Clayton spends $40,000 to trace school chief rumors to no avail. Couldn’t a simple denial suffice?

Dr. EdmundHeatley (Clayton schools)

Dr. Edmond T. Heatley (Clayton schools)

I am not a fan of reality TV shows, but the Clayton County school system could command a following with its unique dramas, the latest of which is spending $40,000 on what AJC reporter Tammy Joyner described as “a futile effort to pinpoint the source of a rumor involving its superintendent’s conduct.”

In her investigative piece, Joyner notes that the school board approved the rumor probe without public discussion or a public vote when the district was dealing with budget cuts that have resulted in layoffs, delays in book purchases and a shorter school calendar.

While the four-month investigation failed to find out where the rumor started or any wrongdoing by Edmond Heatley, it did uncover 400 sexually explicit pictures on school board member Trinia Garrett’s district-issued laptop. The board wound up dismissing the case against Garrett during a hearing Jan. 23, but not before possibly costing the district several thousand dollars more to investigate. Most of the $40,000 went to computer forensics experts.

The rumors about Heatley reached this blog, where several posters referenced a supposed central office confrontation. But when I asked posters to come forward and speak to reporters even off the record, no one did.

As I have said several times, I am surprised at all the allegations of romantic dalliances in central offices and schools. If there were as much sneaking around and romancing as some posters allege, I am not sure any education could be occurring. (The same can be said for the state Legislature where, unfortunately, some of the rumors of illicit relationships have proven all too true.)

Most of us are too far removed from Clayton situation to know whether the rumors were undermining Heatley, as the school board chair contends in her defense of the money spent tracking them down. Certainly, the rumors were unattractive and awkward but whether they were paralyzing is another question.

According to the AJC:

District documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show the school board requested a “forensic investigation of certain computers and cellphone devices used by the superintendent and [a district employee], ” according to a report from PM Investigations, a computer forensics company.

The report went on to say “the purpose of the digital investigation was to validate [or invalidate] a specific rumor regarding an inappropriate relationship between Heatley and [a school system employee.]” Heatley has repeatedly denied the accusation and the costly investigation uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing.

The written findings of the investigation provided to the school system supported his denials. “An extensive examination and analysis of the data did NOT indicate an inappropriate relationship existed [past or present], ” the investigators found.

The investigators also found no evidence that board members used county computers or cellphones to disseminate the rumor. “The data indicates none of the Clayton County School Board members was responsible for ’spreading’ the rumor to either the public or media.”

The rumor was damaging the district’s ability to function and affecting Heatley’s reputation and his ability to lead the 51,000-student district, board chairwoman Pam Adamson said. “How do you put a dollar value on a man’s integrity and career?” Adamson said. “The man has been proven innocent yet this rumor was wreaking havoc on this man’s personal and professional life.”

—From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

39 comments Add your comment

Ron F.

February 15th, 2012
11:57 am

While they’re paying over 300k salary alone, 40k doesn’t seem like much, does it? The general attitude in Clayton is that you can’t trust anyone anymore, so there will be new rumors next week. One of the reasons I left there when I did was the way money was wasted by a board more concerned about politics than educating children.

Hugh Beaumont

February 15th, 2012
12:22 pm

So, if he did have a relationship, it was consensual. Wonder if he had it in the bathroom.

Dr. Proud Black Man

February 15th, 2012
12:23 pm

“The rumors about Heatley reached this blog, where several posters referenced a supposed central office confrontation. But when I asked posters to come forward and speak to reporters even off the record, no one did.”

Cowards or liars.

Hugh Beaumont

February 15th, 2012
12:31 pm

Authorizing the spending of 40k on unsubstantiated rumors to do forensic testing? LOL. Same old same old in Clayton.

tony

February 15th, 2012
12:59 pm

Clayton county Clayton county what a mess. it used to be a small quiet county, it was hardly ever on the news. now its on the news every night for all the wrong reasons. its a shame what happened to clayton, but it seems to be happening in most all the metro countiies now. when african americans started leaving the city for the burbs and taking control over the local county governments it was the end of the metro atlanta area. atlanta is a horrible place to live now and the only decent place to live around atlanta is way way north of the city.

