File Under: What the fuzzy?

After a heated board meeting in June, Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow, Cherokee County Republican Party Secretary Barbara Knowles and political consultant Robert Trim were strolling across a street in downtown Canton on their way to the Painted Pig Tavern. They claim a white BMW driven by School Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo nearly hit them so they called 911 and filed a police report. But “Canton Police Chief Robert Merchant confirmed Friday night that warrants were issued earlier Friday for the three, and that they each face charges of making false statements for telling officers that Petruzielo attempted to run them over…

The police chief is pretty clear in his statement: “They lied,” [Merchant] said. “The bottom line is based on the evidence we have, this was just totally fabricated.”

H/T to the omnipresent Jim Galloway who noted the item in his Political Insider blog.

What the heck is going on in Cherokee County?

27 comments

    • Anyone But Chip says:

      No bookmaker in their right minds would give you odds on this bet. Who would take the other side?

  1. saltycracker says:

    It is bad strategy more than political affiliation. The scorched earth approach sometimes has backdrafts.

  2. Three Jack says:

    Put simply, if you are going to take on Dr. P, you better bring your ‘A’ game. He is the ultimate bureaucrat with an added dose of political savvy who enjoys confrontation. He has basically unlimited funds to use for personnel who in turn show their appreciation through uncompromising loyalty. Kelly Marlow challenged the emperor and is now facing his wrath, albeit maybe through a self inflicted, unforced error.

    Supposedly there is a video from a local restaurant that was used by the Canton PD to review the complaint. If so, it will likely be released after the accused turn themselves in for processing and then make bail. Until then, it is a very powerful school superintendent’s word against a recently elected school board member prodded on by her political consultant and many local charter school activists. Innocent until proven guilty in most cases, but that ain’t always how it plays out in Cherokee County when one decides to take on powerful bureaucrats.

    • Anyone But Chip says:

      “maybe through a self inflicted, unforced error.” Maybe? I don’t see anyone holding a gun to their head suggesting they should make a false statement. These three did so willingly and with malice.

      • Three Jack says:

        ABC, despite media reports indicating absolute guilt, these 3 still get an opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law. So the charges of making false statements are just that, charges.

        • Anyone But Chip says:

          Three Jack.

          I don’t disagree, these are charges and they will certainly get their day in court. What I’m pointing out is that this is DEFINITELY self inflicted.

          I can’t imagine how solid the evidence must be to take something that is normally left to die in a circular file and turn it into the media frenzy that it has become and will continue to be. Chief of Police, District Attorney and Judge knew that this would be the biggest story in the county and bring down a lot of heat, yet still went forward with the arrest warrants.

          Your suggestion that this is what happens when you “take on powerful bureaucrats” borders on a conspiracy theory as you are suggesting that Dr. P has all three of the above in his back pocket. Do you really mean that?

          • Three Jack says:

            ABC, If the charges are true, then absolutely it was self inflicted. But again, the public has not seen any evidence yet, just the arrest warrant.

            I also agree that in most circumstances, charges like this would be settled outside a court of law or just dropped after a cooling off period. So one can assume that the chief has insurmountable evidence against Trim, Marlow and Knowles considering the publicity this has generated. If not, then he, the judge and DA would have to be out of their minds to issue the warrants. But again, the public has not seen the evidence.

            As far as a conspiracy, I wouldn’t go that far. I’m just pointing out the fact that there is a very strong/powerful good ol boy network in Cherokee County (especially Canton) in which the superintendent has some status. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that those in power grew tired of Marlow’s challenging the status quo so decided to pursue these charges to the degree that we are seeing instead of just getting everybody together in a kumbayah meeting. Again, it’s all just speculation right now until the evidence is presented.

  3. saltycracker says:

    Cherokee ´s educational boat was sinking, Dr P bailed it out and put it at the front of the fleet. He rails against the state on not getting funds that are due while not warming to charter schools. We might not be electing a BOE that can administer educational improvement with less bureaucracy.
    Improving education through sound BOE leadership is one thing but taking a divisive course only sets it back.

