School Board Responds to Allegations
Wednesday afternoon, NewsCentral broke the story of audit findings on Bibb County School Board members that include possible violations of district code ranging from bid-rigging to seeking preferential treatment for family members. At a scheduled board meeting Thursday night things got heated as board member, Gary Bechtel, took exception to the reports findings.
"Agreed, these items need to be resolved and I do not apologize for any of these e-mails,"says Gary Bechtel, during the School Board meeting.
Gary Bechtel and Susan Sipe say they are the board members mentioned in the audit but question who authorized a search of their e-mail and why the information is being presented now?
"I just am having a really hard time understanding why this particular piece, that most of us are not aware that we asked for, has come back and only two board members are sited, Mr. Bechtel and myself. And we're the two board members that have elections coming up,"says Susan Sipe, during the School Board meeting.
Representatives from McGladrey, the firm that performed the audit, say they investigated all members of the board and are completely unaware of local elections. School Board President Tommy Barnes, along with members Ella Carter and Tom Hudson, feel McGladrey was given instruction to "dig deep" in their forensic audit and that e-mails were fair game.
However, Bechtel and Sipes feel the audit is misleading.
"They used the code section of Georgia to infer that I had conflict of interest and things of that nature. That law was adopted in November of 2010, and they used that particular law on e-mails all the way back to 2008, 2009 and early 2010. It's a sloppy report. It was done for the purpose of getting me. To make me look bad because I've opposed the Superintendent," says Bechtel.
Barnes says the Board will ask it's legal representatives to make a recommendation on how to respond to the audit at next weeks called board meeting. Bechtel says he has also sought legal council.
"You will answer for this at some point. Maybe not tonight, but it will be under oath and it will be very soon because this is not going to rest,"says Bechtel to McGladrey representatives, during the School Board meeting.
Bechtel tells NewsCentral that he does not currently have evidence that the audit is part of what he calls a "witch hunt" by Superintendent Dallemand but Bechtel has made open record request in an attempt to determine if it is.