Atlanta school board candidate files ethics complaint against incumbent


UPDATE: The Atlanta Board of Education on Thursday dismissed the complaints against board member Cynthia Briscoe Brown. Read about the panel’s decision here.

ORIGINAL STORY (published Oct. 18):

Weeks before the Nov. 7 election, an Atlanta school board candidate filed an ethics complaint against his opponent, an incumbent whom he alleges offered his campaign worker a job with Atlanta Public Schools. 

The Atlanta Board of Education’s Ethics Commission will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday to discuss if it will investigate the complaint filed by Charlie Stadtlander, who is running against incumbent Cynthia Briscoe Brown for the at-large District 8 seat. 

Stadtlander alleges Briscoe Brown offered his campaign worker, Nicole Phillips, a job with the school district during an August conversation. 

Briscoe Brown denied the allegation.

“I think it’s about what could be expected from a political opponent three weeks before an election,” she said. 

A Stadtlander campaign volunteer recorded the interaction “by luck” in anticipation of capturing “a very funny campaign moment” the candidate wrote in his complaint,  which was obtained Wednesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request. 

Phillips stated in a sworn affidavit submitted by Stadtlander that he sent her to Briscoe Brown’s neighborhood to canvass and “to videotape the interaction at her home.” 

Phillips wrote that she told Briscoe Brown she was “transitioning from campaign manager to oversee community outreach and canvassing.” She wrote that Briscoe Brown asked her “if I wanted a job at APS.” 

Briscoe Brown said she never made that offer, though she said she expressed interest in having Phillips work on her campaign. 

“At no time did I offer her a paid position within APS or an unpaid position within APS. I can’t do that. I don’t make hiring decisions,” Briscoe Brown said. 

School district officials said Stadtlander did not give the ethics commission the recording of the alleged conversation. Instead, he provided a one-page document that purports to be a partial transcript of the conversation between Briscoe Brown and Phillips. 

The transcribed snippet does not include Briscoe Brown offering Phillips a job. 

It does include sounds described as “shuffling” and “huffing” and a mention of both women using the word “compensation.” The transcript provides little context in its five quoted sentences.

The transcriber reported in his notes that the recording contained “quite a bit of background noise.”

Stadtlander also accused Briscoe Brown of improperly posting photographs of APS students to her Facebook page. She refuted that as well.

“Everything I have done for the last four years has been according to board policy and practice and in furtherance of our communication strategy,” Briscoe Brown said. “It’s my job to attend APS functions, to visit schools, and to spread the word about the good things going on in Atlanta Public Schools.” 

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