District 1 candidate will face a elections board challenge hearing Wednesday, April 18 at 2 p.m.
Complaints over a possible violation of the school board policies governing what members and candidates can do has one man in Polk County's Board of Education District 1 race now facing a challenge.
Elections Director Karen Garmon said that a hearing is being held to determine whether District 1 candidate Robert Furr violated policies by allegedly working as a substitute teacher following his qualification for election.
That hearing will be coming up Wednesday, April 18 at 2 p.m. at the Board of Elections office within the Polk County Administration office at 144 West Ave., Cedartown.
"An anonymous caller called in and questioned him working as a substitute teacher during the qualification period and after, and per the school's governance, you can't do that," Garmon said.
Simply put, she said the rules were clear: "you can't be employed by the Board of Education and run for office."
Garmon added that when candidates run for office, all are required to sign an affidavit stating that they have read and understood the rules governing their candidacy for any seat they seek to win, whether in a primary, regular or special election.
She said a letter went out earlier in the week by mail to notify Furr of the challenge, but as of Thursday morning he had yet to receive notification, and said he had only first learned about it when the Standard Journal sought out comment from him.
After giving Furr an opportunity to inquire more about the challenge, the Standard Journal reached out a second time for comment.
Furr explained that after he filed for the election, he had 15 business days to return paperwork including his financial disclosures, information about campaign donations and any expenditures he'd made so far on the campaign. He said it was his understanding that during that 15 day period until he turned in the packet later in month before the March 30 deadline
He said he believed he was still within his rights to be a substitute since he called into question whether he was fully qualified as a school board candidate since the disclosure paperwork was turned in.
His final day as a substitute was March 16, Furr said.
Additionally, he said he believed much will hinge on how substitute teachers are classified with their employment with the Polk School District.
"This is contingent of a substitute teacher being a regular employee," Furr said. "That needs some sort of legal interpretation to determine whether a substitute is a regular employee or an at-will employee."
He added that "this is some sort of political stunt by my opponent," since he said he did ask about the issue of being a substitute teacher at the time of his qualification.
"I plan to attend the hearing and defend myself against this campaign stunt," Furr said.
Britt Madden Jr., who is running for the District 1 seat against Furr, said he had only heard of the challenge on Thursday evening, and that he had no comment on Furr's charge.
Superintendent Laurie Atkins said the Polk School District did verify that Furr had been working as a substitute teacher, but didn't realize why Garmon was seeking the information.
"As soon as we were notified of the problem, we immediately called around to each school and instructed for his name to be removed from the list we provide of possible substitute teachers," Atkins said.
She also said that Furr had not previously contacted the district to inform officials that he was running for office, and though wasn't required to do so didn't take the step to remove himself from consideration for use as a substitute.
Atkins said that when candidates are running for office, it is up to candidates to ensure they aren't violating the rules.
She also explained that when Furr was added to the list of potential substitute teachers available for service when an educator is out of the classroom, it was long before he was a candidate. It is also up to each school to determine who they will use as a substitute teacher on a daily basis, Atkins explained.
"All substitutes are approved at the district level before they are allowed to serve," Atkins said.
Because of his service as a substitute, Furr is alleged to have violated a state policy prohibiting any candidate from serving as a staff member on any level when they are seeking a seat on the school board.