Dr. Proud Black Man

February 15th, 2012
1:03 pm

“…when african americans started leaving the city for the burbs and taking control over the local county governments it was the end of the metro atlanta area.”

Yep, soon to be coming to YOUR neighborhood!

Hugh Beaumont

February 15th, 2012
1:09 pm

Too late, already came to my stone mountain neighborhood, fortunately I packed up and left once I noticed the Colt 45 empties lying in my yard. Now, there is a shooting, rape, or robbery reported weekly. Just par for the course.

tony

February 15th, 2012
1:10 pm

if you are a doctor and are successful and have money do you want to live in a majority black neighborhood? or have your children go to a majority black public school? no i didnt think so thats why all the affluent black people in this city move to predominatly white areas of town!! they dont want to live around a bunch of black people!! as soon as they get a chance they get the hell out!! why dont any of the professional atheletes in atlanta move to south atlanta or south dekalb or clayton county ??? hmmmm i wonder why

Dr. Proud Black Man

February 15th, 2012
1:16 pm

@tony

I live in pretty much a predominately black small rural county. Btw my son and daughter went to the school in my county, were HOPE scholars, AND kept their HOPE scholarships for all four years of their college matriculation. You know what they say about ASSuming don’t you?

catlady

February 15th, 2012
1:25 pm

Wouldn’t have spent that kind of money if a teacher was accused. With his salary he could have paid for his own “name clearing” investigation!

Hugh Beaumont

February 15th, 2012
1:32 pm

Ah, the hope. Love it, a way we figured out how to make poor dumb people pay for wealthy smart kids college education. Only in America.

You want the Truth

February 15th, 2012
1:45 pm

All you had to do was ask his wife. You could have saved 40K.

clayco

February 15th, 2012
2:35 pm

yea just ask his wife!!! There is a reason his wife left and moved back to LA!!!

What rock do you live under?

February 15th, 2012
2:39 pm

What rock do you live under, Maureen? Office romances are rampant everywhere there are human beings. Some offices tolerate and allow the employees to be open about their relationship and some don’t but office romances will always be here to stay.

Raise your hand if you met your husband or wife or girlfriend or boyfriend at work.

Yep.

Thought so.

Good Ma

what a sham

February 15th, 2012
4:51 pm

Pam Adamson is on a mission to rid the board of all anti-Heatley members. Spending more than $40,000 to find the source of a rumor is ridiculous. Teachers and other employees have been furloughed, they are paying back money that is rightfully theirs, and working in terrrible conditions. Yet, Heatley has the gall to say that “morale is ia personal issue.” Proving that the rumors are not true is a personal issue, not a county problem. Pam Adamson and the board members who supported spending that kind of money on foolishness will regret the decisions that they have made. Heatley makes $339,000 per year. Paying for his own investigation should not have been a hardship. It is time for the PSC to conduct an internal investigation. The problem continues to lie with the governance of the CCPS. This is definitely a low-blow to all the county employees who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of a loss of salary. If the board can spend $40,000 on an investigation, then it should not a dubious task to convert from paying teachers monthly to twice a month. After all, it is apparent that the interest is not needed. Also, makes you wonder: Is there really a budget deficit in the Clayton County Public School System?

a concerned citizen

February 15th, 2012
5:03 pm

Pam Adamson, how can you say that his ability to operate the county was being affected by the alleged rumor? I don’t know what rock you are hiding under, but all is not, and has not been well in Clayton County Public Schools since the arrival of Ed Heatley. Nepotism (family hirings, fraternity affiliations), harsh treatment of employees (principals’ meetings), and a total lack of concern for students has permeated this system. Several administrators have been demoted because of personal reasons. The code of ethics has been egregiously violated. If administrators and teachers were given the same due process that the superintendent was given, then I am sure that they would be employed today. But to deny an administrator and a teacher a contract for no reason is not right. I don’t understand how you can call yourself a servant of the people, yet you are devoid of compassion for the constituents that you represent. Remember that the constituents are also teachers and residents of Clayton County. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you are doing the right thing. As the chairwoman of the board, you should be concerned about the morale of the system’s employees. You do not work for Dr. Heatley. You work for the citizens of Clayton County.

