Former Georgia PTA board member indicted

Aug. 5, 2017, Atlanta -- The stairway leads to the Georgia PTA convention in the summer of 2017, a chaotic event that led to the election of new leadership amid internal jousting for power. Donna Corpening Jackson lost her bid for state PTA treasurer. Now, she’s been indicted.

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Aug. 5, 2017, Atlanta -- The stairway leads to the Georgia PTA convention in the summer of 2017, a chaotic event that led to the election of new leadership amid internal jousting for power. Donna Corpening Jackson lost her bid for state PTA treasurer. Now, she’s been indicted.

A former member of Georgia PTA leadership has been indicted on a charge that she took the organization's money.

Donna Corpening Jackson, who went by "Dee Dee Jackson" in PTA documents, once tried to be the organization’s state treasurer. Now, she is accused of using "deceitful means" to swindle the PTA out of an undisclosed sum using business expense reimbursement requests.

The case was investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The indictment for theft by deception was secured from a Gwinnett County grand jury by District Attorney Danny Porter on May 15.

Nearly two weeks later, on Tuesday, Corpening Jackson said she was unaware that a warrant had been issued for her arrest. She was driving to North Carolina to tend to details after the death of her father, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reached her by phone.

"I have no idea what this is," she said, adding that her official ties to the PTA had ended two years previously. She said she did not steal money and suggested the theft allegation was "fabricated" for political reasons.

The GBI had no comment. The Gwinnett County Public Schools, which had fielded a complaint from an officer on a local PTA board, had alerted authorities.

“While our staff members have not been involved in the investigation, we certainly support the state PTA's efforts to get to the bottom of what could be a very serious matter,” the district said through a spokeswoman. “PTA has been a valued partner with our schools for many years and we must have confidence that its leaders and units are above reproach.”

The indictment covers nearly four and a half years from March 2013, which includes a period of turmoil at the PTA.

Corpening Jackson served on the state PTA board and was director of district 12, which includes Gwinnett, the state's largest school district. She was in leadership when the PTA removed its then president, Lisa-Marie Haygood of Cherokee County, prompting the National PTA to place the state organization on probation. There were murky allegations and counter allegations of power plays amid racial discord.

Board member Nicole Ponziani was tapped to investigate. She said Tuesday that the Corpening Jackson case was among those she looked into, working with police in her unique role as the board's conflict resolution specialist. She said she couldn't comment further about it.

Corpening Jackson said in an interview Tuesday that she and her husband "do very well" so she had no reason to take money from the PTA. The indictment does not say why she allegedly stole the money.

She served a half dozen years in PTA leadership and ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer two years ago, during a chaotic session when members elected new leaders following Haygood's ouster. Corpening Jackson, who is black, described the politics as "childish" and racial, with whites trying to push blacks from power. It was the election when Karen Hallacy, who is white, was elected to succeed Tyler Barr, who is black. (Haygood, the removed former president, is white.)

"They wanted their PTA back from people of color and of Hispanic descent," Corpening Jackson said, adding that the allegations against her were created as part of the political fight. Once given to police, her accusers had to press on, she said.

"If you fabricated it and gave it to a police officer they're going to see that through. Otherwise you get in trouble. Isn't that right? That's what I think."

Hallacy, the president elect, deferred comment to Barr, who remains president until next week.

Barr said racial discord is an enduring problem for the PTA. “Blacks have always accused whites and the association for disenfranchising them,” he said. But he said he does not know whether there is merit in Corpening Jackson’s claims about its role in her case.

He said criminal matters typically are handled by the local boards where the incidents allegedly occurred, and the state PTA normally has a minimal role. So he said he doesn’t have details about Corpening Jackson’s case, except whatever he has heard, which is that it is “strictly, totally  focused on financial misconduct.”