John Barge: No plans now to enforce anti-campaign laws against school systems

Attorney General Sam Olens this afternoon sent a promised letter to state School Superintendent John Barge, outlining how to enforce state prohibitions on the use of public resources on referendum campaigns.

In other words, Olens outlined how sanctions might be applied against local school boards that are making themselves heard in opposition to the Nov. 6 ballot issue on charter schools. (Or for the measure, let us hasten to add.)

Read the letter here. The courts are one remedy, Olens wrote. The withholding of state funds is another. But then the attorney general wrote this – the emphasis is ours:

In the absence of specific facts, it is difficult to determine which mechanism – if any – ought to be considered for use. I will note, however, that it appears highly unlikely that any substantial state funds have been directly expended for the purpose of electoral advocacy.

It is more likely that potential violations would include expenditure of other public resources: employee time, website postings and the like….[F]or that reason, it may be advisable to focus any enforcement efforts on continuing noncompliance with the law, rather than seeking to recover indeterminate and likely de minimis past misuse of resources….

Depending on the facts of a particular case, unauthorized use of public resources may create a risk of private litigation against the local school entity, and illegal use of public resources for political advocacy may also constitute a violation of the Ethics in Government Act.

Barge, an opponent of the charter school measure, immediately dispatched copies of Olens’ letter to the state’s 180 school superintendents, emphasizing a single sentence with this cover note:

Attached is a letter from Attorney General Sam Olens that further outlines the use of public funding in political advocacy. Mr. Olens notes that it is “highly unlikely that substantial state funds have been directly expended for the purpose of electoral advocacy” regarding the charter school amendment.

Based on the Attorney General’s advice, I do not plan to take any action at this point to enforce the law regarding improper use of state funds by local districts. Please distribute the letter to any parties you deem appropriate.

One additional note: Mike Berlon, chairman of the state Democratic party, last week wrote a letter to Olens wondering if state prohibitions on the use of public resources in campaigns – outlined for Barge by the attorney general – also applied to Gov. Nathan Deal, a proponent of the charter school measure.

Olens responded to Berlon’s letter today, with a letter that included this:

Our October 3 letter provided timely advice at our client’s direct request after our client was threatened with litigation. This is the role of this office. It is not the role of this office to provide legal advice to non-clients seeking to inject partisan politics into a strictly legal issue.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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35 comments Add your comment

Mitch

October 12th, 2012
6:06 pm

Do not plan to enforce the law. That’s terrific. I hope this yahoo doesn’t expect to ever enforce any other laws either.

honested

October 12th, 2012
6:30 pm

Poor sam, caught in the middle.

He can do the right thing for the Citizens and leave the Superintendent alone…

Or he can do the wrong thing and dance to the tune of those financing the Charter Takeover Campaign.

Doc

October 12th, 2012
6:45 pm

> It is not the role of this office to provide legal advice to non-clients seeking to inject partisan politics into a strictly legal issue

What a partisan hack Sammy boy is!

Kris

October 12th, 2012
7:25 pm

Sounds like another shady DEAL and Sam Olens hiding behind the Sovereign Immunity Law.?

Yep deal is as guilty as everyone else in this whole mess…

@ cc….Next time you use your TURKEY fryer…be careful. Gave the number to 911 handy.

Impeach DEAL
Re-elect President OBAMA.

Shar

October 12th, 2012
7:28 pm

Honested, I agree. Mr. Olens is caught between outright partisans who expect him to use his office to promote their agenda and common decency. Tough needle to thread.

Mary Elizabeth

October 12th, 2012
8:10 pm

If this sad situation is not indicative of the fact that the Constitutional Amendment is probably more political than educational, I don’t know what it would take to alert the voting public to that very real possibility.

Fear is an ugly thing, especially when it is perpetuated in the public domain, and it comes hand in hand with abuse of power. And, abuse of power is more likely to happen when dissenting voices are stiflied in dissenting. Sad. Sad. Sad. Especially because this is happening in the arena of education, which should be free of politics and where enlightenment, not fear, should prevail.

yuzeyurbrane

October 12th, 2012
9:11 pm

The original Olens letter had its desired chilling effect on free speech. Olens has now stuck his finger in the air and determined he is pissing off a lot of future voters and he should stop now. What a hoe!

td

October 12th, 2012
9:34 pm

Let me see if I have this right. According to the AG, state law says elected officials can not advocate for constitutional amendments on official government web sites. Then why is the heck do we pay for government websites if not to hear the opinions of our elected officials? Makes no sense to me.

Kris

October 12th, 2012
9:57 pm

@ td….Question, if any of our elected officials had anything to say other than the truth would you believe them.

Ms Deals little boy nattie speaks with forked tong….or the backside of his face…or hand not taking payola..

No offense Just sayin….

G Mare

October 12th, 2012
10:09 pm

Truly a “mell of a hess.” Vote NO on the amendment, please.

cc

October 12th, 2012
10:16 pm

The pro-amendment folks are working; I got two phone calls in the past two days asking my support. They don’t think they’re dead YET!

cc

October 12th, 2012
10:19 pm

“Fear is an ugly thing, especially when it is perpetuated in the public domain, and it comes hand in hand with abuse of power. And, abuse of power is more likely to happen when dissenting voices are stiflied in dissenting. Sad. Sad. Sad.”

