State attorney general finds no crime in GBI probe of alleged school board threats

AG letter to GBI says Josh McKoon, Frank Myers broke no law

tchitwood@ledger-enqurier.comSeptember 27, 2013 

The state attorney general’s office has decided a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe into allegations state Sen. Josh McKoon and Columbus attorney Frank Myers threatened Muscogee school board members uncovered no crime, the agency confirmed Friday.

In a letter Thursday to GBI Director Vernon Keenan, Senior Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin wrote: “We have been discussing this matter throughout and following the investigation and I agree that a prosecutable crime is not present.”

Some school board members claimed McKoon and Myers met with them and threatened to withhold state funding from the district if they didn’t vote to end the board’s exclusive contract for legal services with Columbus law firm Hatcher-Stubbs and open that to other law firms.

Three board members, John Wells, Athavia Senior and Beth Harris, filed Senate ethics complaints against McKoon. Those complaints were dismissed.

In March, board chairman Rob Varner and John Phillips, then an interim superintendent, had Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren request a GBI investigation into the alleged threats. McKoon and Myers denied the allegations, but maintained their opposition to the district’s no-bid legal contract.

GBI agents interviewed school board members and Myers and McKoon. Their file was turned over to the attorney general for review. GBI Special Agent in Charge Wayne Smith said the attorney general would have the power to prosecute a state senator.

Explaining why the attorney general’s staff found no crime to prosecute, the assistant attorney general wrote:

“The initial allegation of the presence of a quid pro quo (the firing of one law firm and the hiring of another in exchange for official actions in the General Assembly) were not supported by the investigative findings. Georgia’s bribery statute is very narrow and specific as to what constitutes the solicitation of a bribe…. In this case, the element of solicitation of a think of value is not present. Accordingly, I am closing my file on this matter.”

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