Prosecutors wrap up case; Temple in jail; Shelnut implicated

By  | 

The trial involving Linda Schrenko's federal education spending enters its third week.

Merle Temple is the former deputy superintendent for Schrenko, and for now he's in jail and shows no signs of getting out any time soon.

Temple had no idea he was about to be arrested when he arrived last Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Atlanta wearing a Cayman Island t-shirt and blue jeans and carrying a briefcase. Temple was arrested on a criminal complaint of obstruction of justice. Authorities say he violated the terms of their agreement by staying in contact with Schrenko as late as the second day of her trial, even stating that he had not told everything and he didn't have to.

Monday, Temple's pretrial hearing was waived and the government motion for detention was granted. Earlier in the day prosecutors wrapped up their case against South Africans Stephan Botes and Peter Steyn with testimony from an FBI agent and also from former state school board chair Cathy Henson.

Henson was one of the first people News 12 interviewed back in the summer of 2003 when we first began our investigation of Schrenko's $600,000 spending spree.

"When you see that many in one day for the same purpose, when we looked into it we found out that the services were never requested, never delivered, and some of the companies never existed on the days the money was taken from the dept. Ms. Schrenko herself came in and got the checks which was unusual," Henson told News 12.

News 12 asked Henson if any reforms were in place to keep this from happening again.

"None that I'm aware of," she said. "I think we have to go on faith, because when it is happening it is hard for appointed officials like the board to stop an elected official."

Henson also said until News 12's story aired, she had not heard from any investigators.

"I thought Ms. Schrenko had gotten away with it, because I left the board in 2003. I had not heard anything from the state auditor or the attorney general's office. I had referred all of this to them in 2002, and you called in August 2003, and I believe that is what kicked off the investigation. If it had not been for that story, it could have been a very different outcome."

Defense attorneys for Stephan Botes have said they planned on calling seven to nine witnesses, and they are not sure if Botes will be one of them.

News 12 has also learned that Tim Shelnut could soon be the subject of an investigation. Mr. Shelnut's attorney sent a letter to the Georgia Ethics Commission.

Monday we got this statement from the insurance commissioner's office about that letter:

"Last week, our office was notified that a federal investigation disclosed campaign contributions Mr. Shelnut had made in violation of Georgia law, and Mr. Shelnut had notified the Georgia Ethics Commission.

"This may be grounds for administrative action by the insurance commission's office if he is found guilty."

Mr. Shelnut spoke with News 12 and says he's slated to give up the chairman's position on the board of regents on June 30.