To piggyback on Grifter with No Name’s recent post regrading A Contrast in Styles, I thought that it would be worth borrowing the Way Back Machine from Mr. Peabody and go all the way back to May 25, 2019 (cue harp flashback music).
In 2018-2019, the (nonpartisan) Coweta County School Board was being rocked by scandal. According to a May 25, 2019 article in the Newnan-Times Herald, allegations had been levied at the more “liberal” Board members accusing them of bid-rigging and other illegal acts. After a nearly year-long outside investigation, the allegations were determined to have not only been false, but “manufactured” to oust certain “liberal” members of the Board according to the official report of the findings.
The scandal started, according to the report, with a letter from Coweta County resident and activist Henry “Hank” Ashmore, through his attorney, Josh McKoon, currently the GRA backed candidate for Chairman for the Georgia Republican Party, which “accused ‘members of the Coweta Board of Education, the relevant staff of the Coweta School District, and the Coweta School District itself’ of criminal conduct, including bid rigging, conspiracy to defraud, and racketeering.”
The accusation centered around bids to install artificial turf for Coweta County Schools. The report was also highly critical of Board member Linda Menk, who, the report centers on as being the source for McKoon’s and Ashmore’s information about the alleged “bid-rigging.” Menk, who was crushed in her 2022 re-election bid, also was serving as a Vice-Chair of the Coweta County Republican Party under Chairman Brant Frost V during this time.
Witnesses told investigators that it was at a June 2018 Coweta County GOP meeting, a meeting attended by both Menk and Ashmore, that the idea for the allegations may have been concocted. According to the report, Party members in attendance were asking what could be done to get the more liberal members out of office? Brant Frost’s reported answer was simple, “What we need is a scandal. What we need is a good scandal.”
Frost then allegedly informed the members that he had been in contact with Ashmore’s attorney, Josh McKoon, and, according to the report, that “he informed the audience they would be hearing more about it soon.”
The report mentions that after Ashmore’s initial accusations, neither he, nor Josh McKoon, provided any evidence to back up the allegations nor did Ashmore ever file a promised racketeering lawsuit against the Board of Education. Furthermore, both Ashmore and McKoon refused to cooperate in the investigation with McKoon claiming the investigation was nothing more than a “witch hunt.”
McKoon’s response to investigators was, “I am under no obligation to respond to your emails or participate in this inquiry and have no intention of doing so.”
In January 2019, McKoon took the Chief of Staff position under newly elected, but soon to be short termed, Insurance Commission Jim Beck.
Investigators also tried to interview Frost, but, according to the report, “Despite numerous email requests asking him to speak to us, Mr. Frost refused.”
While a separate investigation by Fox 5 Atlanta found issues in the Coweta bid process, and had some criticisms of the report based on the RFP (Request for Proposal), Menk tried to use it as vindication of her position, concluding that since the report was flawed regarding the analysis of the bid proposal, claiming that it was entirely flawed in all aspects, stating, “The report is flawed. Obviously, I don’t like it.”
In the end, the report found no evidence of racketeering, criminal activity, or other wrong doing, but did cost the taxpayers of Coweta County, according to Fox 5 Atlanta, $114,742 for Frost’s manufactured scandal. Furthermore, while the “scandal” didn’t oust a single alleged “liberal” member of the Coweta County Board of Education, last year, Rob DuBose unseated Menk earning 79.5% of the vote to Menk’s 20.5%.
Menk has had other issues during her tenure on the School Board than just her role in Frost’s manufactured scandal, including accusations that she during her campaign, she sent campaign emails to the work emails of approximately 500 county school employees, a possible violation of election law.
Once again, as Lane very accurately pointed out in his post, A Pretty Typical Political Email, actions do not matter to the GRA, only purity. This is no better illustrated than in Menk’s Facebook comments from two years ago when she pulls the victim card, claiming it is her fidelity to conservative principles that has led to her being targeted, as opposed to her own promotion of lies and false accusations:
One Facebook user further defended Menk stating, “Her crime? Her support of Trump. It is still America and we should be able to support the Candidate of our choice.”
In the end, we have several Republicans, all tied to Brant Frost and the GRA, who cost the taxpayers over $100,000 by falsely accusing other elected officials of criminal activity by, according to the testimony of others, manufacturing a scandal for the sole purpose of a political agenda.
However, Menk’s attorney, Fife Whiteside, told Fox 5, “That’s her constitutionally protected speech. She has the right to talk to Ashmore. He has the right to do what he does.”
In truth, there is nothing new about manufacturing scandals in politics. That’s what “mud-slinging” is all about. However, the mud-slinging is usually confined to mail pieces and TV ads and usually don’t result in investigations that cost the taxpayers as much as Frost, McKoon, Ashmore, and Menk’s did. It may have been “free speech” for the GRA, but not for the taxpayers.