C Jae of EAV

February 15th, 2012
5:16 pm

I read stories like this and I wonder to myself about people who rail on about all the evil that charter schools are raining down on the traditional public school model?

How much long will people be asked to sit and wait for this perpetual madness to end?

a concerned citizen

February 15th, 2012
5:31 pm

You described it correctly: Perpetual madness.

Grandmother's proverbial saying

February 15th, 2012
5:36 pm

Behind every rumor, is some truth.

Lee

February 15th, 2012
7:45 pm

Oversight of the system superintendent, including hiring/firing, is the single most important duty of the school board. Whenever there is an allegation of inappropriate conduct or unethical behavior by the superintendent, the board has a duty to act.

So, no Maureen, a simple denial would not suffice. That said:

- A four month investigation to forensically examine a few computers and cell phones at a cost of $40k does seem out of line. When I was auditing, I had our IT analysts run an investigation on an email server. Only took them a few hours.

- This investigation does not prove innocence. It simply says that the allegations could not be substantiated by a forensic examination of the computers.

- Paying money to find out if a board member started the rumor sounds like a witch hunt and is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds, IMHO.

- If 400 sexually explicit photographs were found on my company issued laptop, I would be very lucky if I were allowed to retire. I don’t understand why the board would let that issue slide.

Dekalbite

February 15th, 2012
8:32 pm

The indictment against Lewis is for using the county P-card to take a female employee on a trip during school time in which no county business was conducted. The charges go on to use the plural with respect to female employees. Maybe this school board was well aware of DeKalb’s predicament and wanted to make sure this was not happening in their county. Many DeKalb taxpayers wish the DeKalb BOE had been as vigilant.

Trash talk

February 15th, 2012
11:44 pm

Let me get this right; CCPS spent $40,000 to chase down a rumor and Pam supports the action. Ok. Now I understand why nearly 100 educators who have to participate in mandatory common core training cannot get paid. So, Pam let’s see if this is bad for morale…..3 Saturdays, 6 hours/Saturday, 100 educators (can’t get paid according to Heatley) x $25/hour = $45,000. Can’t find the money…really….let’s remember this is mandatory training, 18 hours, unpaid compensation. Where is a good lawyer when you need one…didn’t my contact days/time just get extended; didn’t my work conditions change????? Hummmmm…

Now that I think about it, maybe we should get rid of Heatley for treating us like slaves or endentured servants, well, we have gotten rid of teachers for inappropriate reference to slaves in their teaching. Making people work for free….shouldnt something be wrong with that?

V for Vendetta

February 16th, 2012
7:54 am

Maureen,

Lee is absolutely correct. There are some far more serious issues to be discussed here. Why did it cost $40,000? I have a friend who works in IT and can pretty much do anything and everything with a computer, and I doubt that he would require $40k in compensation for investigating some computers. This seems like an unusually large figure. Lee’s other point about the pornography was also correct: that would not stand for one minute in Cobb, North Fulton, or Gwinnett. Why does Clayton (or APS, or South Fulton) seem to be the type of place where such lapses are tolerated?

GM,

You’re right. Office romances are here to stay. Sometimes they’re the hottest ones anyway. :-)

Dr. PBM,

I’ve often struggled with how to explain the cultural shift problems that we have around Atlanta, but it seems there is no simple explanation that does not involve black culture. I have stated many times on this blog that I do NOT believe there is any sort of deeply genetic difference between races. (Race itself is largely a myth considering we are all homo sapiens and what we call “race” is actually just variances in appearance.) That having been said, I have a hard time looking at a county like Dekalb, which was once a prosperous leader in education, and not thinking that some of that county’s decline has to be based on culture differences. I have not read one piece of academic literature on this subject–though I have searched for it–because I feel that liberal academics are too afraid of what they might find. Just a thought.

my personal computer

February 16th, 2012
8:26 am

Yes Heatley has to go. He has brought too much unnecessary drama and “heat” to the county. He will feel the heat when most schools do not make AYP. How will Pam feel then?

