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Wendy Saltzman's CBS Atlanta News Web Blog

Public Officials- Not so Public Information?

In the Media we all know about the cat and mouse game of tracking down public officials. We ask for interviews, they avoid us, and we are often left with no choice but to go on air with a “No Comment” response. But I have rarely seen the blatant lack of accountability of elected officials that I came across in recent weeks with the Fulton County School Board.

I was working on an investigation that identified a pretty significant waste of our tax dollars, in this case, of our school kids money. The School District was being over-charged 1.5 million dollars for basic school supplies. In more than a hundred cases we identified, the school district was being charged more than the general public for pencils, paper, printers and other items. So I took the findings of our report to the school board members, thinking if someone was wasting my money, I’d want to know about it. Contrary to my thought process, these elected school board members not only declined my repeated requests for a formal interview, but when I caught up with them at a school board meeting, they went to extremes to try to avoid me. They snuck into meetings, ran into bathrooms, and rushed out the door.

WATCH VIDEO HERE:  http://www.cbsatlanta.com/video/19699630/index.html

Through the Open Records laws I later got my hands on an email, sent by school spokesperson, Susan Hale, to the board members, advising them not to speak with us. The advice included getting away from me and my cameraman “as soon as possible without seemingly running away.” And “to keep from saying anything on camera that could come across as flustered, nervous, or guilty looking.”

WATCH VIDEO HERE: http://www.cbsatlanta.com/video/19722054/index.html

 The problem here is these people are elected by us, and accountable to the taxpayers. But somewhere along the way they forgot that. But we’re not letting up. Here at CBS Atlanta News we think it’s important to get answers to these Tough Questions. I’d like to hear from you about your thoughts. And if you have questions for these school board members, email me. Wendy.Saltzman@CBSAtlanta.com

June 11, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

5 Comments »

  1. I do not even live in Fulton County and I am so outraged. How could public officials be so evasive and so wasteful, especially in these hard times, have they no conscience?

    Comment by Debra | June 11, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m not surprised. These people run for office but
    don’t want to take personal responsibility.
    Same as we see on all levels of government.
    We need a “pay by results” government.

    I think you might find a lot of waste in the fuel
    purchasing of the school system also.

    Comment by Jack McMillan | June 12, 2009 | Reply

  3. Wendy, thank you for your pushing the investigation on this. I hope it will be an inspiration for more local, county and state agencies to review their contracts with vendors. It seems Office Depot has been the target of many investigations of late, and probably well deserved. Keep up the good work

    Comment by Rick | June 12, 2009 | Reply

  4. Wendy,
    Why did the FCBOE purchased 116+/- acres of land in Milton to build 2 schools,then decide to move the HS off the this piece of land and move it back to the original piece of land they considered a year before (Bethany/Cogburn),paying more for it a year later? They are still planning on building a Middle school on that 117 acres of land that they paid over 14 million dollars for, and less then half of the land is usable so I hear? How much money did they end up spending extra (wasted) for the property on the corner of Bethany and Cogburn Rd. Reeves was the decision maker in all of this according to the M. Herald. The City of Milton made a resolution this year on that site which is why they probably moved it back to the original pick for the High school. Talk about wasting children’s funds and tax payer money. She and the lot responsible for this waste of money should be fired straight away. Amazing how easy it is to spend other people’s money, what they did was an atrosity. They also wasted, now that I remember reading about in the AJC a while back, over a million on property for an elementary school in Sandy Springs as well.

    Comment by anonymous | July 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. Wendy –

    Great job on the Office Depot / BOE piece. Unforutunately, however, this great find is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this sorry branch of government, their lack of foresight and self responsibility.

    Just in the now City of Milton, I have witnessed countless instances where the BOE practices do as a I say, not as I do. The end result is a loss of millions of people being kicked out of their homes.

    They need to be removed, charged with misappropriation of funds and serve jail time.

    Keep up the good work.

    Tim Enloe
    770 653 0552

    Comment by Tim | July 21, 2009 | Reply


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