Atlanta school board members file ethics complaint against fellow board member

Credit: Atlanta Public Schools

Credit: Atlanta Public Schools

Eight members of the Atlanta school board filed an ethics complaint against the board’s ninth member Tuesday, claiming board member Leslie Grant shared confidential information about a multimillion-dollar real estate deal with a potential buyer.

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.

Chris Adams, a lawyer representing Grant, said he is confident the board’s ethics commission will find she did nothing wrong.

“The complaint alleges that Leslie told the truth about a matter of public record. A property’s title information is not confidential — it is publicly available,” he said.

But in an email to board members sent last month, shortly after she allegedly shared the information, Grant admitted to having a conversation that violated rules about sharing information covered by attorney-client privilege.

“I tend towards making independent decisions that sometimes play outside of our board norms and have now crossed a line that leaves me with deep regret,” she wrote.

Board vice chair Nancy Meister said the information Grant is accused of sharing had a “huge impact” on negotiations, which are now on hold. According to the complaint, Grant knew that the board’s lawyer had warned against sharing information about the property’s title with WonderRoot.

“It’s absolutely inappropriate for a board member to conduct themselves that way,” Meister said.

In February, school superintendent Meria Carstarphen warned board members against getting involved in negotiations with WonderRoot because the board would eventually vote on any deal.

Other board members have communicated with WonderRoot about negotiations, according to a statement provided by board spokesman Billy Linville. The board’s lawyer is investigating whether any of those communications were inappropriate.

WonderRoot executive director Chris Appleton did not return messages from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday.

The school board's ethics commission, a seven-member group including appointees from local civic and professional groups, will review the complaint and hold a hearing. Under board policy, members can be suspended or removed from office for violating board ethics rules.

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