Georgia NAACP Pres. Edward DuBose and other civil rights leaders after meeting with Governor Deal
Governor Deal spokesman Brian Robinson
Marcus Coleman of the National Action Network
Governor Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) suspends 6 of 9 DeKalb County School Board members on February 25, 2013
Six of nine DeKalb School Board members suspended by the Governor (circled)
ATLANTA - Things got a little testy at the State Capitol on Monday after members of the NAACP and other civil rights groups sat down with Governor Nathan Deal (R-Georgia) over the DeKalb County School Board crisis.
They met behind closed doors for just over an hour and apparently neither side budged.
The civil rights leaders object to the governor's removing 6 members of the DeKalb school board under a 2011 law.
He said he acted to try and save the school district's accreditation, which is on probation thanks to a "dysfunctional" board.
The civil rights leaders disagree over how it was done.
"We're not speaking on whether the school board members deserved to be in place or not, that's not the issue," said Georgia NAACP President Edward DuBose after the meeting.
"The issue is whether a governor should act like a dictator, whether a governor should have the single power to remove someone that was elected by the people," he added.
After the meeting, the governor's spokesman, Brian Robinson, insisted Deal had no choice under the law.
"He had one choice and what he chose was to make sure that every student in DeKalb County graduates from an accredited school; that was his concern," Robinson said.
The civil rights leaders thanked the governor for meeting with them, but went on to accuse him of being part of a national conspiracy to remove African-Americans from public office.
They also objected to something they claim Deal said as the meeting was ending.
"Find some good black people to run for office," Marcus Coleman of the National Action Network quoted the governor as saying.
"We've a message to the governor," Coleman added, "You don't dictate who is good and who is bad as far as who we choose for our leaders."
The governor's spokesman had a different interpretation.
"He was encouraging them, since they were making race a major issue in this, to get involved in this process and make sure that we've got some really good African-American candidates who represent their community well to go on this school board," said Brian Robinson.
Meanwhile, a special nominating panel appointed by the governor has spent the past few days going over 403 applications for the 6 vacant school board slots.
The governor's office said they expect to get a final list of 12 nominations in the next few days.
Five of the six board members suspended by the governor continue their legal battle to have the 2011 removal law declared unconstitutional.