    • Raleigh says:

      Front of the Fleet? Graduation rates keep falling, 8% less than last year. SAT scores fluctuate and you only hear padded statistics because not all students take the SAT. The system has taken on so much debt that the current student body’s grandchildren will be paying on it. Dr P spent more time being a “bureaucrat” than a superintendent the job which he was hired to do. He vowed never to allow any charter school in the county and the only reason we have one now is due to the fact the legislature had to get involved. In the last ESPLOST rather than pay down the debt we have plans to build a new administration building for Dr P and his bureaucrats. No one looked at the last places he worked to see what he left behind. This man is nothing more than an unelected politician not an educator. The only difference between him and Beverly Hall is he hasn’t been caught, yet. Marlow’s problem can be summed up by one thing, Robert Trim. She will be a one term board member if she makes it that long. She can thank Mr. Trim for that. Maybe Mrs. Cochran can use the George Bush line, “Do you miss me yet”? Sounds like the boat is still sinking with Cherokees kids still on it.

      • saltycracker says:

        Sorry, I didn’t realize the elected were victims of an employee, with (agree or disagree) has an “A” game and a political consultant, who is no stranger to politically challenged ladies.
        I agree the cost of education is a money pit from bureaucracies to transfer funds to post career (non-teaching) benefits, most of which are set at the state level.

        Bottom line this is not being handled by our elected – Marlow – in a manner best for Cherokee. Nor is comparing Dr P with Beverley Hall.

        • Raleigh says:

          The comparison is valid. One may have manipulated test while the other may be manipulating test takers and playing games with statistics. That’s only a half-step away from being on the same side of the issue. Bottom line it is only about money which is not necessarily being spent on the needs of the student. All the “local” level has done is complain that the state is under funding the system yet the amount of dollars sent from the state has actually gone up, just not as much as they wanted. Funny when funding goes up by 5% but you wanted 30% according to Dr. P you can then say your funding was drastically cut. Ms. Marlow should resign. Dr P should quickly and gracefully retire and Mr. Trim should move to Chicago where they still practice his style of politics. Maybe then we can start to right the ship.

  4. xdog says:

    So someone here has to know something about ‘political consultant Robert Trim’. How about sharing? Is he Marlow’s squeeze? Svengali? Chip Rogers’ stand-in?

    Perfect name btw, although I wonder when he dropped the ‘mer’.

  5. John Konop says:

    As some of you know I live in Cherokee County and one of our kids graduated from Woodstock High School, and is at Georgia Tech with a 4.0, while our other child is strong student at Freedom Middle School.

    The math and science is very strong program especially for AP students…..The Georgia Tech students from Cherokee County from 12 did very good at Georgia Tech about 50% had 4.0 GPA…One cannot argue That the school system has shown tremendous improvement under D. P.

    With that said as many of you know, I do think the system needs to improve in some areas ie vocational, internship/ co-op opportunities coordinated with business community, on line education coordinated with home school students…….

    I have always tried to work within the system, and I have found most the board members receptive to improving the system. In facts I think the current chairman Janet Reed is doing a very good job….

    I do know Kelly, and thought she could do a good job adding a balanced voice to the community. The problem is she does not understand the proper role of a board member:

    1) Your job is to do what is best for the community via our schools. Obviously putting our accreditation at risk over personal vendetta is not proper behavior for a board member.

    2) Board members private or public job is oversight of the process, direction and budget. A board member job is not to manage or direct day to day operations. Once again Kelly stepped over the line by bypassing the management structure, and going directly to employees with management type request. This behavior would not be tolerated in the private nor public sector, for obvious reasons of disrupting day to day management…….

    3) Finally, Kelly instead of bringing up issues in a constructive manner, she focused on spewing vile baseless remarks over the core issues. Obviously, questioning the process, budget……is the job of a board member…… instead she has made the job about her, not improving the schools.

    I do think her overall behavior in the jobs calls for a resignation. Our first job is to make sure we protect our schools system for the community. Kelly at this point, is hurting the foundation of what her job is as a member of the school board.

