for that claim?
Do you want the school board to continue to pay the salaries for Gwinnett Chamber employees, while teachers are being furloughed and school board members and the school superintendent publicly complain about a lack of funds for education?
You can learn more about these activities and view the Partnership Gwinnett Report Card at www.gwinnettpetition.com.
Sabrina Smith, Chairman
Gwinnett Citizens for Responsible Government