DeKalb’s Eugene Walker intends to pass hat to pay for continued legal fight over school board suspension

With the unanimous vote of the newly reconstituted DeKalb school board this week, any suspended board members who want to fight their ouster were set adrift. They now have to front their own legal costs in court.

Former school board chair Eugene Walker intends to do just that.

But he is seeking donations to defray his legal battle. In a post on this blog about the importance of challenging the state law, Walker explained, “If this unconstitutional act is to stand, then what is next? It will only be a matter of time before another constitutional right will be taken away by another wayward and self-perpetuating politico under the guise of the greater good. Minorities should not feel secure if contrived allegations from anonymous sources with hidden agendas can go to private agencies and to have their civil rights stolen away. This cannot and shall not be allowed to stand.”

Ronald Carlson, a professor emeritus at the University of Georgia law school, told the AJC’s Ty Tagami that the 2011 law allowing the governor to remove school board members based on a probationary ruling by SACS rather than any proven wrongdoing likely will be questioned again if applied elsewhere, so “there’s probably a public interest in this case going forward.”

The AJC’s Tagami reports:

“I can’t afford to do this out of my own pocket,” said Walker, who was suspended Feb. 25. “I’m going to ask people who believe as I do — one person, one vote — to give whatever financial support they can.”

Before Deal replaced two-thirds of the nine-member board, attorney Bob Wilson was hired to represent Walker and the district — and by implication the old school board — in the showdown with the governor and the Georgia Board of Education.

Wilson’s bill for the lawsuit and other services over seven weeks through March 1 came to more than $164,000  Wilson, a former DeKalb district attorney who helped lead a governor’s investigation into test cheating in Atlanta and Dougherty County, said he could not comment about his future role in the DeKalb case “because of ethical considerations.” But Walker said Wilson could not continue representing him because he’s “the school system’s lawyer.” Walker said he is seeking new counsel.

The lawsuit contends the Georgia General Assembly handed the governor unconstitutional powers to remove elected school board members. The governor acted under a 2011 law that authorizes intervention in districts placed on probation by their accreditation agency, in this case the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Walker said he’s “not eager” to serve on the school board again either and might retire if he wins. “I’m not fighting to keep a position on the board,” he said. “My fight is to eliminate what I see as an unconstitutional law.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

130 comments Add your comment

DekalbParent

March 23rd, 2013
11:21 am

Only days ago Walker said he was going to pay the legal fees himself. Bet he gets the NAACP to pony up fees for him.

Chamblee Dad

March 23rd, 2013
11:46 am

“Walker said he’s “not eager” to serve on the school board again either and might retire if he wins. “I’m not fighting to keep a position on the board,” he said. “My fight is to eliminate what I see as an unconstitutional law.”

Walker = Patriot, a defender of the Constitution & civil rights . . . or . . . seflish jerk who has 1 – already taken (along with the other 6 who voted with him) $164K from a cash-strapped system (a problem he contributed to) thus essentially stealing education from the classroom sof DeKalb County; and 2 – prolonging a distraction while the system tries to get back on course.

I know my answer. If he won’t resign & drop the suit, along with the remaining 4, he will reveal what he really thinks of education, and confirming what people have said for years. He should be forced to drive from school to school, visit each classroom & load up something everywhere until it totals $164K. The others should joing them – load up a van of shame.

“Sorry little Mary (stunned Title 1 school 1st grader) I need that book more than you do, so hand it over.” Followed by “Ok, you 4, round up all the pencils while we’re at it, we’ve got to get heading to Redan, I’ve got a couple of computers to load up, I think we’re going to need a bigger truck.” Then, “let’s get up north, I can’t wait to clean them out.”