karma is for real

February 16th, 2012
8:34 am

Heatley will meet the same fate as Victor Hill. When he thinks he is gotten away scot free, he will suddenly be snatched back to face the music. The county will be broke after it is forced to settle lawsuits for unfair termination, unlawful wage reduction, and attorney’s fees.

karma is for real

February 16th, 2012
8:37 am

Would all the board members who voted for the extension of Heatley’s contract until 2014, make yourselves known? We want to see who these brilliant people are. Regardless, your political futures are over in Clayton County.

wake up everybody

February 16th, 2012
8:40 am

Pam Adamson, your family may have left a legacy in this county, but the people who reside here now don’t know your family. You are not beyond reproach.

let's talk

February 16th, 2012
8:58 am

I do not condone starting rumors, but why is there a lead counselor in Clayton County Public Schools? The position pays $78,000 per year and the person is housed at the central office. The lead counselor does not have several years of experience nor a doctorate degree. How can he be allowed to create positions during times of budget cuts? He has a family member who is the parent liaison at a high school. Aren’t you supposed to be degreed to fill this position? A lot of unanswered questions. The employees of Clayton County Public schools, parents, and stakeholders deserve answers.

V for Vendetta

February 16th, 2012
9:36 am

Maybe they should focus on Clayton’s strip searching drama that just popped up.

I mean, seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!

Who works at these holes? I’m sorry, citizens of Clayton, but your county is a laughing stock full of morally bankrupt moron who are more concerned about the size of rims on their cars than the are the education of your children. What an absolute mess. Clayton used to be good, but then it went under. Dekalb used to be good, but then it went under. Hmmmmm . . . .

Know A Little Something

February 16th, 2012
9:42 am

I typically enjoy the public flogging this little arrogant man and his “team” takes but at this point as a taxpayer my concern is this: his ability to lead CCPS was not impaired by the rumor, the system failed to make academic progress prior to the rumor for almost two years. I assume the systems performance this past year was because of the rumor? Well I would use anything I could find to distract attention from the real issue, what is he doing to turn this system around from the continual abysmal performance? The personnel within Clayton County Schools are not afraid of speaking out, they are afraid of the repercussions for doing so. This place does not let go easily, almost like a stalking, jilted lover, if I can’t have you then no one else will want you when I finished while telling you at the same time that you can leave. Most want to escape with their reputations intact and in order to do so they keep working and when the first door or window cracks or shatters they run. This man knows nothing about curriculum and instruction, he runs the system based on what he and Dr. Adamson seem to think is appropriate or that he is doing an excellent job of financial management. I’m certain that he is, by the time all of the wise, knowledgeable and experienced folks finish the marathon to get out the system will have no veterans, hence lower operating costs. Sounds great, well if no one in the engine room is there to operat it the ship very well won’t sail and if abandoned mid voyage runs aground or floats aimlessly hence the current performance of CCPS. The rumors probably wouldn’t have started if he did not provide fuel and fan the fires with questionable conduct. I can say one positive thing for him, he has led more people to Christ than any superintendent I’ve known, most of the personnel in the system are praying and trusting in God to either help them get out or to get him out! They can overcome the reported deficits in the budget by allowing those who want to pay to get out the opportunity to do so, I am certain that initiative alone will garner several million alone. There is a real story here if you can see past the smoke and mirrors!

let's talk

February 16th, 2012
9:56 am

@ V for Vendetta: Everyone in Clayton is not crazy, as the super would like for the public to think.

Maureen Downey

February 16th, 2012
10:06 am

TO all, Here is a link to the story about the strip search lawsuit in Clayton.

