By Dave Oedel
One of the most riveting Middle Georgia news stories of 2015 has been former Bibb Schools Superintendent Romain Dallemand’s attempt to recast his role in the Bibb schools financial scandal. After Dallemand’s severance from employment with Bibb County’s Board of Education in 2013, Dallemand apparently disappeared to Haiti as if he were on the lam, avoiding legal service and requests for comment about his conduct when he worked for Bibb County’s Board of Education. Now in 2015, though, Dallemand has surprised some by popping up again in Florida, where he is pushing three legal actions to vindicate his name — and perhaps make yet more money off his brief Bibb stint of two years as superintendent.
On January 13, 2015, Dallemand fought back against Georgia’s Professional Standards Commission for stripping Dallemand of his Georgia public educator’s license in 2014 allegedly without an adequate hearing. On January 28, 2015, Dallemand filed a ten million dollar arbitration claim against the Bibb County Board of Education for breach of Dallemand’s severance agreement, defamation, and interference with contractual relations. On February 13, 2015, Dallemand filed a lawsuit against Bibb schools auditing firm Mauldin & Jenkins, alleging libel, slander, and interference with advantageous relations.
Dallemand’s remarkable reversal of his posture in 2013 and 2014, when he was evading the press and the law, now to the different posture of inviting legal scrutiny of his own role in these matters, must be making some Georgians queasy. Ironically, Dallemand’s 2015 legal awakening is threatening to break through the prosecutorial paralysis that has so far resulted in not a single criminal indictment despite more than $50 million in financial irregularities involving useless technology, the outrageous Promise Center lease, and more, all incurred over the two short years of Dallemand’s tenure.
What explains Dallemand’s turnaround? We can only speculate at this point, but one possibility seems to be that Dallemand feels duped by some his handlers and “friends” who remain here in Georgia – maybe some of them still in positions of public importance – who were sufficiently concerned about what Dallemand might do after leaving to give him cash and maximal legal protection to encourage a quiet departure, including an indemnity clause for defending against possible criminal and civil charges concerning his “service” in Bibb County. Dallemand’s severance agreement itself is one of the most unusual severance documents seen in the history of Georgia law, according to several legal experts, and may itself be illegal and unenforceable.
The Monitor has a short list of Georgians who should be quite concerned about what their old friend Romain Dallemand is about to do to them. The Monitor also has a longer list of others who are not unlikely to be caught up, unwittingly or (more likely) semi-wittingly, in the undertow of this legal tsunami that is now in its early stages.
Assuming that Dallemand was in a sense duped, though, that would not necessarily mean that he is above reproach himself. And it doesn’t mean that the law will rescue Dallemand. As an old Scottish legal case holds, the courts will not entertain a claim among thieves for breach of whatever honor there may be among thieves.
Of course, Dallemand may not be a thief. Dallemand himself seems to be insisting that, if there was any impropriety, he was an incidental victim of that impropriety. And if he is not a thief, just an incidental player, then the prosecutors should offer him immunity to testify.
But what do we know for sure about Dallemand?
Despite Charles Richardson at the Telegraph bizarrely continuing last month to declare Dallemand’s Chinese language instruction foray to be “brilliant,” most everyone else recognizes that part of Dallemand’s Macon Miracle as an example of educational charlatanism. It takes a brazen, fantastical edu-salesman like Dallemand and minions like Richardson to pitch the notion that our local children least able to read and write English are going to succeed at a task that is far over their educational readiness: learning the tonal language of Chinese, with its majestic complexity and labyrinthine writing system. In fact, the program was tried in Bibb for a year, then largely dropped as an abject failure.
Though none of that was apparently criminal, Dallemand’s Chinese language experiment reveals something about Romain Dallemand’s motivations beyond his penchant for sloganeering and overly dramatic educational flourishes. Dallemand seemed to appreciate money and power, and sucked up to people with money and power, while being willing to use front organizations and flimsy narratives to shield the truth about such dealings.
In the Chinese language instruction case, it was the Chinese government with the money and power. The front that the Chinese government used was the so-called “Confucius Institute,” something that is little more than a propaganda arm of China’s ruling party. Awash in cash, China’s leaders wanted to sell their message of a lovely, innocent Chinese nation by placing some lovely, innocent young Chinese people in Bibb’s local school system as Chinese teachers. A key part of the deal from Dallemand’s perspective, as he explained publicly, was that the Chinese were willing to pay a big part of the teaching tab, more than half the cost of each Chinese teacher.
In other words, Dallemand has already publicly shown himself eager to do educational business with people like the Chinese ruling party if they will grease the skids, even if they ask him to accept front organizations without scrutiny, along with outlandish educational rationales, in the process.
Who’s to say that Dallemand would not also have been willing to clear the way for Georgia-based power brokers and handlers, including being willing to overlook the use of Georgia-based front organizations and outlandish educational rationales, only with respect to technology, the Promise Center, and more?
As to whether Dallemand is more the villain or the victim, the jury is still out. But thanks to Dallemand pushing back in 2015, some juries around here may eventually get around to considering such questions in a number of related cases that don’t only involve Dallemand.
People, including Romain Dallemand, who are willing to provide information in confidence about who is involved in the Bibb schools scandal, and how the involvement worked, should feel free to email email@example.com or call 478-973-1947.