Dang! I got this far before I realized you weren’t talking about Obama!

td

October 12th, 2012
10:38 pm

cc

October 12th, 2012
10:16 pm

They have been blasting all the county RP FB pages as well. The problem they are unwilling to answer some basic questions when I ask. They keep trying to say that this will give more parental control but can not answer the questions as pose to their statement how does this give parents more control? More control over the money? discipline? money? No answer.

Ginerva

October 12th, 2012
10:54 pm

The Pro amendment faction has hired media people to run their facebook pages and troll the blogs. The people doing this don’t always know the answers to the questions, because THEY DON’T LIVE HERE! What does that tell you? VOTE NO!!!

Sadly, one facebook page has many positive comments from parents with special needs kids at Georgia Cyber Academy. They know all about the charter amendment, but do they know that GCA has been in non-compliance with IDEA since November 2009! That federal guidelines are that non-compliance issues should take no longer than 1 year to correct? They have been getting email blasts from their PTA and Virtual Ed nonprofits to spread the word about the charter amendment but the school has not notified them of IDEA deficiencies that impact the very education of their own children.

double

October 12th, 2012
11:00 pm

Only gives the state more control.All you folks hollering less gov.let mr Deal know your feelings vote no on the charter amendment.

td

October 12th, 2012
11:08 pm

Ginerva

October 12th, 2012
10:54 pm

I do not know about the blogs but that is not my experience on Facebook pages. I know a great deal of the posters on the local GOP pages on FB and they are citizens of Georgia. I just think they are throwing their philosophy overboard for the hope of something might be better. They really refuse to accept the fact that parents are the only people that can change education.

Kara Willis, the Libertarian candidate, running for State school superintendent two years ago said it best in a debate. Paraphrase: There is no amount of money or no new and wonderful program can change our education results, more then in the margins, until and unless urban and rural parents decide that education is the number 1 duty of being a parent.

This is the best and most honest answer I have ever heard from a politician and is absolutely true.:

double

October 12th, 2012
11:16 pm

It’s hard for parents to be involved in education,since it takes two working to pay all the bills.If the kid is lucky enough to have two parents in the home.

Mary Elizabeth

October 12th, 2012
11:23 pm

cc, 10:19 pm

“Dang! I got this far before I realized you weren’t talking about Obama!”
=========================================

Cc, you are much more likely to have your voice stifled under a Romney as President than under an Obama. Check out the below video in which steelworkers’ jobs from Freeport, Illinois were outsourced to China by Romney’s company. In China, working conditions are terrible for workers who are housed in small quarters and they have no outside life. In my opinion, Mitt Romney does not respect average working class citizens and that fact has showed forth not only in his “47%” remarks caught on tape, but in how his former employees have been treated. (See the video below for Romney’s former employees perceptions.)

Romney is a Republican. We have Republican leadership in Georgia who, in my opinion, likewise do not respect the average state worker in Georgia, including public school teachers, and that shows in their present attempt to supplant traditional public schools with quasi-private public charter schools. HR 1162 was sponsored by Republican Representative Jan Jones, who is also on ALEC’s Educational Task Force. HR 1162 became the Constitutional Amendment which will be voted upon in November. (I support some public charter schools which have been authorized either by local Boards of Education or the state BOE, but not this Constitutional Amendment.)

I want to elect a President (and leadership in Georgia) who understand and have commitment to average citizens, not simply the wealthier, more elite Republicans who are interconnected through their contacts and their mutual self-interested goals.

I truly am concerned about the average American having his or her voice being stifled under Romney as President. Did you see the faces on the coal miners who were ordered, in this past week, to stand behind Romney in a recent photo event, without pay, by the coal miners’ boss who was highly praised by Romney at that event? Those coal miners’ faces were not committed to Romney – they were expressionless – and their eyes were vacant. To keep their jobs, workers have simply done what they were told to do, and what they have been told to do, in some cases, has been – through subtle coersion – to vote for Romney in November. (See the David Siegel thread on Jay Bookman’s blog of this past week).

If you think that there is a dichotomy between the classes now, just wait until Romney takes away Social Security and Medicare by privatizing these benefits for workers, and also creates a worker class that is far below the management class in status, income, and self-determination. Ordinary citizens will have even less voice then than they do now because they will be essentially “owned” by their higher eschelon bosses. This is not what our nation was designed to be about.

We must not allow public charter schools in Georgia to come under the control of corporate interests that would manage these schools for profit. We must continue to have real public education that exists through public taxes on all citizens and is not created for profit, but as a public service. Did you know that the Wal-Mart heiress has contributed $250,000. toward defeating this Constitutional Amernment in Georgia, as reported by a recent local newspaper article? Vote NO for the Constitutional Amendment in NOvember.

