You may remember over the past few months that there have been some issues between State Senator Josh McKoon and a few Muscogee county school board members. Well, maybe more like a particular school board member named Athavia Senior.You know the one that filed the initial complaints, though also actually has ethics issues of her own.
Well it turns out that the GBI and the AG didn’t find anything to spport anything criminal against McKoon. To quote the assistant AG:
“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.”
For the full story check out the Ledger-Enquirer here.
Sen McKoon’s Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—REMARKS TO THE PRESS BY SENATOR JOSH MCKOON09.30.13
I have called this press conference for the opportunity to respond broadly to the events of the past six months or so which were set in motion by John Phillips, Rob Varner, John Wells, A.J. Senior and Beth Harris.
Let me begin by stating that I have not received any communication from the MCSD, John Phillips or anyone associated with the malicious and false accusations that were made against me since being totally exonerated on Friday. I deserve, but do not expect, an apology from Rob Varner, John Phillips, John Wells, A.J. Senior and Beth Harris. Rob Varner, John Phillips, John Wells, A.J. Senior and Beth Harris set a poor example for the students in their care, engaging in bullying, name calling and intimidation.
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. They have all cleared me. I want to thank Agent Wayne Smith of the GBI for his professionalism in handling the review instigated at the insistence of John Phillips and Rob Varner. I want to thank the other personnel involved at the GBI and with the Attorney General’s office for handling this matter in a thorough, professional fashion. I do regret the thousands of dollars in taxpayer resources and hours of manpower wasted because of the political vendetta of a few but of course that was outside my control. After hearing for months from my accusers that they could not comment because the review was pending, it is time for those who instigated this review to be called to account for causing the expenditure of thousands of taxpayer dollars to examine their meritless charges.
The truth is the reason I have been smeared by these five individuals is that I exercised my first amendment right as a citizen and a public official charged with, among other things, oversight of K-12 education to sound an alarm about wasteful spending practices at the MCSD. Because John Phillips, Rob Varner, A.J. Senior, Beth Harris and John Wells have no defense for their misappropriation of public resources which are taken from the citizens of this community to educate our children they resorted to tactics that frankly one associates with countries that do not have our democratic traditions. Let there be no doubt about it—these people abused their power, wasting even more taxpayer money which I did not think was possible and involved other government agencies in their quest to silence me. John Phillips, Rob Varner, A.J. Senior, Beth Harris and John Wells should be ashamed of themselves for responding to a policy question with attempted intimidation.
But the greater shame is that John Phillips during his tenure as Superintendent was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers while utterly failing to improve education for our children. I am relieved he is no longer in a position to move the Board of Education in a direction that has divided this community in so many ways while doing nothing to advance the mission of educating the children of Muscogee County.
This entire episode is the result of John Phillips, Rob Varner, A.J. Senior, Beth Harris and John Wells cowardly and desperate attempt to do anything to distract this community from their breathtaking waste of education dollars in Columbus and their abject failure to follow their mission of putting the 32,000 or so school children of Muscogee County ahead of themselves.
Any observer will tell you that our School Board is dysfunctional, spending more time on insignificant trivia than prudent financial planning to meet the needs of the children they are supposed to serve. Unfortunately, this sort of dysfunction is not limited to Muscogee County. One only has to read the news to see the dysfunction across the state. I am determined to take this ugly episode and bring forth some positive action to improve the educational destiny of young students throughout our state.
That is why I have consulted with several educational 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. These reforms will also address staffing levels at schools around our state. Over the 15 year period 1994-2009 Georgia experienced an increase of 40% in our student enrollment. However, hiring of non-teaching personnel grew almost at twice that rate. Had we forced districts to hold the line on that hiring and limit it to match the growth in student population, we could have saved over $900 Million. That is enough money to give every teacher in Muscogee County and the entire state of Georgia a $7,700 raise
I want the message sent loud and clear to those who maliciously attempted, and failed, to blacken my name in this community—I am not going away—I am not going to stop until we put the children first. I will not be intimidated and thankfully, as people have seen my willingness to stand up, they are sharing important information that will help me as I partner with colleagues of both parties from diverse communities in the General Assembly to effect necessary reform. I intend to move forward and work with anyone who is interested in improving educational opportunities for the children of Muscogee County and the State of Georgia. I am hopeful that with the new Superintendent in place that I will have that opportunity.
I am ready for your questions now.