Officials probe vote improprieties at DeKalb charter school

The DeKalb County School District is investigating claims of ballot box tampering after a parent complained that proponents of renewing Peachtree Charter Middle School’s charter were allowed access to completed ballots during the voting.

Two affirmative secret-ballot votes, one from parents and another from teachers, are required before a charter school can seek renewal of its charter from the school district.

A move seeking renewal of the charter had been delayed earlier in the school year.

Timothy O’Connor said the vote Jan. 8 was to allow the renewal request to finally happen.

O’Connor said he showed up to the school to take his son to a dentist appointment and another parent alerted him to improprieties.

He went to take a look. Among other things, the ballot box, an unlocked container covered in green and purple construction paper with the word “vote” written on the side, was being taken around on a media cart. Ballots had been removed from the box and were sorted and stacked on it during the voting. O’Connor took pictures of it all.

“There was no way to tell if ballots were already there,” he said. “It’s no longer secret-ballot. There’s no way to tell if they’re being combined with other votes.”

The complaint was initially filed with the Georgia Board of Education. Officials there asked DeKalb County School District officials to investigate.

“These are very serious allegations,” district spokesman Quinn Hudson said by email. “Superintendent (Steve) Green has directed staff to conduct an investigation. Based on the outcome of the investigation, we will determine the appropriate action that needs to be taken.”

DeKalb County Board of Education member Stan Jester said that based on his own investigating, it appears security cameras will show no tampering took place.

“All the schools have audiovisual equipment, and the person sending these emails out was aware of them,” he said. “While it’s not certified by Price Waterhouse Cooper, I’m certain (the vote) was done in accordance with state law.

“Anyone with an issue on that should consult the cameras.”

O’Connor believes the security cameras would not have had full views of everything that happened.

“My feeling is unless there was some indication there was a crime, they’re going to … let it go,” he said. “Someone’s got to be held accountable.”