School board candidate storms off after Ch. 2 questions doctorate degree



ATLANTA - A candidate for Atlanta's school board defended his use of the title doctor Monday night, in spite of the fact that he didn't get a degree from an accredited university.

Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri spoke with candidate Steven Lee about why he doesn't think he misrepresented himself.

Currently Lee doesn't refer to himself as doctor or mention it in any of his campaign materials.

But Viteri checked and found several organizations and websites where he is listed as Dr. Steven Lee with a degree from a school that's involved in a lawsuit for selling fake degrees online.

"I'm offended that you would actually sit here and have a conversation to me as though I'm trying to perpetrate a fraud," Lee told Viteri when asked why he used to refer to himself as doctor.

The candidate for Atlanta's District 5 School Board seat told Viteri he got an online doctorate degree 23 years ago from a school called Belford University.

In 2010, Belford was named in a class action lawsuit as operating a "fraudulent Internet scheme involving the alleged sale of sham high school diplomas and university degrees."

"I am aware of that and I'm also a part of that class action lawsuit," Lee told Viteri.

Lee said he's joined the lawsuit and was unaware at the time Belford was an unaccredited institution that provides degrees based on life experience.

Lee said he learned of the accreditation issue 10 years ago.

But Viteri found several examples where Lee was listed as Dr. Steven Lee, including a 2010 city website listing him as a member of the zoning review board and a press release from 2012 mentioning Dr. Steve Lee as president of the MLK Drive Merchants Association.

"I'm going to always be referred to whatever they refer to me as. That's fine. But I've earned that piece of paper," Lee said when asked why he was referred to as doctor on the City of Atlanta website from last year. "When I took the classes there was no documentation showing that it was not legitimate. That's just like you saying that now Morris Brown is not a legitimate institution."

"But last year you knew that it was not a legitimate institution…" Viteri said with Lee interrupting to say, "I'm offended by that. Have a good day."

"But you still let the city refer to you as Dr. Steven Lee?" Viteri said to Lee, who walked away.

Lee said he no longer references the doctorate degree because he's running based on his community work in the city of Atlanta. He also said he has transcripts to prove he did the coursework for degree he earned.

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