Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) has accused DeKalb County School Board Vice-Chairman Paul Womack of verbally attacking him and said he is in the process of filing an ethics complaint.
Jones said the incident took place at a Chamber of Commerce banquet on Feb. 24, over a proposed ethics bill, which, according to Jones, Womack vowed to do everything in his power to defeat. Jones also alleges that Womack called him a profane name.
“I asked him, ‘What makes you think you can guarantee to defeat my bills, are you God?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I am God,’ which kind of caught me by surprise,” Jones said. “This behavior in my opinion should be unacceptable for any elected official. I don’t know of too many gods they’ve got serving on anybody’s board, but I guess he’s the first.”
Womack, who denies calling Jones any profane name, said that he simply told him he was going to do everything in his power to defeat his bill and that was all.
“I understand that [Jones] said I called him a bad name; that did not happen. I’ll tell you something, I don’t know when it’s against the bit to say to a legislator, ‘I’m going to do my damndest to defeat your bill,” Womack said. He also alleges that Jones’ bill might be personally motivated because Jones’ brother’s ex-wife is now married to a board member. “This is not the first time that he’s gone after that guy,” Womack said.
David Schutten, president of the Organization of DeKalb Educators, said he wanted Jones to speak to Womack and clarify some details of the bill.
“I just wanted Sen. Jones to clarify in person what this bill is about and immediately Mr. Womack started ripping into him…I heard the whole thing,” Schutten said. He also explained that as soon as the banquet was over he expressed his concerns to the Chairman of the DeKalb County Board of Education Tom Bowen.
“One of my concerns when they made him the vice chair was that he was not going to act in a professional manner…this is exactly what I was afraid of,” Schutten said.
According to Jones, SB 105 would create an independent ethics commission that would investigate ethics complaints filed or allegations of ethics violations by a board member.
“Right now the board polices themselves, so all it takes is a couple of members that are friends with you who appointed you as vice chair and you know that [a] complaint won’t go anywhere, that’s my concern. That’s why it’s important this bill moves forward,” Jones said.
Womack said that if Jones’ bill passes it would discourage people from serving on the school board.
“I can tick off somebody in the community and they can file an ethics complaint and then I’ve got to go out and hire an attorney,” Womack said. “I also guarantee that Emanuel Jones has been called a lot worse than what he alleged I called him.”