The Atlanta school board’s ethics commission voted Tuesday to investigate a complaint eight board members filed against fellow board member Leslie Grant.
The board members say Grant shared confidential information about a real estate deal with a potential buyer after being told that the information should be kept private.
The ethics commission, a seven-person, independent board, is charged with hearing complaints of ethics violations against board members.
Tuesday’s vote starts an investigative process that could stretch into early August. The commission will conduct its investigation in private to determine whether there’s cause to believe Grant did something unethical. If the commission finds cause, it will hold a public hearing and eventually make a recommendation to the school board.
Under board policy, if the commission finds that a member has engaged in conflicts of interest or shared confidential information, the commission must recommend he or she be removed from office.
Grant is accused of telling WonderRoot, a community arts organization seeking to purchase the former Hubert Elementary School building on Memorial Drive, that the district didn’t technically hold title to the property.
The property is one of dozens of former school buildings whose titles are held by the City of Atlanta, a relic of the era before Atlanta Public Schools became a separate entity. The properties are the subject of a legal battle between the school district and the city, which has refused to release many of the deeds to the district. The district needs clear title to the Hubert building and other properties to sell them.
According to the complaint, Grant only knew about the deed’s status because of a confidential conversation involving the board’s general counsel. And the complaint alleges Grant knew that the board’s lawyer had warned against sharing information about the property’s title with WonderRoot.
But Grant’s lawyer, Chris Adams, said in a written statement that the fact that the district did not have the deed to the Hubert property is not “privileged” information. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution included the former school on a map of properties involved in the district’s dispute with the city.
“The question is not why Leslie acted in good faith, by telling the truth about a matter of public record. The question is why anyone would think this information could or should be kept secret,” Adams said.
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