Rumors of a complicated scenario floated around during this past election regarding the two races for seats on the school board. It was a little bit of a stretch, like an urban-legend conspiracy theory. And while there was enough circumstantial evidence to make the whole thing sound plausible, it all fell apart when the election results came in.
The setup went like this:
Columbia County School Board District 5 trustee Lee Muns, who also is the county's Republican Party chairman, supported LouAnne Grove as his successor for the school board post, and backed Donnie Porter in his challenge to Wayne Bridges.
Muns was alone on the school board in supporting the effort to switch the school board chairmanship to an elected post, and in the past has expressed an interest in seeking the position if it is created by the legislature.
So, the story went, if Grove and Porter won, Muns would then seek the board chairmanship, taking office with an immediate 3-2 vote majority. The three would then vote to hire former Georgia State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko to replace Tommy Price, and appoint former Deputy State School Superintendent Merle Temple as her assistant.
Pieces of circumstantial evidence to support this scenario include the fact that Schrenko, Temple and Muns supported Grove and Porter. Schrenko and Grove conferred before one of the public debates in which Schrenko was invited by Muns to be a panelist. And Porter used to work for Schrenko in the Education Department.
If such a scheme was ever in the works, it fell apart when Grove and Porter lost. Then, when Schrenko and Temple were indicted for stealing education system funds, any possibility of such a plan went out the window.
The only potential piece left is Lee Muns' possible run for the school board chairmanship in two years. And now that looks unlikely, too.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the straw-poll question on the ballot asking if they'd like to elect the board chairman. In fact, in Columbia County the idea of electing the School Board chairman is even stronger than voters' desire to protect marriage: 82 percent approved the marriage amendment, while 90 percent want to elect their board chairman.
Lawmakers plan to restructure the government next spring, setting up a school board that looks like the County Commission: Four district posts plus one at-large elected chairman. The chairmanship election would be in 2006, and Muns would be eligible to run.
However, one error in judgment will shadow his steps in the race. Muns admitted the other day, to the shock of many in the party, that he welcomed Schrenko's work as a party headquarters volunteer -- she essentially ran the office during the election season -- even though she had told him she was possibly going to be indicted.
Here are the damning quotes that appeared in The Augusta Chronicle: "She said, 'I'd like to be involved. I'd like to work. I believe in the causes and everything else. It's solely up to you whether or not you think this will be a black eye to us,'" Muns said. "I asked her what phase was it in, and she informed me that there probably will not be an indictment handed down until after the elections."
So, since the public won't find out about the alleged law-breaking until it's too late to sway their vote, that makes it OK? Egad.
It says a lot about the relative weakness of the local Democratic Party that their leaders haven't used this scandal to beat Republicans over the head. Still, they will play a role in opposing Muns for the school board chairmanship. That election is non-partisan, and Muns' party background will kill him with Democrats. Giving a major volunteer role in the party headquarters to someone he knew was about to be indicted won't help him with either party.
It's no surprise, then, that there is a lot of rumbling that Republicans, many of them past supporters of Muns, have taken this as the last straw. They're planning an attempt to remove him from the chairmanship at the local party's convention in March.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.