Five Major Charges Alleged in Grand Jury Investigation
By Viola Davis RN BSN
Lack of Regular Background Checks on Employees
Case of Bobbie Neil Ward
worked at Cedar Grove Middle School as a secretary until her arrestin March 2012. Ms. Ward had previously been arrested in DeKalb County in 2005, however waspermitted to work within school system. Ms. Ward was indicted in March 2012 on 29 counts,including abuse of disabled adults, aggravated assaults, identity fraud and exploitation of theelderly.
Poor Fiscal Responsibility
The Grand Jury asked each member of the Board if they would agree to a forensic audit of theentire school system, with the goal being to uncover any potential financial landmines, and toensure that proper checks and balances were in place. The Board members in favor of theforensic audit were Nancy Jester, Don McChesney, Jay Cunningham, Sarah Copelin-Wood, PaulWomack, Tom Bowen, Donna Edler, and Pam Speaks. The Board member against the forensicaudit was Gene Walker.b)
The Board voted for a forensic audit; however, the Board was unable to provide specifics of theaudit such as the scope and goals of the audit.
Overcharged for Legal Representation
The school system and Board retain two law firms as outside counsel to include: Alexander andAssociates and Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan. When asked why the Board hired two legal firms,Sarah Copelin-Woods revealed that the Board wanted to have a minority-owned firm
representing the schools and Board because “they understand the culture of the kids”.
Board refused to hire a law firm with a bid which was more than $400,000 lower than the bidsubmitted by Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan despite the fact that the firm specialized in educationlaw and represents school systems of Fulton, Cobb, and Clayton Counties in Georgia.c)
The Board had no policies or procedures for what the law firms representing the school systemand the Board can and cannot charge for (e.g., excessive conferences between attorneys,excessive legal research, copying charges, excessive number of attorneys participating inconferences calls and meetings, etc.).
Bad Policies and Procedures