Centrist

March 23rd, 2013
11:48 am

Why does Walker think it is necessary to continue to be a party of this litigation since the U.S. District Court judge asked the Georgia Supreme Court to consider the constitutional questions and it was docketed this week. Walker is quoted as saying “I’m not fighting to keep a position on the board,” he said. “My fight is to eliminate what I see as an unconstitutional law.” If the Supreme Court is already set to consider it, why the need/want for legal donations?

And before too many pretend lawyers post here that they, too, think the law is unconstitutional – this was left out above – Ronald Carlson, a professor emeritus at the University of Georgia law school, said the outcome is uncertain but that he likes the governor’s odds.

Bernie

March 23rd, 2013
11:51 am

I am not so quick to join this ongoing MOB like action of denouncement of Mr.Walker’s claim. These type of actions have always presented themselves so many times historically before as popular right decisions. Somewhere down the line , that popular stance has been rejected by the courts as wrong morally, socially and constitutionally.

I do not agree with all of Mr.Walker’s claims nor his actions or decisions as a school board Leader. Nor have I ever agreed with any politician or leader about their claims of doing the right thing until I see its outcome. That my friends reveals the true intent.

However as American I do support his right, to Fight what he believe as right! Freedom is never FREE! someone always has to Pay. whether it be in Blood or in money or treasure the cost is always higher than one expects. We should be proud as a people for him to have this opportunity.
This situation could have easily have happened to either of US. Maybe next time it will. But for now I am willing to allow this thing to work itself through the courts and lets see what happens. We may or may not be ALL surprised at the decision rendered.

Meanwhile lets See what exactly what Mr.Thurmond and these new Board members are going to do. there have been a lot of promises made and a lot of platitudes bestowed all around. We should now start to see the BEEF!

May I remind all of you, Mr.Thurmond promised a written detailed plan that was supposed to have been presented by him last week. There has been nothing but Silence here and from him about it. Let us see, if this too will be a part of this ongoing saga as we move forward.

Mr.Thurmond we are still WAITING…Patiently!

Chamblee Dad

March 23rd, 2013
11:55 am

Forgive typos, a little PO’d. “classrooms of DeKalb” “the others should join him.” OK back to my Saturday with the kids – apparently we’ve got a show in the den to put on – priorities. My 5 year old has roles for us all. We need props & costumes, she has the script.

ABC

March 23rd, 2013
11:56 am

Yeah, I *could* get behind him if that was TRULY his motive. But it is not. He’s a power drunk fool who cannot believe someone dare to put an end to his corruption.

George Chidi

March 23rd, 2013
11:57 am

I strongly suspect that the NAACP — either the state group or the moribund DeKalb organization — doesn’t have the money. I had assumed that he could find a hungry young attorney looking to build a reputation to work the case pro bono.

The problem, though, is that whoever takes that case pro bono will be immediately and permanently associated with Walker — who, frankly, may turn out again to be engaged in questionable practices once the board’s ledgers are properly audited. That attorney will also be associated with the wrong side of popular opinion on replacing the school board, and if you’re trying to build a rep, that’s a bad way to start. So … Walker probably will have to cut a check.

I look forward to trolling his Kickstarter campaign.

The irony, of course, is that Walker’s view of the law may be correct. SACS is like Moody’s and S&P, or the NCAA. They can issue opinions, and we have decided to defer to those opinions. It’s reasonable to question SACS motivations or whether the standards of conduct are applied selectively and reasonable to argue that a democracy shouldn’t defer to authority outside of its own control. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

But the facts laid out by SACS aren’t in meaningful dispute. The board was dysfunctional. Accounting standards that could allow millions in textbook funding to simply disappear for a time are an open invitation to fraud. The school system spends twice the money that its neighbors spend on administrative expenses … with what to show for it? Nepotism and political hiring appear to be the rule. People are going to jail for fraud, and the board didn’t have the skills to prevent more from occurring — two of the deposed board members lack college degrees, for crying out loud.

Walker is defending this, in effect, with an appeal.

