DCSS superintendent process stopped cold - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

DCSS superintendent process stopped cold

Dougherty County School Board Dougherty County School Board
Joshua Murfree Joshua Murfree

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  The Dougherty County School Board has been stopped in its tracks in its superintendent hiring process.

A judge issued a restraining order at the request of WALB-TV and two other media outlets.

WALB-TV, WFXL-TV, and the Albany Herald filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon to force the school board to comply with the law.

The suit claims the board violated Georgia's Open Records Act, by not releasing the names of the three finalists for the job. There's also talk of a recall effort.

The school board's own attorney admits the board broke the law when they named Joshua Murfree the only finalist for superintendent without disclosing the names of the other two finalists.

Late this afternoon Dougherty County Judge issue a temporary restraining order to halt the process of hiring a superintendent until the board complies with the law.

"Based on the facts as we understand them, they had three acceptable qualified candidates at one time, and they went ahead and narrowed it down to a single candidate, effectively meaning they're going to select this person before they produce the document related to the other qualified candidates," said Bill Calhoun, the Attorney WALB-TV, WFXL-TV, and the Albany Herald.

So representatives for WALB-TV, WFXL-TV, and the Albany Herald jointly signed papers to sue the board.

"Our issue has nothing to do with the candidate the finalist announced by the school board," said Jim Wilcox, WALB General Manager. "It has everything to do with the school board's process, which was terribly flawed, and more importantly, illegal."

The suit asks that the finalists be announced to the public, so they have the opportunity to judge for themselves the selection process. As the suit was being filed, word came that there may be a recall of some of the board members.

"I don't think we'll have any problem getting the numbers up to recall or impeach those school board members acting outside the purview of state statutes," said Richard Thomas of the Dougherty County Taxpayer Association.

The Attorney General's office won't comment on it, but Tuesday night at a gubernatorial debate, candidate Thurbert Baker was asked about the board's Open Records violations.

"The bottom line is we've got to make government responsible and we've got to make sure people understand that and that people understand government is not their government to hold a government is for the people and by the people," said Attorney General Thurbert Baker.

A decision in favor of the media outlets could better define what information a board must release when they get down to the finalists selection. 

The Dougherty County Taxpayers Association plans to circulate letters calling on Joshua Murfree to withdraw his name from consideration.

They'll also ask the Attorney General investigate the school board.

Judge Denise Marshall set an evidentiary hearing on the media lawsuit for March 1st.


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