DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Channel 2 has learned that a DeKalb County school principal who was demoted for bullying and harassing subordinates in addition to having them run personal errands for her was recently was accused of financial irregularities with her staff 15 years ago.
Channel 2′s Richard Belcher found out there were similar accusations involving money in 2007 and again in 2021.
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Margie Smith lost her $146,000-per-year job as principal of the DeKalb Alternative School because of the 2021 findings. A subordinate also accused Smith of borrowing money from her staff -- an allegation the school district apparently ignored.
The claim is not mentioned at all in the final report, which Channel 2 obtained through the Georgia Open Record Act. The 2021 accusation that Smith asked staff to lend her money also came up in a Channel 2 investigation in 2007.
The latest investigation of Margie Smith focused on her tenure as principal of DeKalb’s Alternative School.
The report obtained by Channel 2 reveals that school authorities concluded Smith had harassed and bullied subordinates and therefore should be removed as principal.
Several witnesses presented evidence that she had staff members run personal errands-- including doing work at her home. The report also recommended that she repay staff members some $700 that Smith had collected to pay for school shirts, which staff never received.
Dr. Lerlean Johnson, the alternative school employee who made the allegations that triggered last year’s investigation, followed up a couple of months later with a second allegations against Smith: She borrowed money from her subordinates. It’s a familiar accusation.
“She’s still at it, and they’re moving her again without firing her. I’m appalled,” Eugenia Tubbs told Belcher in a Zoom interview from her home in Alabama.
We met Tubbs when she worked as the bookkeeper at Lithonia High School where the same Margie Smith was principal 15 years ago. Tubbs said then that Smith had borrowed money from her.
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Tubbs contacted Channel 2 after she saw our story about Margie Smith’s latest trouble last week. She recalls when Smith asked to borrow money from her in 2007.
“My first thought was, ‘We just got paid, so why are you wanting to borrow money?’ Secondly, ‘Why are you wanting to borrow it from me, a subordinate, who makes quite a bit less that you?’” says Tubbs.
Tubbs told Channel 2 she wasn’t surprised that the latest investigation concluded Smith had bullied her staff. She says that it’s a pattern, and it made it tough to say no to a loan. “I’ve seen her react in such ways that you don’t want your boss to react in because you know something else is coming behind that,” Tubbs said.
In our 2007 investigation, we reported that DeKalb County school officials wrote that Smith should “refrain from personal exchanges of monies of any sort with employees.”
Now that there are more allegations of the same behavior, Genia Tubbs says it sends a message to co-workers and taxpayers that those who are higher up only “get slapped on the wrist.”
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After the latest findings of misconduct, Margie Smith was transferred and given a 24% salary cut, but she was not fired. The district says she is currently a Title I coordinator.
It is a mystery why DeKalb County school officials apparently failed to investigate the latest allegation of borrowing from subordinates. District officials received the information in June 2021, but there is no mention of it in the August 2021 report that recommended Smith’s transfer.
The investigator neither confirmed nor refuted it. Despite direct questions from Channel 2, the district has not explained why the loans weren’t investigated.
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