I look at the people who were willing to serve, when Deal called for nominations. After weeding through the jokers and the clearly unqualified, there were still dozens of people with really stunning qualifications. These are people with jobs — some with very well paid jobs — elite academic qualifications and tremendous working credentials, willing to lay a lot of that down to serve … as long as they didn’t have to go through a campaign to get there — the fundraising, the careful language, the entreaty of district kingmakers. That list would have been longer still, had the controversy around removing elected board members not kept other qualified people from emerging.

I look at that list, and then I look at who is serving right now in office in DeKalb County … and I wonder what it would take to make public service here attractive enough to get more them to toss their hat in the ring. I think we can do better.

Chamblee Dad

March 23rd, 2013
11:59 am

@Centrist – I had Carlson in law school, great teacher. I agree – watch him – he has insight that I think even lawyers (like myself) don’t always possess.

Maximus Desimus Aurelius

March 23rd, 2013
12:00 pm

$164K over 7 weeks….as usual in these types of proceedings, the ONLY winners are the lawyers!!!

Shark Punch!

March 23rd, 2013
12:05 pm

“Walker explained, ‘If this unconstitutional act is to stand, then what is next? It will only be a matter of time…’ ”

OH NOES, The Slippery Slope! People need to understand that “unconstitutional” doesn’t mean, “I don’t agree with it.”

Name One

March 23rd, 2013
12:13 pm

Gene Walker has at least six relatives in some form who work for the school system.

Also, he has a very, very interesting past as a member of the State Parole Board. Taxpayers spent a whole lot of money on Gene before.

Don’t forget that it was current BOE member Marshall Orson and others from the Fernbank community that supported Walker in his re-election effort.

WilieJo

March 23rd, 2013
12:15 pm

Walker worries about a “wayward and self perpetuating politico”. He might get a mirror for that one.

It sure seems to me that Walker’s time on the stage is gone. He did such a crappy job that the governor had to get involved in a politically dangerous, no win situation for the good of the county and the state. Walker humiliated himself, his family and his friends.

Now that his failure is so public, Walker has reached for “voting rights” as a dependable lever to stir black anger. Walker is desperately trying to distract, dissemble and re-direct the conversation from his own failure and incompetence. It seems that many of the blacks in the county see through Walker’s tactics and are instead interested in the schools and the kids.

Walker should go away and should go now.

No one ought to pony up a cent to prolong his exit from the public stage.

Funny

March 23rd, 2013
12:18 pm

Maybe he can pass the hat to get the money to repay the school system all the money he “stole” from the students with his selfishness.

What's Best for Kids?

March 23rd, 2013
12:22 pm

@Shark Punch! It wasn’t constitutional until recently.
Crooked Deal changed the constitution to fit his needs.
Did the Dekalb Board stink? Yup. Did they need to step down? Absolutely. But changing the constitution to make it happen is underhanded.

Centrist

March 23rd, 2013
12:28 pm

@ What’s Best – The Constitution was not changed by Deal. The elected House and Senate chambers of the legislature passed a bill that Deal signed. It has been ruled constitutional by a U.S. District Court judge, who in turn forwarded it to the Georgia Supreme Court for review.

Your partisanship has blinded you to the facts.

Lee

March 23rd, 2013
12:32 pm

“Minorities should not feel secure if contrived allegations from anonymous sources with hidden agendas can go to private agencies and to have their civil rights stolen away. “

Sorry, if you’re going to try to use the race card, you have to get one of those brightly colored “african” style robes and funny little hat.

BTW, I actually think Walker has a legitimate case as to the constitutionality of the law. Too bad he’s a race baiting idiot.

Ella

March 23rd, 2013
12:59 pm

I agree that Dr. Walker has every right to pursue this. However, this is about his civil rights and not the children’s civil rights so I think it was always wrong to use the school system’s money. However, there used to be a policy years ago when I worked for DCS which said if charges are brought against you as a school employee you have a right to have your legal fees paid by the school system.