And, please watch the video, below, in full. The propaganda against President Obama has been deliberate and stealthy in order to cause average Americans to vote against their own best interests. Don’t be fooled.

http://www.youtube.com/steelworkers

Mary Elizabeth

October 12th, 2012
11:31 pm

CORRECTION in my 11:23 pm post: The Wal-Mart heiress, whom I mentioned in my 11:23 post, has contributed $250,000. toward PASSING (not defeating, as I erroneously wrote) the Constitutional Amendment in Georgia. This amendment must be defeated. Vote NO to Amendment 1 in NOvember.

double

October 12th, 2012
11:44 pm

That sounds like a scrivener’s error.

Rick

October 12th, 2012
11:46 pm

I voted for John Barge, and I would do it again because he is a natural leader. He is doing what is most expeditious to get the job done for our kids, right now ( John, keep your eye on the prize!)

Mary Elizabeth

October 13th, 2012
12:00 am

Somebody – in a position to do so – needs to recommend Dr. John Barge, Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, to be the recipient of a Kennedy Center’s “Profile in Courage” Award.
I write this quite seriously, and I hope that someone – who has the right credentials to do so – will send in the paperwork for this honor for Dr. Barge, and make this happen. He deserves it.

Kris

October 13th, 2012
1:13 am

@ Mary Elizabeth…..

Well Said.. Thank you!

Impeach DEAL.

Re-call the rest

Kris

October 13th, 2012
1:23 am

OMFG…Please watch this if you want the truth!

http://www.youtube.com/steelworkers

jaypat

October 13th, 2012
2:52 am

If Georgia gets away with this, then Lousiiana is a piker. Even the entire Long family could never have even conceived such a scheme.

How do you like these apples, cap? First, we gather our supporters and get them on TV and promote them as the next thing to sliced bread.

Then when the subjects of the legislation complain, we file a suit against them, claiming that they can’t spend public money on the issue (but we can.) That too, gets broadcast across the land. Gobbermint bad, bad, bad. Much roaring laughter in the governor’s mansion.

Except that we are the gobbermint….but never mind that, for right now. Right now you need to hate your gobbermint, and vote against anything that has its nasty name attached to it.

Or maybe not.

Buckhead Boy

October 13th, 2012
5:04 am

Mary Elizabeth, I don’t think that you are being quite fair to Mr. Romney. He’s said that he wants to help the middle class by reducing the tax rate on capital gains, dividends and interest, and by eliminating the estate tax, but won’t reduce the share of the tax burden for the wealthy. Wait a minute, that doesn’t make any sense, does it? Does any appreciable share of the income of the middle class come from capital gains, dividends and interest? No. Do members of the middle class have estates valued at $5.1 million or more? No. Never mind. My apologies, Mary Elizabeth. I suppose that Mr. Santorum was correct when he opined that the Republicans will never have the support of the “elite, smart people”.

hiram

October 13th, 2012
8:48 am

A good piece – worth the read…

The Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden Was Right To Laugh

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/the-vice-presidential-debate-joe-biden-was-right-to-laugh-20121012

hiram

October 13th, 2012
9:13 am

Whirled Peas

October 13th, 2012
9:17 am

People must not be given the right to send their children to the school of their choosing. They must be required to send their children to the school that we tell them they must. Government must have the power to stop people from doing the wrong thing. We know what is best for your children, you are a bunch of ignorant red necks who need to be led by us.

catlady

October 13th, 2012
9:29 am

We all know the rules don’t apply to those in power. They will gag the opposition any way possible. What would our ancestors say about this abuse?

honested

October 13th, 2012
10:13 am

hiram,
Thanks for linking that.
I read it yesterday and thought it should be required reading for every voting adult!

Mary Elizabeth

October 13th, 2012
11:01 am

Journalist Chris Hayes has said that the thinking is wrong to believe that Republicans want less government and Democrats want more government. Hayes said that that is only a slogan that some of the rightwing have tried to perpetuate. He said that Republicans want government, also, but that they want it to serve their interests and the interests of the more wealthy of this nation.

If one looks closely at the proposed membership of Georgia’s Commission for Charter Schools that would be established under the Constitutional Amendment, one sees that its appointed, not elected, members would consist of members of the state’s legislature, among others, and all would be Republicans. Thus, even this state Commission of Charter Schools would have its governmental influence, which would benefit corporate interests, ultimately, in my opinion. There already exists a means for parents to establish state charter schools denied by their local Boards of Education, and that is through Georgia’s State Board of Education. The Constitutional Amendment is, therefore, unnecessary. So why have Republicans promoted it to the extent that they have? Could it be that some have vested interests in this amendment beyond the education of Georgia’s school children? You be the judge.

honested

October 13th, 2012
11:17 am

Mary Elizabeth,

The current ‘republicans’ have been mad ever since their ancestors lost ‘overseer’ status in the mid 1800’s.

td

October 13th, 2012
6:14 pm

honested

October 13th, 2012
11:17 am

You are so freaking funny and so freaking WRONG. The top 1% were the only “overseers” years ago.

honested

October 13th, 2012
6:37 pm

td,
Your ‘financial analysis’ in no way nullifies my point!

Same clowns, different party.

Same lust to gain ‘oversight’ of the educational process.