Political Notes — State delays decision on Miller school board


The State Board of Education has postponed until next year a decision on whether to recommend the removal of members of the Miller County school board, which has been embroiled in a personal dispute between two board members and the county school superintendent.

The state board has the authority to recommend that Gov. Nathan Deal remove the county school board members because of the Miller system’s probationary status with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting agency for public schools.

While state board members put off a decision on that until early next year, they indicated after a Monday meeting they are worried about the ongoing squabbles between Supt. Roy McIntosh and school board members Bob Eldridge and Renza Israel.

“We are deeply concerned for the leadership in the Miller County schools and are committed to support the monitoring of the leadership teams as they make every effort to meet the stipulations of the consent orders,” said Wanda Barrs, chair of the state board.

Haley: No meddling by me

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley finally held a news conference Monday to respond to a host of accusations concerning her role in a state board’s decision to reverse its earlier position and grant an environmental permit for the dredging of Savannah harbor.

“I know people like to think there’s something behind everything. But there’s nothing here,” Haley said, denying that she was granted any favors by Georgia politicians.

Haley, who’s in her first year as governor of the Palmetto State, has come under fire because the board of the state Department of Health and Environmental Controls (DHEC) voted earlier this month to approve a crucial water quality permit for the Savannah dredging, a project that Gov. Nathan Deal badly wants.

The DHEC board, which Haley controls, initially voted not to grant the permit, but changed its position on Nov. 10 – about two weeks after Haley was the beneficiary of an Oct. 28 fundraiser in Atlanta that was hosted by Eric Tanenblatt, an influential Republican consultant.

That fundraiser has raised questions in South Carolina’s political circles about Haley’s motivation in having the permit granted. Haley said Monday the fundraiser was set up before the decision to grant the permit was made and had no connection with DHEC’s vote.

Changes at the insurance department

A top aide to Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is leaving the insurance department for an industry job.

Jim Beck, Hudgens’ chief of staff and primary media spokesman, has accepted the position of manager of the Georgia Underwriting Association, a non-profit agency that provides property insurance coverage for high-risk areas of the state.

“Leaving the commissioner’s office is a step down, no matter where you go,” Beck said.

In an internal email, Hudgens said, “I am confident that Jim will bring his tremendous energy, talent and vision to this vital organization.”

Hudgens added: “On a personal note, I would like to thank Jim for his invaluable leadership here at the DOI. Jim has been an integral part of the Department’s reorganization, and our agency and state are better for his having invested his time here. Jim will be sorely missed.”

Beck was an aide to Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard during the 1990s and later worked for the Georgia Christian Coalition.

In other insurance department changes, Hudgens has named Dwayne Garriss, 49, as the state fire marshal. Garriss has been assistant state fire marshal for more than 17 years and had been acting state fire marshal for the past six months.

Press Club changes leadership

There’s also been a change in the leadership of the Atlanta Press Club where the president, Rachel Tobin, left her reporting job at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to work for the Jackson Spalding public relations firm.

The Press Club’s bylaws require the president to be a “journalist member,” so Tobin will be replaced by WXIA-TV reporter Jon Shirek, who was the club’s incoming president and will serve out the rest of Tobin’s term before starting his regular stint in the position.

© 2011 by The Georgia Report


Tags: accreditation , Atlanta Press Club , DHEC board , environmental permit , Eric Tanenblatt , insurance department , Jim Beck , Miller County school board , Nathan Deal , Nikki Haley , Ralph Hudgens , Savannah harbor project , state Board of Education , Wanda Barrs