(The relevant conversation starts at approximately 1:03 and runs to 1:10.)
by Sabrina Smith
When asked at a public meeting if it violates the educational purposes clause of the state constitution for Gwinnett County Public Schools to use education funds to pay chamber executives’ salaries, Sam Olens claimed he was not able to provide the legal opinion requested by the Georgia Department of Education because I did not provide him with the documentation upon which he could base such an opinion. Does Georgia need an Attorney General who publicly proclaims he cannot do his job unless a private citizen gives him documents that are available through open records requests?
When given the opportunity to correct his misstatement, he doubled down and embarrassed himself by saying, “I haven’t been given the data ever to be able to answer a specific question there and when I asked for it I was told I wasn’t going to receive it.”
When it became obvious to the audience that he was not being honest, he tried to sidestep the issue by claiming attorney-client privilege and said “ethics boundaries” prevented him from saying whether or not the payments were legal.
Georgia citizens need to ask Sam Olens what his ethics boundaries are if lying to the public and providing cover for those who throw lavish fundraisers for him at the expense of everyday taxpayers determine his ethics boundaries.
Apparently realizing that his public admissions on videotape about the role he played in the Gwinnett open records lawsuit could have a negative impact on his political reputation, he had a senior assistant attorney general call me the next morning to admit that I DID provide documentation to Sam, but he “forgot”, “misspoke” and “did not realize you were in the audience.”
Does that mean he thought it would be acceptable to lie to the public if there was no one in the audience to set the record straight? The Attorney General should not have had someone call me on his behalf to offer a half-hearted apology sprinkled with even more outrageous false statements. What the Attorney General should do is apologize to every Georgia citizen who values integrity and expects basic honesty from the highest law enforcement official in the state.
This is a link to the Georgia Watchdogs Newsletter about Sam Olens’ comments regarding the legal opinion requested by the Georgia Department of Education.
You can see the letters Sam Olens wrote that contain references to legal opinions about the use of education funds to pay chamber dues and the remedies that are available to the Georgia Department of Education to address violations of the educational purposes clause of the Georgia constitution, here and here. It appears that Sam Olens’ ethics boundaries allow him to say education funds cannot be used to pay the school superintendent’s dues in the chamber of commerce, but he won’t tell the public what he told the Georgia Department of Education about the use education funds to pay the salaries of chamber executives. Gwinnett County Public Schools is continuing to use education funds to pay chamber executives salaries and Olens’ Office sent an email stating they will no longer correspond on this issue.