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DeKalb school board tables discussion of ethics code
By JIM WALLS
Dec. 8, 2009 — A combative Eugene Walker on Monday talked the DeKalb County school board into holding off on discussing a proposed ethics code for board members.
Walker, a former state senator, took a shot at state Rep. Kevin Levitas in doing so. Levitas last month proposed a state law giving the DeKalb board “a clear set of principles” to follow.
“It baffles me to no end,” Walker said, “that because a legislator really of no standing is saying he wants to pass an ethics bill against the DeKalb school board, this board is going to get upset and act on it.”
At Walker’s request, the board tabled consideration of a six-page code of ethics before school board attorney Judy O’Brien even had a chance to make her presentation on it. Approval of the code could pre-empt Levitas from pursuing his own ethics proposal with other state legislators.
Walker said any ethics proposal should be reviewed by the proper board committee and consultants before the full board gets a crack at it.
Levitas’ bill, Walker said, should be ignored.
“We oughta throw it in the trash,” he said. “I don’t want to hear anything about it.”
A 5-4 board majority — Walker, Jay Cunningham, Zepora Roberts, Sarah Copelin-Wood and Jim Redovian — voted Monday to table the board’s own ethics proposal.
Levitas said his proposal came as a response to a situation this year in which Walker, as chairman of the DeKalb Development Authority, was prepared to vote on tax incentives requested by an Atlanta developer. The plan would have exempted Sembler Co. from paying 20 years of property taxes on portions of its planned Town/Brookhaven mixed-use development.
Sembler interests donated more than $20,000 to Walker’s 2008 campaign for the school board post. Walker delayed disclosing virtually all of the money on campaign finance reports until he had won a Dec. 2 election runoff.
Walker resigned from the authority after growing criticism of the contributions and of his dual role sitting on both the school board and the authority’s board.