Board of Education member found to be in violation of code of ethics

A member of the DeKalb County School District Board of Education was found to be in violation of the board’s code of ethics after sharing information publicly about the school district’s superintendent search discussed in executive session.

At an ethics hearing held on May 31, board members voted unanimously to disavow statements Dr. Joyce Morley gave during an interview with The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) in April.

According to attorney Alex Shalishali, who was designated as special counsel to represent the board at the hearing, failure to maintain confidentiality of executive session occurred when Morley talked to the AJC and “shared discussions that could have only occurred behind closed doors.”

“The violations were in reference to the board’s review of candidates for superintendent,” said Shalishali, pointing to direct quotes from the article. “According to Morley, the board was split. Morley said [interim superintendent] Dr. Vasanne Tinsley ranked higher by a group hired for the superintendent search. She said Dr. Devon Horton wasn’t considered a top five candidate. She also said Tinsley was among the top five candidates and it came down to (Horton or Tinsley). Morley stated that Tinsley ranked in the top tier of candidates while Horton ranked in a lower tier. The AJC stated this information was provided by Morley.”

When asked by Shalishali if that information could have been obtained in any other setting outside of executive sessions, Board Chair Diijon DaCosta said “no.”

Although Shalishali said the board notified Morley via email and written letter on April 28 that they had voted to move forward with assessing whether Morley followed board policy regarding confidentiality of executive session meetings and that a hearing would take place, Morley responded on May 4 indicating she would decline attending the hearing because the board would not cover her attorney’s fees.

After the unanimous vote to disavow Morley’s statements, board member Vickie Turner said it was “uncomfortable and unfortunate” that the hearing had to be held.

“I have tremendous respect and admiration for each of you,” Turner said. “I do understand these things happen and its incumbent on us to move forward to be united. I support policy, this is not personal.”

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