A Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit judge has asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to investigate the Muscogee County School Board’s settlement of a lawsuit.
“We have received a request to investigate allegations of criminal wrongdoing,” GBI public affairs director Nelly Miles confirmed Monday in a phone interview with the Ledger-Enquirer.
The request came in a letter from Superior Court Judge Gil McBride, which the GBI received Friday, Miles said. She emailed the Ledger-Enquirer a copy of McBride’s handwritten letter, dated Jan. 12:
“I enclose herewith copies of pleadings in the above-referenced matter,” McBride wrote. “Please accept this letter as my request for a GBI investigation to determine whether any illegal behavior occurred in settlement of the above-referenced matter. …”
The matter McBride referenced is the lawsuit filed on behalf of Columbus Police Department motor squad Officer William Green against MCSD bus driver Kenneth Canup after a 2015 crash that injured Green. Canup was charged with one count of improper left turn and failure to yield. McBride presided over the civil case.
Miles wouldn’t disclose the allegations and wouldn’t release the enclosures in McBride’s letter, and McBride declined to comment.
“I cannot comment on what seems to be a pending and open investigation and hope you can understand this limitation,” McBride told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Monday.
Miles, however, emphasized that the GBI hasn’t decided whether to investigate this case. “We are still reviewing the request,” she said.
Regardless, the request is without merit, contends MCSD attorney Greg Ellington.
“There was a settlement of a lawsuit filed by a motor squad officer,” Ellington told the Ledger-Enquirer in an email Monday. “MCSD did not pay the settlement. The liability coverage provider, GSBA (Georgia School Boards Association), paid the full amount of settlement. The settlement therefore did not require the approval of the Board. The argument in the article that there is something legally insufficient about the settlement is incorrect.”
The article Ellington mentioned is a story by retired Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Richard Hyatt at the All On Georgia website.
The lawsuit filed Feb. 4, 2016, claimed Canup was negligent in turning left in front of Green on Oct. 30, 2015, forcing Green to wreck his police motorcycle to avoid a collision.
According to Green’s claim, Canup was driving north on Whitesville Road as he approached the entrance to Double Churches Elementary School. Green was traveling south with his blues lights and siren on.
Canup, 74 at the time, started turning left toward the school, intruding three to five feet into Green’s lane, causing the officer to lose control trying to avoid a crash. Green, 39 at the time, was injured in the accident.
On July 7, 2016, the judge agreed to extend the time for discovery of evidence to Feb. 27, 2017, but that turned out not to be necessary when the school district’s insurance settled.
Green’s attorneys filed notice they were dismissing the lawsuit Nov. 30.
McBride’s request came a month after the GBI declined District Attorney Julia Slater’s request to probe two other incidents involving MCSD:
▪ The Aug. 22 bus crash that killed 67-year-old driver Roy Newman and injured seven Mathews Elementary School students.
▪ The Sept. 12 alleged body-slamming of 13-year-old Montravious Thomas by contracted behavioral specialist Bryant Mosley, resulting in Thomas having his right leg amputated below the knee.
Miles said Dec. 12 and repeated Monday that the GBI isn’t investigating those incidents because the Columbus Police Department is investigating them.
Staff writer Tim Chitwood contributed to this report.