If the facts in the lawsuit are true, someone made serious errors in judgment. These kids were 12.
“In the presence of the vice principal, school resource officer and three students, (the victim) was ordered to take off his pants, shirt, socks and underwear to a point where he was fully nude. Stripped naked, in the presence of school personnel and students, no contraband was found,” according to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday.
Read more: http://www.ajc.com/news/clayton/clayton-county-school-sued-1351340.html

Dr. John Trotter

February 16th, 2012
10:10 am

Sam King… Sam King… Sam King… I bet you wish that you had listened to me now. Sam King… Sam King… Sam King…

Hey Pam Adamsom, if you guys had hired Sam King like I had suggested, you wouldn’t be having all of this mess going on in Clayton County now. Sometimes school boards are outright stubborn. Too bad for the kids and the citizens that you guys were stubborn and brought in (with the sagacious wisdom of Glenn Brock — Not!) Edmond Heatley of California, a failed superintendent in Chino Valley, California.

You had someone whom you knew right under your nose…capable (Georgia Superintendent of the Year), kind, and honest. Sam King… You will always be haunted by the bad Glenn Brock recommendation. By the way, who died and made Glenn Brock the King of Superintendent Selections? So far, in my opinion, his selections have been awful (Michael Hinojosa in Cobb, Robert Avossa in Fulton, Edmond Heatley in Clayton, just to name a few). At best, they have been very disappointing recommendations. I am now wondering if Glenn Brock had anything to do with recommending that cat down in Macon. That superintendent has been a disaster!

Oh, by the way, after coming off a picket in the pouring down rain in DeKalb County (on systematic cheating on tests and bullying — see MACE website and Channel 11 with Keith Whitney), the MACE Picket Squad showed up at the Clayton County School Board meeting well before it started…in the Spring of 2009. In this meeting, the school board was contemplating hiring Edmond Heatley. We engaged in a very pointed picket, warning the school board that this will be a disastrous pick. It has been. The television media and the AJC well covered this picket (with photos and video on the evening news). We warned Chairperson Alieka Anderson and the other board members that Edmond Heatley would be a disaster. He has been. Where were the other unions when MACE vocally and publically took a strong stand against Heatley? Hmm.

I don’t make up these things. They are a matter of history. The Clayton County Board of Education was warned about Edmond Heatley before it hired him. Too bad. Could have had Dr. Sam King who by all accounts was a great Assistant Principal, Principal, and Assistant Principal in Clayton County before he was hired about five or six years ago to be Superintendent of Rockdale County. He is not perfect, as no superintendent is. But, he is heads and shoulders above Edmond Heatley. In fact, his superintendent-colleagues in Georgia selected him the Georgia Superintendent of the Year. Clayton County could have had him. Word was that he was willing to come back to Clayton County to try to help clean up the mess. Now it is even messier than ever.

http://www.theteachersadvocate.com

http://www.georgiateachersspeakout.com

Hmmm, let's see....

February 18th, 2012
12:21 pm

He’s too distraught to do his job because of the “rumors.” So he can resign under duress and the county will pay out his contract for the next two years. How convenient. And btw, if no one came forward to the ajc, it’s because job loss was the threat of the day. Also, too bad Pam forgot where her loyalties should be.

let's talk

February 19th, 2012
4:46 pm

Ohhh… so that is his game plan. He wants to bail out before students take the CRCT. Scores will not be good. He played Pam and the rest of the board members. Roughly 1,000,000 to do nothing. What a shame for students and employees.

let's talk

February 19th, 2012
4:47 pm

How can anyone lose a job if the truth is being told?

Know A Little Something

February 20th, 2012
6:59 am

When you have a school board that refuses to act as a governing body independent of the superintendent and allows every complaint against him to fall on deaf ears what recourse do you have for reporting problems? Look at Atlanta Public Schools, from the classroom to Human Resources the system operated to protect it’s “little secret” and retaliation was the rule of the day.

let's talk

February 20th, 2012
10:18 am

Yep, the same culture of fear exists in the CCPS system. Heatley rules the county with an iron fist Employees need to show solidarity and p ack board meetings to demand that their voices are heard. The PSC is obligated to investigate any suspicions of unethical or manipulative practices. Blacks prey on blacks in the professional arena as well with their insidious actions

money talks

February 20th, 2012
2:52 pm

Why aren’t employees paid twice per month in Clayco? The Dekalb superintendent made revising the pay scale a priority. Evil, selfish, and devoid of all aspects of compassion describes our leader.