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DeKalb school board member calls for criminal investigation
by Bobby Tedder
July 03, 2012 02:19 PM | 6264 views | 1 1 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
District 4 DeKalb County Board of Education member H. Paul Womack Jr. talks with Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson after her State of the School System address on Feb. 23.
District 4 DeKalb County Board of Education member H. Paul Womack Jr. talks with Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson after her State of the School System address on Feb. 23.
District 4 DeKalb County School Board member H. Paul Womack is not backing off his calls for a criminal investigation into the system’s finance and human resources departments’ handling of funds.

Womack publicly expressed his desire about the proposed inquiry during the board’s last meeting June 21. He recently acknowledged having since taken it a step further.

“I have called and contacted state agencies and requested that the state investigate our finance and human resources departments,” Womack said.

Womack declined to go into further detail, including which agencies he contacted and where things stand with each.

The matter stems from Womack’s misgivings concerning the school district’s transition from a surplus to a deficit in recent years.

“We were told at the beginning of 2011-12 there would be a $93 million operating surplus at the end of this year,” said Womack. “Then we were told we’d have $53 million … now we’re projected to have a deficit of minus $6 [million]. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that something’s wrong.”

Womack was among the board members to oppose the financially challenged district’s eventual 2012-13 budget, which contains a tax increase and tens of millions of dollars in cuts.

Board chairman Eugene Walker, who clashed with Womack at times during budget proceedings, called the latter’s suspicions off base.

“I cannot make sense out of Womack’s nonsense,” Walker said. “To me, he’s not being factual … neither is he thinking this through.”

Walker said Womack’s interest in a criminal inquiry is an election year ploy and questioned Womack’s grasp of the budgeting process.

“There are so many variables and factors that come into play … you have to offset certain kinds of expenditures,” Walker said.

Womack, citing his own history as a corporate executive, in turn questioned Walker’s budgeting expertise and other assertions.

“I respect Dr. Walker’s right to have a differing opinion, but I do not respect him calling my accusations a lie,” Womack said. “I don’t lie about things like this … and this is not about politics.”

Womack, who said the millage rate increase was uncalled for, added the architects of the system’s annual budget may not be willing to face up to “hard” financial facts — cuts that must be made.

“The school system is the bedrock of this community and it’s got to be sound financially,” he said. “You’ve gotta spend within your means.”

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