State senator aides in DeKalb superintendent investigation

by: Richard Belcher Updated:

The board said they would discuss it behind closed doors Wednesday. Belcher was asked to leave.
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

Channel 2 Action News has learned that a state legislator from Fulton County played a small role in a dispute that has turned into a simmering controversy among DeKalb County school officials.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher has learned the question the DeKalb County School Board wants answered is whether Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson authorized her chief legal officer to offer some former employees jobs if they would drop their demand for her texts and emails.

The board had been expected to consider a confidential report on the matter Wednesday.

School board chairman Eugene Walker told Channel 2 Action News the board's outside legal counsel was ready to deliver a report on the text and email controversy.

The board said they would discuss it behind closed doors Wednesday.

Belcher was asked to leave, but walker told him, "We did not receive the report today. And, we will not receive it today. It will be presented next week, next Wednesday."

"Is this going to be a public document, once it's presented," Belcher asked Walker.

"I do not know. I'm going on the basis of what legal tells me," Walker told Belcher.

It will be at least a week, maybe longer, before we find out what the text and email investigation turned up.

But Wednesday, Belcher also learned that a state legislator played role in the dispute as an intermediary.

The pivotal figure in this dispute is Ronald Ramsey, the chief staff lawyer for the DeKalb school system, who also happens to be a state senator from DeKalb County.

According to our sources, Ramsey told investigators that Atkinson asked him to make the jobs-for-emails offer.

Belcher confirmed that Ramsey turned to his state senate colleague Vincent Fort of Atlanta and Fort reached out to attorney Julie Oinonen.

She's the one who filed several open records requests for the disputed texts and emails and who subsequently sued the school system on behalf of one former school system employee.

Fort confirmed his role Wednesday, telling Belcher by phone, "I was asked to reach out to someone to resolve an issue. I did it in good faith to try to help out."

Soon, the DeKalb school board will learn whether its lawyers believe Atkinson is the one who set all of this in motion in an effort to keep her texts and emails private.

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