Originally created 08/07/99

Lawyer: State panel clears Dohrmann



Former Columbia County schools Superintendent Tom Dohrmann has been cleared of wrongdoing by the state's Professional Standards Commission, his attorney said Friday.

Dr. Dohrmann, 51, resigned in November after he was presented with a list of concerns regarding his travel expenses, leave time and conduct on the job.

In March, school board members decided to forward an external audit to the state commission to consider for investigation. The standards commission -- which certifies and enforces standards and ethics for educators -- notified Dr. Dohrmann in April that it would investigate.

That investigation, according to Dr. Dohrmann's attorney Leland Malchow, found no probable cause to reprimand the administrator by revoking his certificate.

"Dr. Dohrmann received verbal verification this morning from the PSC of no probable cause on any charge, he's been totally vindicated," Mr. Malchow said.

The Professional Practices Section -- the investigative arm of the Professional Standards Commission -- would not release any information on the outcome of its investigation.

"We do not confirm or deny investigations from this office," said John Grant, chief investigator for the Professional Practices Section.

At the time of Dr. Dohrmann's resignation, board members were divided on how the matter was handled, with two former board members -- Mike Annis and Jean Smith -- supporting the former superintendent.

The school board's external audit -- performed by Augusta accounting firm Cherry, Bekaert and Holland -- found overpayments on expenses, lack of documentation on travel expenses and questioned whether Dr. Dohrmann received benefits beyond what his contract allowed.

Auditors suggested more stringent internal controls on cash disbursements, benefits and salaries.

A recent audit review by the Georgia Department of Education recommended that Columbia County's school board seek reimbursement for $541.63 in meal and travel expenses by the former superintendent, citing a lack of proper documentation and expenditures over what the state allows.

Dr. Dohrmann -- who did not return at least three telephone calls Friday -- has denied any wrongdoing on his part.

He has moved to the Atlanta area, but has not found a new position, Mr. Malchow said. The former superintendent had been with Columbia County for almost three years.

Mr. Malchow said Dr. Dohrmann has not decided if he will take any action against Columbia County's school system, Mr. Malchow said.

"We think this investigation kind of hindered his job search while this was going on," Mr. Malchow said. "He's very relieved and believes this will help him in his future job search."

Current schools Superintendent Tommy Price and board Chairman Ray Hicks said Friday they had not received any notification about the investigation.

Mr. Hicks said he would be surprised if Dr. Dohrmann did not receive at least a reprimand.

Peggy Ussery covers education for The Augusta Chronicle's Columbia County Bureau. She can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112, or ussery@augustachronicle.com.