Bibb BOE member recommends items for investigation

jmink@macon.comMarch 20, 2014 

A Bibb County school board member has compiled a list of items he believes the Attorney General’s Office should investigate, as state officials consider a possible probe into the actions of former school Superintendent Romain Dallemand.

Board member Jason Downey recently sent a letter to interim Superintendent Steve Smith, recommending that the attorney general investigate spending related to the Macon Promise Neighborhood project, long-term contracts that were entered into without board approval, the fairness of bidding processes, any misappropriation of funds and Dallemand’s hiring practices, among other topics.

The Attorney General’s Office has requested further evidence of possible criminal behavior, and the school board recently decided to consider an internal investigation into what happened during Dallemand’s tenure.

A recent audit said Dallemand made purchase orders -- several involving multimillion-dollar commitments -- without the required, prior approval of the board. Besides Macon Promise Neighborhood spending, the audit criticized about $26 million in purchase orders for technology equipment and services. In some cases, school board members approved purchase orders after they were made. Some board members have said they approved the contracts on the advice of their attorneys.

Speaking with The Telegraph on Thursday during a Bibb County school board meeting, school system attorney Patrick Millsaps said attorneys simply serve as advisers and counselors, but they do not make the decisions. In the end, it’s up to the elected officials, he said.

“We are not the decision makers,” he said.

In an effort to cooperate with any potential investigation, school board members recently voted to waive its attorney-client privilege so its attorneys can disclose information to a special prosecutor. The school board also decided to waive the confidentiality of executive session meetings pertaining to issues discussed in the audit.

That was a good move by the school board, Millsaps said.

“I think every member of this board wants to find the truth,” he said.

Downey listed nine items he believes the attorney general should investigate. In addition to spending issues noted in the audit, Downey requested that officials investigate whether Dallemand had business relationships with any companies he entered into long-term contracts with and whether there was any financial compensation for doing business with those companies.

He also called for an investigation of any open meetings violations by former or current school board members and any concealment of reprimands sent to them from the Professional Standards Commission.

“It is my strong belief that these items are matters that many members of our community request be investigated to assure that our public education system is doing all it can for the students of our schools,” Downey said in the letter.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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