Board member Donald Nixon made the motion in regards to the legal conflict surrounding Dr. Bernice Brooks, who was placed back on the ballot by a court order prior to election day. Brooks was defeated in a runoff by Rob Cleveland.
Nixon and board member Bart Cater, who seconded the motion, were the only two votes in favor of drafting the resolution asking to fix the district line. The vote was 4-2 against. Board member Chris Gammon abstained from voting.
“I think it should be the action of the board that this be corrected,” Nixon said while presenting the motion. “It was never our intent to remove Dr. Brooks from her district.”
Cater agreed, but added that if a resolution was sent to local legislators, it should include a stipulation that the change should not force a special election.
Cleveland, who served at his first regular board meeting Thursday night, defeated Brooks in the Aug. 20 runoff for the District 1 seat.
“I feel the intent was for her to run, which did happen,” Cleveland said. “This would obviously be necessary if she had won, so she could represent the right district. The totality of these circumstances point to one thing — Dr. Brooks lost this election. The people of Villa Rica District 1 spoke, and they chose Rob Cleveland.”
Cleveland said to bring the issue to the state Legislature would be “unnecessary and a step backwards.”
Last July, Brooks became embroiled in a legal conflict after she was disqualified by the county Board of Elections after it was discovered her house is in a different district than the district she was running to represent.
While the majority of Brooks’ Villa Rica property can be found in District 1, her home and street address are actually in District 3, because of a technical error.
Carroll County Schools attorney Cynthia Daley said at the hearing in July that a “dot” symbolizing Brooks’ home was put in the wrong place during reapportionment meetings in summer 2011. Brooks lives at 760 Bailey Brooks (formerly Reed) Road, but the dot was placed at 760 Edge Road, about a mile away, by mistake.
Because of that mistake, the district line was placed along a power line instead of along Bailey Brooks Road, where the line was intended to be placed.
Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby reinstated Brooks on the ballot on July 17, saying it would be “unjust” to leave her off.
Brooks received the most votes of the three candidates in the July 31 election, but did not receive a majority, forcing a runoff with Cleveland. She lost the Aug. 20 runoff by eight votes and requested a recount, which confirmed the eight-vote loss.
At the recount in August, Brooks said she was “concerned that there were some voters allowed to vote and others who weren’t” because the court order didn’t move the line to allow for voters on her road to vote for her.
Janice Duff, voter registration coordinator for the county, told Brooks at the recount that Kirby signed a court order only to put her name back on the ballot — not to move the district line.
Cater felt the next time the district line could be moved — in 2020, when the next census is taken — was too far off, especially if Brooks chooses to run again in 2016.
Board member Chris Gammon said the issue would “shift the focus” away from more important considerations for both the board and the state, like budget issues. Board Chairman Dr. Jon Anderson agreed.
“I just want to express the feeling of regret I have for this situation,” Anderson said. “But we have significant issues, particularly our budget, that we shouldn’t lose focus of.”
The board learned Monday evening that the system could realistically be facing a $6.5 million deficit for the fiscal year 2014 budget.
Board members Sandra Morris, Denise Askin Pate, Anderson and Cleveland voted against Nixon’s motion.
Also during Thursday’s board meeting, the board members voted unanimously to fund several additions and renovations to Central Middle School.
Included in the more than $2.4 million project for the middle school are new band and chorus rooms; splitting the current band room, technology lab and home economics room into two classrooms each; heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades; and front entrance renovations for safety concerns.
The school system received four bid proposals from contractors, ultimately awarding the project to Carrollton-based J&R Construction and Development. The project is expected to be completed 180 days after starting.
The base bid given by J&R was just over $2,367,000, but with several additions that the contractor and Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and Support Services David Goldberg, the total cost will be $2,426,061.
Superintendent Scott Cowart said the project is expected to remain in budget for what was allotted.
As for the safety upgrades, Goldberg said the entrance to the middle school will now be enclosed, with a new reception desk in the center and two locked doors on either side of the desk which lead to the classrooms.
The receptionist will have to buzz in any visitors to get through the doors. Employees who frequently pass through the front area will have badge access.
The project will also involve the installation of 20 more surveillance cameras. The school currently has eight cameras for surveillance. The system will have the ability to have four more installed if needed, Goldberg said.
The motion passed by a 7-0 vote, with Askin Pate making the motion and Cleveland seconding.