I do not know if this is still on the books but if it is that is probable why Lewis has had his fees paid.

I think the problem with the removed school board is that charges have not actually been filed. If charges where filed then they also may be able to get their legal fees paid for. Again I am not for sure if this policy is still on the books. I have been gone from DeKalb for many years.

I do know if I have to hire an attorney as a teacher because my civil rights have been violated then I have to pay my own attorney fees. If this means so much to Dr. Walker I feel sure he can find the money to pay his attorney fees without passing around the hat. He is as capable financially as any of us if we were in this situation. Maybe Sembler can come through for him again.

What's Best for Kids?

March 23rd, 2013
1:01 pm

@ Centrist,
I stand corrected; however, the constitution was recently changed, regardless, yes?
And you don’t know anything about my partisanship; you would probably be very surprised, actually.

What's Best for Kids?

March 23rd, 2013
1:04 pm

I’m also sure that our Governor readily skipped over to sign the law, too, with glee in his heart and a smile on his face.

ABC

March 23rd, 2013
1:08 pm

What’s best: what I really hate is that this idiot has forced me side with Deal on this one. And dang I really HATE being on his side.

WilieJo

March 23rd, 2013
1:14 pm

Deal had no joy in handling the mess of the DCSS. Replacing the boobs on the Dekalb School board, however necessary, was not a political win for Deal. It was the action of an adult leader who did the right thing.

The easy, politically advantageous thing would have been to turn this back on the mess and leave the kids to the disaster that is DeKalb county.

Madge From Accounting

March 23rd, 2013
1:18 pm

Bernie is right — and as usual right on time. Anyone seen THIS article by the AJC concerning the same topic? It was only a matter of time, however – even I’m surprised at the speed of this one:

Deal seeks more state clout over school districts

=======

It has been ruled constitutional by a U.S. District Court judge, who in turn forwarded it to the Georgia Supreme Court for review.

A) no it hasn’t — He didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the law
B) He forwarded the law to the GA Supremes BECAUSE of the issue of Constiutionality.

Madge From Accounting

March 23rd, 2013
1:20 pm

However, this is about his civil rights and not the children’s civil rights

Its about the constitutionality of the LAW. Is it LEGAL to usurp a person’s rights to vote in or OUT a school official?

What's Best for Kids?

March 23rd, 2013
1:43 pm

@ABC: What is the most unfortunate is that the voters readily accepted the foolishness that went on at the school board. Unfortunate, too, that the board neglected the students’ best interest and placed their own agendas first. I completely agree that the board needed to be removed, but changing the law to make it happen is frightening to me. It is a slippery slope.

bu2

March 23rd, 2013
1:46 pm

“However, this is about his civil rights and not the children’s civil rights”

Actually its about the voters’ civil rights. Walker is claiming a property right to the board slot, but its the voters’ rights that have been taken away. Does the state have enough of an interest to override that? I think they figured if they had removed the 3 new board members, the state would have lost on that issue as 5 of the 9 board members would have been elected in response to board problems, replacing older members.

This won’t be the last time the law is tested. It would be good if the state doesn’t just spend the opposition into oblivion. You would think most of the work would have been done for the first court case. Like Carlson in the article, I think there is a public interest in seeing the case tried.

Clutch Cargo

March 23rd, 2013
1:51 pm

The guys a (suspended) politician.If someone gives him money,that person should have to disclose and Walker should have to disclose its origins completely and promptly.These are campaign contributions (IMHO) and should be treated as such.If he prevails in his legal fight,you can bet that whoever gave him money will want to be repaid in favors,contracts or job appointments.

Can’t let this one slide by people!

bu2

March 23rd, 2013
1:52 pm

As for people claiming partisanship, Don McChesney, who by every indication is a Republican, and from his blogs, despises Walker, thinks the law is unconstitutional.

