What Is the Priority for GCPS: Students or Chamber Employees?

An auditor recommended that the Georgia DOE seek legal advice from the Attorney General's office regarding the legality of payments made by Gwinnett County Public Schools to the Gwinnett Chamber.

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

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MWTW November 04, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Sabrina: I personally have great respect for the GCPS. The District has earned national acclaim in a variety of caragories; most importantly as the recipient of the Broad Award. I live in a cluster that excels. Every school exceeds AYP and has extremely high CRCT's and ITBS scores. SAT scores are recognized nationally and are among the best in Georgia. Therefore, I am proud of this District. With that said, if they broke the law they should suffer the legal consequences. I am not qualified to know what those should be, but I am confident there are provisions to deal with this issue. At this time there is no proof they have done anything wrong. However, you have piqued my interest and I will be watching to see what transpires.
Soccer mom November 04, 2012 at 04:37 AM
The Chamber $$ have been a major issue in the District 3 school board race. Jen Falk has openly and aggressively opposed this practice in her blogs and in a recent debate with MKM in Peachtree Corners. MKM said she condoned and was proud of the practice. Jen Falk has written many blogs and Q/A reponses to express her opposition to this topic. Let's take a look at a few: http://duluth.patch.com/blog_posts/a-turning-point-4f3ad769 http://peachtreecorners.patch.com/blog_posts/qa-on-district-3-candidate-for-gwinnett-county-school-board (see question 7) http://duluth.patch.com/blog_posts/where-we-stand It is time to unseat MKM, 16 years is far too long. Vote for Jen Falk! We absolutely need more accountability and transparency in how our tax $ are spent. I want my tax $$ used in the classroom not the Chamber. Jen will be a good steward of our tax $$. Jen Falk will foster accountability and transparency in all that she does as our District III school board representative,
Chris November 04, 2012 at 05:36 AM
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Mike Chubre November 04, 2012 at 06:02 AM
Jus stop with your advertise. Did you people ever gor t school? Grow up!
Mary Lou November 04, 2012 at 02:03 PM
FIRED FIRED and FIRED Immediately, and be made to return those monies to the education system they stole from. And think plans should be in the makings now for their replacements should they be found not in compliance. I dont appreciate our portion of the monies we pay going to something we didn't support, or given knowledge of to agree to or not. Reckless and irresponsible.Maybe this is what was contributing them failing our kids(not as in a grade) and why we went to private.


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