Originally created 01/21/05

Another Schrenko aide pleads guilty



ATLANTA - The number of people pleading guilty to some aspect of the fraud charges levied against former School Superintendent Linda Schrenko rose again Thursday with the admission of guilt by an Evans man who was her aide.

Miller E. Finley, 64, pleaded guilty in federal district court in Atlanta to lying to investigators probing 11 suspicious contracts by the state Department of Edu-cation when Ms. Schrenko led it.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Finley had initially said they were all processed within the department's routine procedures without her direct involvement, but he has since said Ms. Schrenko violated department rules and personally ordered them.

The contracts, totaling more than $500,000 in federal funds, were supposedly for computer-related services at three schools run by the department for deaf and gifted students. But prosecutors allege no services were delivered and that some of the money went into Ms. Schrenko's failed gubernatorial campaign.

A federal grand jury indicted her Nov. 10 on 18 counts along with the head of the computer companies, Stephan Botes, of Alpharetta; and Merle Temple, of Grovetown, a Schrenko aide who served her as both deputy superintendent and then in a key campaign role. All three pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Temple later changed his plea to guilty. Also entering guilty pleas in recent weeks have been Jonathan Turner, of Barnesville, the chief financial officer of the computer companies; and Richard Leonard, of Augusta, her former campaign manager.

Ms. Schrenko's lawyer, Pete Theodocion, downplayed the importance of the guilty pleas.

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424 or walter.jones@morris.com.