Its disturbing to me how many people think the ends justifies the means. I think there is a state interest here, but its a close call and IMO the law should only be used when the voters aren’t doing anything about the problem.

Private Citizen

March 23rd, 2013
2:07 pm

Clever Hindi movie about suing God when insurance claim is denied due to “An act of God.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50-Ri8gRFm4

Private Citizen

March 23rd, 2013
2:08 pm

note: In the movie, the character represents himself in court.

WilieJo

March 23rd, 2013
3:12 pm

The court has rejected Walker’s ridiculous claim that he had a property right in his board seat. He ought to be laughed out of the county for that whopper.

DeKalb may get what some of you want and the state turn its back on the slow moving trainwreck that is DeKalb County. Day by day I understand why Dunwoody and Brookhaven need their own school systems.

ShooShee

March 23rd, 2013
3:31 pm

I hate to agree with Walker, but on this one, I do think he’ll win. The sad thing is, Walker was elected by the might and power of the Fernbank voters by and large and those same voters certainly had the might and power to force a recall, yet chose not to. If they had followed the proper procedures in place, whereby the voters themselves cast out an elected official, there would be no lawsuit. That is purely Constitutional and American – by the people. This Governor working with a powerful leader of a psuedo-private accrediting corporation – not so sure… Think about it: 10 years from now it could be a very different Gov and a very different school board. It is very much a slippery slope.

Private Citizen

March 23rd, 2013
3:44 pm

How you pay for the best attorney – get the family to mortgage the barber shop http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuO_AXUqI0E#t=53m11s

BC

March 23rd, 2013
4:39 pm

This is old news, stop giving this man a platform. If he wants to challenge the law, good, but this is old news…move on!!!

I dropped my fried twinkie

March 23rd, 2013
4:44 pm

Screw him and DeKalb County.

I dropped my fried twinkie

March 23rd, 2013
4:49 pm

What this country needs now more than ever
Separate but Equal
Segregation please. Start it out Equal and then let the blacks run their crap into the ground while not hurting the white kids in the process.

Doris M

March 23rd, 2013
5:39 pm

@I dropped my fried twinkie: What kind of idiot are you? Crawl back under your rock and keep out of serious matters.

I dropped my fried twinkie

March 23rd, 2013
5:54 pm

Doris M basically it is already happening but it isn’t fair to parents that care about education.
parents that really care are putting their kids in Private schools as fast as they can. Let the ghetto minded school boards, parents and students run their crap in the ground and not hurt the good students of counties like Clayton and DeKalb.

Dekalb74

March 23rd, 2013
5:57 pm

Someone suggested that the school district bill each suspended board member for their equal portion of the outrageous Wilson attorney bill.

That would be about $30,000 each. They need to pay the freight on their bad decisions before hiring a new attorney.

Betsy Parks

March 23rd, 2013
6:23 pm

If anyone wants to send Governor Deal a “Big Thank You!” you can do it easily at http://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form

Pride and Joy

March 23rd, 2013
6:39 pm

Pass the hat?
That’s the best laugh I’ve had all week. Walker, Mighty Walker, reduced to panhandling.
Mwa ha ha ha ha.
And the best comment yet is
“He’s a power drunk fool who cannot believe someone dare to put an end to his corruption.”
You got it.

Pride and Joy

March 23rd, 2013
6:45 pm

Another great comment “Now that his failure is so public, Walker has reached for “voting rights” as a dependable lever to stir black anger.”
That’s right. The race baiter. The race card player. Walker messed with the wrong guy in Governor Deal. Walker played the race card and Governor Deal beat him at his own game. Love it.
Now Walker wants to panhandle and beg for money for his corrupt revenge attempt to get back on the board. We’ll see just how many friends and family he has now.
Ha hahah.
Where are all thsoe friends and family going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars for Walker’s defense?
He can’t steal from the public taxpayer in Dekalb anymore.
This is rich.