    • Three Jack says:

      John,

      I’m not defending Kelly by any means, just trying to add balance. Couple of questions for you relating to your stating that she does not understand her role:

      2) “Once again Kelly stepped over the line by bypassing the management structure, and going directly to employees with management type request.” What if the management structure is not responsive to a board member who makes reasonable requests about budget matters? That was Kelly’s complaint if I remember correctly, that she issued requests that were never addressed.

      3) “Kelly instead of bringing up issues in a constructive manner, she focused on spewing vile baseless remarks over the core issues.” Please provide a link to Kelly using ‘vile, baseless remarks over the core issues’. I have followed this story for a while and don’t remember her saying anything ‘vile’.

      The Cherokee County School Board is a ‘policy board’ thus does not have authority over day-to-day activities like the county commission which has some latitude in that area. Kelly definitely ignored this basic rule in some of her actions and should be made aware of the proper channels in which to pursue her questions. But to call for her resignation based on that is a bit much as many new elected officials try to make a mark early in their tenure and sometimes step over the line.

      • John Konop says:

        This is just a few articles from the newspaper, obviously this is not proper behavior for a board member: Combine this with the recent behavior……………..

        ………One of the complaints filed last week was a second complaint filed by teacher Jennifer Hall, who said in her first complaint that Marlow allegedly used a “private conversation” both were engaged in at the request of Republican Party Chairman Rick Davies to berate her for writing a letter to the editor. In the latest complaint, Hall said, “Since the news of my complaint against her broke, Ms. Marlow has chosen to use the local media and the Internet to malign my character. She supports her allegation with several examples of newspaper articles in which Marlow responded to the first complaint as well as Internet postings.

        “She has mentioned me publicly by name,” Hall said. “She also mentions another CCSD teacher by name, one whose name had not previously been published by the local media.”
        Hall said, in a mailer and Internet posting, Marlow disputed her first complaint, and Marlow added, “Fortunately for this community, board members are not the only ones subject to complaints and Open Records Requests.” In her second complaint, Hall said she viewed that statement as a “threat against me.”….

        …..Teacher Jennifer Hall said she was making an official complaint because of a powwow recently held by county Republicans, which 16 people attended, two of them being teachers. Marlow was present at the meeting, as was Hall, and the objective of the powwow was to discuss education issues going on in the county, and it was called by GOP Chairman Rick Davies, who said the discussion would be private. Marlow said she was not there in a school board member capacity, Hall said.

        “There were two things,” Hall said. “During our discussion about teacher pay, I was talking about why I became a teacher and she said, ‘Do we have to listen to this crap?’ Then, three times, she brought up a letter to the editor I wrote and the fact I said at the school board meeting that her behavior was ‘unconscionable’ at the school board meeting.

        Additionally, School District Director of Communications Barbara Jacoby has sent a letter, also obtained by an Open Records Request, which she asked be placed in her personnel file.
        In the letter, Jacoby states Marlow has targeted both her personally and her department by making “slanderous public statements regarding my job performance, libelous statements in local media and her newsletter and media releases regarding my job performance; e-mail communication to me, with all school board members copied, directly questioning me regarding my job performance, as well as e-mail communications to the school board chair, with all school board members copied, making false allegations about my job performance.”….

        …. Also in her June 18 press release, Marlow accuses the superintendent of being “belligerent” with a staff member at a board meeting. She alleges that Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo told the assistant superintendent of finance to “sit down and shut up, Candler.” The video shows Petruzielo saying, “Sit down, Candler.”……

        ….. This behavior is similar to what got the district in trouble more than a decade ago. The Oct. 1, 1998, SACS report said the district has caring and committed employees but their efforts are “negatively affected by some members of the Board of Education, whose behavior and actions blatantly conflict with their policies.”

        I don’t understand why Marlow wants to repeat this history, unless it’s to destroy the school district to allow more room for charter schools, which she has adamantly supported. She was quoted in the AJC, “They wouldn’t give us the charter school, so I’m not giving them their SPLOST.” (AJC: Aug. 11, 2011)……….

        … physical education teacher with the district called his supervisor saying that he needed to report a conversation he had with Marlow earlier that day.

