Walker County School Board Members to Go to Court Regarding Ethics and Nepotism


Two members of the Walker County Board of Education face a lawsuit regarding accusations of violating state laws governing eligibility and ethics and nepotism policies. The suit was filed in September by Chelsea Cagle, a Walker County resident with a child in Walker County Schools.

The suit says that Board Members Mike Carruth and Karen Harden are ineligible because they have children who work as administrators in the school system.  Mike Carruth, a board member since 2004, has a son, Justin Carruth, who is currently employed as the Coordinator of CTAE and High School Curriculum for the Walker County Board of Education. Similarly, Karen Harden, a board member since January 2022, has a son, Scott Harden, working as the Coordinator of Technology for the same board. There is a state code that states, “No Person who has an immediate family member…serving as…system administrative staff in the local school system shall be eligible to serve as a member of such local board of education.”

The controversy arises from the interpretation of state laws and policies defining eligibility criteria for school board service. State law and school board policies explicitly include children and brothers/sisters-in-law as immediate family members. Additionally, administrative staff, commonly referred to as non-instructional employees, is subject to these regulations.

No description available.
Order on Application for Leave to File an Information in the Nature of Quo Warranto

In response to inquiries about the eligibility of Carruth and Harden family members, Walker County Superintendent Damon Raines stated that the titles assigned by the Georgia Department of Education do not necessarily reflect their roles within the district. The Attorney General’s Office and the State Department of Education suggested that only the highest-level system administrative positions might be subject to nepotism restrictions, excluding middle management roles.

Concerns extend beyond alleged nepotism violations, touching on ethical considerations. The board’s recent 3-2 vote to extend Superintendent Damon Raines’ contract raises eyebrows, as family members of board members may hold district director positions. This prompts concerns about objectivity in decision-making and adherence to ethics and nepotism policies.

No description available.
Writ of Quo Warranto

The potential impact on education quality is a significant concern, especially as violations of ethics and nepotism policies pose a risk of accreditation probation or revocation, as seen in other Georgia school districts facing similar issues in the past.

The case was filed against Mike Carruth and Karen Harden as individuals and the school system is not named as a defendant.