McKoon blasts accusers, plans legislation to end Georgia school districts' no-bid contracts

tchitwood@ledger-enqurier.comSeptember 30, 2013 

Georgia Sen. Josh McKoon held a news conference today at the Columbus Marriott downtown.

BY TIM CHITWOOD/TCHITWOOD@LEDGER-ENQUIRER.COM

While blasting the local school district leaders who got him subjected to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe that uncovered no crime, Georgia state Sen. Josh McKoon announced at a news conference today that he will sponsor legislation to change the way school districts do business.

Specifically McKoon said he will try to pass a law ending exclusive, no-bid contracts for professional services such as the Muscogee school board maintains with Columbus law firm Hatcher-Stubbs. McKoon and Columbus attorney Frank Myers have been outspoken critics of the board’s contracting with the firm without considering competing bids. Some board members accused the senator of threatening to withhold state funds from the district if the board didn’t end that relationship.

The alleged threats led to a GBI review of the accusations. The GBI turned its file over to the Georgia Attorney General's office, which last week said it found no evidence McKoon or Myers broke any law.

Three board members, John Wells, Beth Harris and A.J. Senior, also filed Senate ethics complaints against McKoon. The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed those.

“These accusations have been reviewed now by three different entities, the Senate Ethics Committee, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Attorney General’s office,” McKoon said today. “The have all cleared me.”

He called the board members' actions “bullying, name-calling and intimidation,” “tactics that frankly one associates with countries that do not have our democratic traditions,” and a “cowardly and desperate attempt to do anything to distract this community from their breathtaking waste of education dollars.”

But the Muscogee board is not the only “dysfunctional” one in Georgia, so statewide reform is needed, he said.

“That is why I have consulted with several education experts including Fife Whiteside, a 16-year veteran of the Muscogee County school board, to develop a package of reforms that will end no-bid, sole-source contracts that are sweetheart deals for those that get them while taking money away from the education of our children,” McKoon said.

He said the legislation likely would be filed as individual bills rather than an overall package of amendments to current law.

The only board member who could immediately be reached was Harris, the District 8 representative, who said board members likely will hold their own news conference on the issue.

Related stories:

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

GBI sends fire department records probe to DA; alleged school board threats go to attorney general

UPDATE: School board member Athavia Senior says Sen. McKoon has "a lot of nerve"

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