        He said he was not aware he was speaking to a school board member until later in the conversation, and that Marlow did not identify herself as a school board member, but as a Cherokee Charter Academy volunteer. He stated she asked several times “why charter school students were being denied access to Cherokee County Special Olympic events.”

        He said he tried to explain the difference between the school district’s awareness day and Cherokee County Special Olympics’ year-round events, noting he tries to make a special effort to include all Cherokee citizens in the year-round events. He said awareness day is a school-sponsored event funded by the Cherokee County School District. He said he told Marlow, “I have never denied any eligible person from participating in our year-round sports and athletic opportunities offered by the Cherokee County Special Olympics.”

        According to his supervisor’s e-mails, “He felt personally attacked by Ms. Marlow as she continuously accused him of denying students with disabilities the opportunity to participate in Special Olympics.”

        Director of Special Education Charlette Green said, “We felt that he was blindsided by her statements and accusations. It was only after Ms. Marlow continued to asked about CCA that he realized she was on the school board.” ……….

        http://www.ledgernews.com/news/top_stories/marlow-controversy-escalates/article_10fb8af8-dd95-11e2-aac8-0019bb30f31a.html

        http://www.ledgernews.com/opinion/columns/i-sense-a-recall-coming/article_56eab72e-dd99-11e2-b0cc-0019bb30f31a.html

      • Anyone But Chip says:

        Three Jack,

        I do not disagree that if the board / administration is not responsive to reasonable requests that there is a valid issue. The problem is that they HAVE responded, many times in fact. The SCRAM! group has done a fantastic job of requesting and obtaining many of her requests and questions and the detailed response from the administration, chairperson and others.

        The fact that Ms. Marlow continuously says her questions have not been answered does not make it so.

        The fact that she states this, when there is a large amount of factual data to the contrary underlines that the motives of here “reasonable requests” are not what she purports.

        • Three Jack says:

          John,

          I have read all the local media accounts of this ongoing ‘she said/he and she said’ affair so no need to post the eeeeeennnnnnnttttttttiiiiiiiirrrrrrreeee articles here, just the ‘vile’ parts and links will do.

          Kelly Marlow took on a very powerful school superintendent which is something many in Cherokee wanted to see happen based mostly on the charter school issue which I actually believe Dr. P is correct in opposing. Unfortunately Ms Marlow went about this incredibly challenging task in the most incorrect manner possible with limited information and understanding of what she was doing. Having previously been through a few media firestorms in Cherokee County myself, I know of what I speak and wish I could have offered advice to her earlier on in the process.

          Short of actually being convicted on the felony charges, her other actions do not rise to the level requiring her resignation. She should take a step back and re-evaluate her tactics and those advising her (purportedly a group of 24-40 advisors) then proceed in a professional manner to gather the information she seeks.

  6. Nick Chester says:

    I can’t speak to the particulars of our good friends in Cherokee County but the role of Board Members is not that hard to figure out. A lot of the other (180+) LBOE around the state seem to not have a problem with it. Generally:

    1. Read the U.S. Constitution.
    2. Read the Georgia Constitution.
    3. Read your local district policy (and understand it).
    4. Familiarize yourself with your governing procedures (some are written some are not, may be a problem area!).
    5. Attend new Board Member training and (required) CE courses.
    6. Rinse and repeat.

    Making good policy takes time and dedication. It does not happen over night. I’ve heard it’s like turning a battleship.

  7. saltycracker says:

    Wasn’t Canton Chief Merchant hired from a city in central Florida in May ’12 ?
    Not time to become one of the good old boys or be eager to jump on a BOE member & a GOP official. Sour Note: he is retired from one police force & working for another for a double dip into public funds.

    http://canton-ga.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/fl-cop-named-canton-s-new-chief

    Betcha Garrison is so happy this one didn’t occur in his beat.

    In listening to an “expert” in human behavior this weekend – a female middle schooler who recently attended a BOE meeting – her observation was that this lady up there asked questions, got answers and then went on like she never heard them. I’ll accept that as a strong hint of a problem and suggest we are not observing a new board member trying to find her way.

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