BOE board chair hits back at Sen. Jones’ allegations

The Henry County School Board. (Staff Photo: Heather Middleton)

McDONOUGH — Claims made by a Henry County school board member and most recently by Sen. Emanuel Jones in a letter written to Gov. Nathan Deal accuse the school district’s attorney of failing to negotiate the superintendent contract with the district’s sole finalist for superintendent in Henry County.

Timothy Gadson was named the sole finalist on June 27. The contract was rescinded on July 10 after a Board of Education special called meeting.

Policy violation claim

During the July 11 regular BOE meeting, board member Donna McBride claimed the board “was in violation of its own policy” because the board did not negotiate with Gadson.

However, according to the district’s Superintendent Recruitment Policy, “Terms and conditions of the contract between the Superintendent and the Henry County Board of Education shall be negotiated by the Board or its representatives and shall not become effective until approved by the Board in open session.”

The Herald, through the Open Records Act, has obtained correspondence between Board of Education attorney A.J. “Buddy” Welch and Gadson’s attorney, Maree Sneed. The emails begin on June 28 and end on July 10.

In the first email on June 28 between Sneed and Welch, Sneed stated that she would be negotiating on behalf of Gadson and acknowledged that Welch would be negotiating for the board.

Letter to Gov. Nathan Deal

In the letter to the governor on July 14, co-signed by Reps. Pam Stephenson, Sandra Scott and Demetrius Douglas, Jones calls on the governor to intervene in the decision and claims “the school board and the school board’s attorney failed to negotiate in good faith regarding Dr. Gadson’s contract.” He adds that Gadson’s contract “was rescinded simply because of his race.”

However, according to Board Chair Pam Nutt, Gadson’s “contract details were more demands than what we could give.”

In a statement released by the district from Nutt in response to Jones’ letter, she said the board “tried in good faith to negotiate with Dr. Gadson’s representatives.”

She stated that over a nine-day period Gadson “was asked for revisions to his initial counteroffer on two different occasions. We never received one.”

Welch said Tuesday that he made a good-faith effort to negotiate the contract with Sneed.

“I completely followed the directions of the majority of the board,” said Welch. “The contract documents speak for themselves. There are literally hundreds of changes that were made by Mr. Gadson’s lawyer, and I requested on two occasions that they revise their request and they refused to do it.

“Now Mr. Jones wants to blame me for Mr. Gadson’s and his attorney’s actions or lack of action.”

The email documents show on July 7 and July 9 that Welch communicated with Sneed asking that her client reconsider his requests.

The following are the emails between Sneed and Welch from June 28 to July 10:

• June 30 — Welch sent Sneed the superintendent contract. Welch requests comments from Sneed “upon review” of the contract.

• July 2 — Sneed requests two documents from Welch — a copy of the contract for the previous superintendent and “the document or documents that spell out the benefits that other employees have.” She also requests to speak with Welch on July 3.

• July 4 — Sneed thanks Welch for “taking time to talk with me yesterday (July 3).” She indicates that Welch asked her to send an email “with our proposal by today.” However, Sneed says she will wait to submit a proposal until she receives the documents she asked for — 12-month employee benefits and the previous superintendent contract.

• July 5 — Sneed receives the documents she requested.

• July 6 — Welch is sent a “clean version and a redline version of the draft contract” from Sneed. She adds “please let me know if you want to discuss.”

• July 7 at 4:12 p.m. — Sneed sends an email following up with Welch on the draft she sent on July 6.

“I am writing to follow up to see if you want to talk about the draft I sent you on Wednesday night. I am available if you would like to talk,” Sneed said.

At 4:40 p.m. on July 7, Welch reaches out to Sneed stating “my client is reviewing this (sic) your client’s requests. The total cost of your client’s proposed contact (sic) is $500,000 more than the Board is presently obligated to pay. Please have your client reconsider his request.”

• July 9 — Sneed follows up with Welch at 2:48 p.m. stating, “I am confused about your comment that the ‘proposed contract is $500,000 more than the Board is presently obligated to pay.’ I would be happy to talk about our proposed changes. Please let me know if you have some time to discuss our proposed revisions.”

• July 9 at 3:03 p.m. Welch replies stating, “I need to know today what your client is willing to strike from his requests. I will be giving my report tomorrow at 9 a.m.”

• July 9 at 10:52 p.m., Sneed sends a follow-up email.

“Buddy, we look forward to hearing from you tomorrow once you have met with the Board to discuss our proposed revisions and to hear the Board’s concerns and issues.”

• July 10 at 10:09 a.m. Welch sends an email informing Sneed of the board’s decision to rescind the offer.

In her statement, Nutt said that when the July 10 special called meeting came about “while two board members still supported Dr. Gadson, a majority of the board did not feel comfortable making the taxpayers of the county liable for $500,000, more than any other superintendent had received in the county’s history (which Dr. Gadson’s counteroffer would have).”

Nutt said that other factors including the “immorality termination clause” and that Gadson “had potentially plagiarized the 100-day plan that was so attractive to the board” contributed to the board’s decision.

“All of this has been of even greater concern in light of all the questions that were being raised during this process,” Nutt stated. She added that Jones is “no friend or supporter of public schools. He has used our school system on more than one occasion to keep his name in the news and further his political agenda.”

Nutt said the board is moving forward to find the district’s next superintendent. Current Superintendent Rodney Bowler is set to retire on Sept. 29.

Jones said Monday afternoon he has not yet heard back from the governor, but he hopes to set up a meeting soon. He also said he would like to meet with the Board of Education members; however, he said the three board members who voted to rescind the contract — Nutt, Holly Cobb and Josh Hinton — have been “hesitant to respond.”

Meanwhile, Jones said Gadson remains interested in the superintendent position.

“He is very interested; he’s willing to negotiate,” said Jones.

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Education reporter Heather Middleton joined the Clayton News and Henry Herald in 2002.

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