Ross urges BoE to keep fighting for at-large voting appeal


Fayette County resident Bob Ross is usually known for his diplomatic approach to a variety of issues. But Ross during public comments at the Feb. 17 meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education asked board members to consider whether they were in agreement with some of the positions taken by the NAACP in the ongoing district voting lawsuit.

“If you noticed an increase in drownings when there’s an increase in ice cream consumption, and concluded that ice cream consumption caused drownings, you’d be mistaken,” said Ross. “The NAACP leadership made just such a mistake concluding that Fayette County practices racial discrimination because black candidates for six elections out of 27 lost their bid for office.”

Ross noted that the NAACP four years ago “launched an expensive legal assault on this board, the honorable reputation of Fayette County, and all of its good citizens. In deciding whether to fold or to defend them, you have to answer basic charges leveled by the NAACP.”

Ross asked the board to consider if three issues pertinent to the NAACP’s position on the district voting lawsuit are correct. Ross said those issues include:

• Are you a party to racial discrimination? Have you denied black voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process? Have you initiated such practices? Do you condone them? Do you promote them?

• Was your election campaign characterized by subtle and overt racial appeals? For that matter, was your opponents’ campaign? Was any county campaign that you’re aware of?

• Are you personally, and collectively as a board, insufficiently responsive to black citizens’ interests? Are you unresponsive to their children’s education and their children’s well-being?

“If you agree with the NAACP that these charges are true… that you, this board, and this county are racist, then capitulate, end the defense and accept being labeled as a racist,” Ross said. “If you find these charges false, insulting and a gross misrepresentation of you, county election campaigns, the Board of Education and the character and practice of Fayette County, then urge the NAACP to drop its expensive, unfounded attack and work towards the absolutely best public education we can all provide.”

Ross requested that, absent the NAACP’s withdrawal of the district voting lawsuit, the school board continue to “defend our open, fair and inclusive county.”

Ross said the school board’s attorney fees total an average annual expense of 75-cents per citizen.

Though he did not speak on the topic at the meeting, board member Leonard Presberg (Democrat – District 5) is on record in his newsletter suggesting that the school board settle the suit.

“… I don’t think it’s worth continuing to spend our taxpayer dollars to try to get a Judge to change his mind so we can have three more elections the way we were used to,” Presberg said. “But more importantly I think continuing to fight this lawsuit is bad for our community.”

The lawsuit brought by the Georgia Conference of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) against the school board and Fayette County Commission will return to U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten’s court in the coming months.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Jan. 7 decision on the appeal by the Fayette County Commission and Fayette County Board of Education of a federal court decision mandating district voting in Fayette County determined the need for a trial rather than relying on the summary judgment issued previously.

The three-judge panel ruled that Judge Batten made a mistake in granting summary judgment in favor of the NAACP (appellees) and against the BOC and the BOE, both of which are appellants, in the lawsuit alleging racial discrimination under the federal Voting Rights Act.