Originally created 08/14/04

Trustee's letter agitates board



Columbia County School Board members are butting heads concerning a letter one board member sent to local restaurants soliciting donations for Evans High School.

In the Aug. 2 letter, which incorporated the board's logo, trustee Lee Muns asked more than 30 restaurant owners and managers to donate funds to Evans High School for its newly renovated food lab.

Fellow trustees are attacking Mr. Muns for using the logo without their approval and for claiming in the letter that the food lab "was almost scrapped because of funds."

School Board Chairman Roxanne Whitaker accused Mr. Muns of breaching copyright law by using the logo without permission and violating board policy by not informing the school.

"I think the main issue that we had was that he had gone about producing a letter that people thought was from the Board of Education," she said. "The Board of Education had no idea what was going on.

"He does use our seal, which is a copyright violation according to our lawyer."

Mr. Muns denies any wrongdoing.

He said he normally doesn't send letters to request help from the community, but this time a letter was needed because he contacted so many restaurants. Mr. Muns said Evans High wasn't getting enough funding to properly equip the food lab.

"I have no factual basis for making my assumption, but I had personal concerns that more money had been earmarked toward the Harlem High School project and less money to the Evans' (project)," he said.

Harlem High opened a new food lab in 2003. Board members also say they never discussed discontinuing the food lab program at Evans.

"There was some concern in the community that the board was going to scrap the Evans program," Mrs. Whitaker said. "That was never even discussed, to my recollection."

Mr. Muns disagrees.

"I remember very clearly discussions saying, 'Funds were tight. We may have to rethink whether or not we're going to be able to do the food labs renovation at Evans,'" Mr. Muns said. "Of course, everybody else wants to say, 'I don't remember that.' But I do, and I'm very confident about that."

Evans High School Principal Don Brigdon said he and his staff didn't know about the letter until it had been faxed, which also is a violation of board policy, Mrs. Whitaker said.

Attorneys for Mr. Muns have sent a letter to Mrs. Whitaker stating he has broken no copyright laws, Mr. Muns said.

"I violated no board policy, and I violated no oath of office," he said.

And as of Friday, the letter had not generated any donations.

Phone messages left with board members Regina Buccafusco and Wayne Bridges were not immediately returned.

Reach Donnie Fetter at 868-1222, ext. 109, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.