Laurie Ott interviews Linda Schrenko

By: Laurie Ott
By: Laurie Ott
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Details on what she knew about a scheme to steal from Georgia schoolchildren for her campaign, and when she knew it. Linda Schrenko sits down with News 12's Laurie Ott, and tells her the whole story.

It's a candid look with the kind of details Ms. Schrenko has not shared anywhere else.

Some folks might be surprised to see Linda Schrenko sitting down with Laurie Ott for a long interview, considering the investigation into her spending News 12 launched in 2003.

But Laurie didn't hold back any questions--and Ms. Schrenko didn't hold back a single answer.

"Most of my friends think that you're my worst enemy and that I should not like you very much," Ms. Schrenko said.

"Do you think they're right?"

"Ha, ha...no."

"Do you in any way hold me responsible for your situation?"

"And I said no, it's true...you weren't there, you came calling after the fact and reported it," Ms. Schrenko said.

What News 12 reported was that Ms. Schrenko had spent more than $600,000, and that Georgia schoolchildren had not gotten a thing for that taxpayer money.

What we learned later is that hundreds of thousands ended up in her campaign for governor.

"It wasn't until I was going out of office in January I learned none of the services were delivered," Ms. Schrenko said.

"If what you're telling me is true, then you weren't in on it in the beginning," Laurie said. "When did you learn this was a criminal enterprise?"

"I suppose I began to get bits and pieces of it when I was out of office."

"How could you not know?"

"Utter stupidity," said Ms. Schrenko. "I said at the beginning, so many people were saying 'We'll take care of it for you'...I don't want to be involved in the finances...I'm not good at it."

But not all that money ended up in her campaign.

"I'd always kidded about getting a facelift, and he [Merle Temple] said, 'Let me give you one', and I said, 'Sure, go ahead'," Ms. Schrenko said. "So I didn't know where he got the money for that."

"You can understand why the facelift got so much attention, taxpayers saying, 'I work hard, I pay my taxes and I bought her a facelift? Did I get my money's worth?'"

"I don't know, I doubt it," Ms. Schrenko said. "Had I known it was where the money came from, I'd have said no."

That's just one glimpse into the relationship Ms. Schrenko had with her former deputy superintendent, Merle Temple.

"When I was listening to you testify for the prosecution, it really came down to you trusting Merle with more than your heart, trusting him with..."

"With everything," said Ms. Schrenko. "I did, and in hindsight, that's not very smart."

Ms. Schrenko says prosecutors never offered her or her attorney, Pete Theodocian, the deal Temple took soon after they were indicted.

"They were not willing to offer us anything, so Pete thought it was best I not go up there."

She eventually did plead guilty on the seventh day of the trial, right after the testimony of her daughter's office manager.

"It was just ruining people's lives, and I knew my daughter was going to have to come up and testify, and I knew she was sick and didn't want to," Ms. Schrenko said. "And I talked to Pete about it, and I said, 'Look, from what I've heard there were things going on that were wrong, and I think that I have to accept responsibility for that'."

Ms. Schrenko did help prosecutors and testify, and they did get a conviction against the South African businessman who took part in the scheme.

Ms. Schrenko doesn't have many days left before she has to report to prison. She has about a month before the Bureau of Prisons tells her where she'll spend the next eight years.


Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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