District 2 appointee’s application lacked letters of support, campaign fundraising questions remain

Clarke County School District Board of Education appointee Antwon Stephens (District 2) did not submit the two required letters of support with his application materials, and as of Feb. 5, no one has submitted them on his behalf. 

Along with a signed letter of interest and a resume or biographical sketch, applicants for the District 2 seat were required to submit two letters of support or have them sent by supporters. 

In Stephens’ application and subsequent e-mail communication with the BOE, obtained by BluePrints through an open records request, he asked for a grace period to submit the letters of support, saying he was out of town for a death in the family.

Board President Dr. Lakeisha Gantt declined the request, copying board attorney Michael Pruett on the message. 

“From my understanding, all information has to be submitted today – and I am not aware of any provisions,” Dr. Gantt wrote. 

Last week, when asked who sent the letters of support, Stephens declined to name anyone.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying without knowing for sure or asking those supporters first. I was dealing with the death in the family around that time and notified the board, which allowed for them to be sent by the individuals themselves with me being out of town,” Stephens said in a message. 

Three weeks after Stephens’ appointment, no letters of support have been submitted on Stephens’ behalf. BluePrints filed another open records request to verify that his application was still incomplete.

Dr. Gantt declined to comment on requirements for the District 2 application. BluePrints also contacted Stephens for comment with no response. 

On behalf of the BOE, Dr. Gantt released a statement Jan. 31 addressing Stephens’ claims about his educational history.

“While the unfolding of events and information is not optimal, it is not a legal disqualifier. Being a high school graduate is not a requirement for serving on the Board of Education and the Affidavit signed does not contain any representation about being a graduate. Therefore, this revelation does not change his eligibility for office,” Gantt wrote in the statement.

This week, Flagpole reported that Stephens is under investigation for possibly violating federal campaign finance law. Before his appointment, Stephens was running to represent District 9 in the U.S. House of Representatives, but he is not old enough to legally hold the seat. 

Stephens’ ActBlue fundraising account still appears to be active, despite the now former candidate being under the minimum age requirement of 25 to serve in the House of Representatives. ActBlue has not responded to e-mails or phone calls. Stephens also solicited donations on Twitter through Piryx.com, an online fundraising platform.

Last Friday in an interview, Stephens acknowledged that he understood that he was below the minimum age requirement to serve in the House of Representatives. On Jan. 14, Stephens tweeted that he was “only a few dollars” away from his $20,000 fundraising goal. He continued to tweet out fundraising solicitations on the same day of his BOE appointment on Jan. 16.  

Additional questions continue to emerge around Stephens’ 2017 run for mayor and the $102,396 he claims to have raised.

Stephens’ 2017 Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report lists 17 donors. One of the donations involves 2016 presidential candidate Lloyd Kelso, a Gastonia, North Carolina attorney. The report indicates that Kelso donated $2,600 to Stephens’ campaign for Mayor of Athens. Kelso denied donating money to Stephens, saying Stephens worked as “an assistant manager” during Kelso’s presidential campaign.

Last week, Stephens said he obtained a “Christian Studies diploma” at the Christian Leaders Institute. An email from a registrar at the Christian Leaders Institute stated that they do not offer a Christian Studies diploma, directing the query to a directory of graduates. Stephens’ name does not appear in the directory of graduates on the CLI website, although the same registrar said it’s possible Stephens graduated and his name was never added.

On Friday night Stephens will release “a special statement” at 8 PM. This announcement comes in a Facebook event that suggests it will take place over social media.

*BluePrints Magazine reporter Emma McElhannon, Assistant Editor Brittany Lopez, staff writer Jackie Wright, and Editor-in-Chief Sachio Goodie contributed to research and reporting for this article. 

Stephany Gaona-Perez

Stephany Gaona Perez is a senior Co-Editor in Chief for the BluePrints Magazine. She has attended both the Georgia Scholastic Press Association and Southern Interscholastic Press Association. Gaona-Perez is interested in both Criminal Justice and Journalism as possible fields of work, such as a Paralegal, Criminal Investigator, or working as a writer for a magazine/newspaper. She wants to graduate this year knowing that her fellow staff members are prepared to make excellent content and is looking forward to being a mentor for her peers.

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