Now that Cherokee County School Board member Kelly Marlow has been suspended from office, it's unclear how to proceed with filling the District 1 seat.
Marlow, along with political consultant Robert Trim and resident Barbara Knowles, were all convicted by a jury for lying to police when they accused Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo of trying to run them over in June.
Per Georgia law, Marlow was suspended as a board member upon conviction, which occurred Saturday evening in Cherokee County Superior Court. She will be removed from the board upon final conviction at the conclusion of the appeals process, said district spokesperson Barbara Jacoby.
"Since this is unprecedented, the School Board Attorney (Tom Roach) is researching local and state law to determine how her seat may be temporarily filled during such suspension," Jacoby added.
While under suspension, Marlow cannot perform any board member duties, functions or responsibilities. She also will not receive the stipend granted to board members. However, if her conviction is overturned, she will be entitled to her stipend from May 2014 forward.
Furthermore, the district has reassigned other board members to appear in place of Marlow at upcoming high school graduations. Other actions the district will take in light of the suspension outlined on Monday by School Board Chair Janet Read include:
- Removal of Marlow's name from the school board dais. Her name will remain on the board letterhead, school district's website, etc.; but, in all instances, it will be followed by the designation (SUSPENDED).
- The district's benefits office is reviewing whether state law and Georgia Department of Community Health regulations will allow Marlow to continue the optional school board member health insurance coverage at her expense. Once the district receives clarification, that information will be provided to her.
- Marlow's school board email and voicemail accounts have been disabled, but not deleted. She will not have access to these accounts, nor can constituents send emails or leave voicemails. Any mail delivered to the district post office box to Marlow's attention will be stored unopened.
- Marlow also has to return all school district property to the School Police Department at 111 Academy Street by May 12. This property includes school board member laptop computer, graduation ceremony attire, name tag, business cards and any other items paid for with district funds.
"If you do not agree to a payment plan by that date, I will ask the school board to authorize the school board attorney to take further action," she writes.
If Marlow decides to resign, a special election would be called to fill the remainder of her term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2016.
Marlow was convicted on two counts of making false statements, both of which are felonies. Trim was found guilty on two counts of making false statements while resident Knowles, secretary of the Cherokee County Republican Party, was convicted on one count of filing a false police report and two counts of making false statements.
The making false statements charges, which are felonies, carries up to five years each in prison while the filing a false report of a crime charge comes with a sentence of up to 12 months in prison.
Petruzielo, who testified during the trial, noted the convictions "bring me no joy, but they do provide great relief."
"The allegations made against me by these individuals were very serious and completely without merit," he said. "Their clear intent was to do irreparable damage to me, my family and my professional reputation. I am relieved that, after 10 months of coping with this distraction, the school board and I can now return our full focus to the extraordinary success of our schools and our students.”