Catlady

March 23rd, 2013
7:48 pm

Ella, you are right but it has to be as part of your job description. Dekalb BOE should immediately sever itself from the defense of CLewis, as what he is charged with was most certainly NOT part of his job description.

Most dangerous is vesting any credence in SACS and its self-serving power plays.

Dekalb Teacher

March 23rd, 2013
7:51 pm

Walker is as phony as they come. If he was so concerned about the constitutionality of the law, why didn’t he say anything until it was him who was replaced. He thinks he is so righteous. Why then does DeKalb not use the Social Security System which they would have to contribute to but refuse to contribute a dime to teacher retirement. How fair was that Walker? How fair is it that my pay goes down yearly, but I teach far more students than before and my support is far less. You and the school board turned your back on the teachers and students of the county. When the economy was in better shape, you were begging for teachers, then it turned into ‘you should be glad you have a job” from one of the board members. I know after spending 7 years in this district, I cannot afford to continue to serve the students there and will move to another district that knows how to run a school district. So Dr. Walker, maybe you should become a teacher in DeKalb now and see what you all have done to this district. Then see if you have a reason to cry.

Bob Morris

March 23rd, 2013
8:40 pm

Kudos to Bob Wilson, one sharp guy who knows how to work the “system” to the max.
Working for DeKalb County government from 1978 as Public Defender and District Attorney until he resigned as DA to run for Governor, he had enough years with DeKalb to collect a pension and health benefits as a retiree to this day With his current bill to DeKalb, $164,000 for seven days work, he’ll make more than he did for about 3 years salary with the county.
He represented the previous school board, and as such is not suing the county, just the state, where he was a Special Assistant Attorney General, compensation unknown.
Just the facts.

John

March 23rd, 2013
8:49 pm

He should walk away. He should be ashame of how he served on that board then to go begging for money to pay his legal fees. Seriously! If he cares about the students in Dekalb he won’t make them lose money on legal bills to fight him in court when that money could be better spent. This man only cares for himself.

sam123

March 23rd, 2013
9:32 pm

Shame, shame, shame for all the money that was spent on the lawsuit. I am a retired teacher that taught for many years in Dekalb in elementary schools. Every summer in August, I would go to the local Walmart and buy pencils, crayons, scissors, notebooks, folders, plastic boxes for all of my students. Some students did not come with supplies but supplies were always there waiting for them. As the year went by I replenished pencils and crayons as needed. Most teachers at my Title I school made this trip to local stores every summer. We never complained…we just did it. And to think of all the money that has been wasted! When paper supplies were gone, we went to Office Depot and bought our own paper. Oh yes…and the trips to teacher stores. This was done with continuous cuts in pay and no more payments in our 403B. This was done with fulough day cuts when school started and going to work early weeks before because weren’t allowed in the schools on the fulough days before school starts. The only way to keep perservering was to focus on the students and we felt that this job was our ministry….serving our students. Please pray for your teachers that they can continue to perservere and focus on their students. They are your heroes.

Pride and Joy

March 23rd, 2013
10:02 pm

Sam 123, please hook up with a church to meet the needs of your students.
My parents’ church as a school supply drive every year. Employees at businesses do the same: Delta, Coke.
And Wal-Mart has affordable copy paper — less than $3 a ream. Office Depot is high priced. Big Lots has great deals on school supplies — even lower than Wal-Mart.
Ask the PTA at your school to help.
Good luck and THANK YOU for what you do.

Once Again

March 23rd, 2013
10:05 pm

I wonder if his hat has a toilet seat attached to make “donating” a bit more comfortable?

Private Citizen

March 23rd, 2013
11:34 pm

sam123, Thank you.

Atlanta Media Guy

March 23rd, 2013
11:36 pm

I can not believe the AJC gave this guy column inches to ask for money. Did Eugene pay for the ad. How is this news, on the day the printed edition gets the highest circulation. Dr. Walker for the sake of the students…go away!