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Smith property deal with sup't. candidate raises questions

One of the three finalists for the top job in the Fayette County School System has some real estate buying and selling history with the current chairwoman of the Board of Education.

The two leading characters in the story are Board Chairman Terri Smith and former Assistant Superintendent Lyn Wenzel, who likely is the leading contender for the superintendent’s position with the Fayette County School System, replacing recently retired Dr. John DeCotis.

Eleven years ago Smith and Wenzel became neighboring property owners on the same day in a development called “The Compound,” an undeveloped tract of 106 acres containing a lake off Bankstown Road west of Brooks. The entire tract had been purchased by Burton L. Clark, a real estate developer and business associate of Smith’s husband. (More about Clark later in this story.)

Wenzel seems to have gotten a good price on the 16.88 acres she and her husband bought for $5,000 an acre at a time when development was occurring at a fever pace in Fayette County. Within two years, Wenzel sold the land for a 29 percent profit back to another one of Smith’s husband’s business associates.

Some critics of Wenzel have charged that the real estate deal more than a decade ago raises questions about whether Smith can cast an impartial vote to hire the next superintendent, given their past business association.

Contacted about her previous ownership of 16.88 acres near now-Chairwoman Smith, Wenzel would only reference the residential property she currently owns in Peachtree City.

“All I know is what I own in Peachtree City,” Wenzel said.

County records show the then-Wenzel property as part of the 106.84-acre subdivision along Bankstown Road called The Compound.

It was on April 7, 1999 that paperwork was filed to buy each of the seven tracts from Burton L. Clark, a business associate of James W. Smith, Jr., Terri Smith’s husband.

Terri Smith at the time was a year away from being elected to her first term on the Board of Education, but Wenzel was already serving as principal of J.C. Booth Middle School.

The 24.26-acre Tract 1 was purchased by James W. Smith, Jr. for $116,250. Tract 1 was transferred to his wife and FCBOE Chairman, Terri, on Sept. 27, 1999.

The 16.88-acre Tract 5 of The Compound was purchased the same day — April 7, 1999 — by Jeffrey G. Wenzel and Lynda S. Wenzel for $84,400, with a balloon note carried by the Bank of Georgia. That’s $5,000 per acre for land situated less than five miles away from the then-brand-new Starr’s Mill school complex just south of Peachtree City.

Two years later, the Wenzel property was sold for $109,000 — or $6,457 per acre — to Aspect Holdings, Inc. on Dec. 13, 2001, shortly before a balloon note came due on the property. That’s a profit of $24,600 — or 29 percent — for Wenzel on the still-undeveloped property.

Aspect Holdings — until it was administratively dissolved in May 2008, according to the Ga. Secretary of State — was owned by another James Smith business associate, Mike Morris, who also owned one of the subdivided tracts within The Compound.

The real estate transactions began with Burt Clark, who, at least in the past, has been a business associate of James W. Smith, Jr. Clark was the representative of at least one of Smith’s companies that had development proposals submitted to the Tyrone Planning Commission and Town Council.

And it was Clark’s sister, Joy Clark Belyeu, who attended a recent meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education and charged board member Bob Todd with potential ethics violations during the public comments portion of the meeting. Chairwoman Terri Smith later acknowledged that “Joy Clark” was Burt Clark’s sister Joy.

The remaining five tracts at The Compound were also sold to five other couples or groups on April 7, 1999.

• Tract 2 totaling 13.7 acres was purchased by Michael W. and Desiree K. Morris. Mike Morris was listed as the agent for Aspect Holdings, Inc.

• Tract 3 totaling 7.78 acres was purchased by Danny and Patricia Carden.

• Tract 4 with 15.79 acres was purchased by Burt and Deborah Clark.

• Tract 6 totaling 20.11 acres was purchased by Clark, Smith and Morris.

• And the 8.29-acre Tract 7 was purchased by Douglas W. and Karen H. Howett.



mbest's picture

Eleven years ago? Big deal.

Chairman Terri Smith is one of five people who will decide whether or not this woman gets the job. It's an obvious conflict of interest and I'm not surprised that Smith didn't disclose it herself.

I wouldn't think that people who deal in buying and selling land would consider any business transaction as needing disclosure, even when picking a friend for a large paying job--or dealt with before.

It continues to be amazing just how many connections there are in Fayette's cities and county concerning getting wealthy!
Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, OK?

Or, wear a tight short dress to court so I can look at you instead of concentrating on the poor dude before me! He's getting 20 years anyway.

Or loan me the money to put on a fancy tennis center with highly paid pros and the city will pay you if we default. We defaulted and the signer of the note simply left town with mucho salary. The lawyers and the bankers and the developers said cover it up quickly and they did for years.

I don't want to go on but you get my point.
I'm afraid that is what you get in a county where everyone thinks alike about politics----well, nearly everyone.

PTC Observer's picture

And where's the conflict?

The fact that people know people is not a conflict, the fact that 11 years ago they had a business transaction does not make a conflict.

A conflict of interest is where two people on each side may gain if a public action is taken. In this case I see no conflict.

But..... I am willing to listen.

would that be a conflct of interest in your mind? Obviously, they are more than just "friends" or collegues.
Public action taken?? You don't think being named in the top 3 by the school board is public action?

mbest's picture

now you're exageratting. I think I don't know the woman but the whole story reads like a bunch of BS.

You know I think you are right. No sleeping or otherwise in bed was mentioned there.
It's hard not to assume some things since it seems to be the norm even in court.

PTC Observer's picture

where's the conflict?

There is no connection today with either of them. Are we saying that no candidate for this job can have a connection with the current BOE?

Let's evaluate Wenzel on her qualifications against the others in this pool.

I agree, let's evaluate Wenzel on her qualifications. Let's see, she lacks interpersonal skills (ask those who have been subjected to her "whims" as an administrator). She isn't very smart. She isn't always forthcoming. By the way, I really don't care about her land deal; HOWEVER, I do resent her answer when questioned. Re-read the article. She replied, "All I know is what I own in Peachtree City.” What kind of answer is that? Do you want this woman running our schools?

Furthermore, she was a major part of the incompetent school leadership that has produced unbelieveably low morale among its employees. Yes, look at Wenzel's qualifications. Then, you will quickly look elsewhere.

suggarfoot's picture


It is what moneyed people do who have connections and good friends in power.
Even non-moneyed people when the banks go crazy with loans!
You know there used to be people who could buy something, then go to their known bank and sign the papers for the loan---no questions asked!

I think it is called special treatment.

ginga1414's picture

The connections are the conflicts. When Smith/Smola use their connections to abuse their positions, conflicts are created.

Most recently Smola was caught abusing her position by having her connection with attorney Doug Warner create a conflict among the parents of a local subdivision. That connection was made to specifically discredit Dr. Bob Todd. Thankfully, it didn't work.

Terri Smith's connection with Joy Clark Belyeu was used to abuse her position on the BOE and cause a conflict at one of the Board meetings. During the public comments segment of the BOE meeting, Joy Clark Belyeu stood up and charged Dr. Todd with potential ethics violations. That connection was made to specifically discredit Dr. Todd.

Many people have been trying to make the connection between Terri Smith, her developer husband James W. Smith, the Bank of Georgia, the buying and selling of school property, empty and half empty schools, development and the West Bypass. Go back and read Ben Nelms article again. Ben is definitely on the right track.

As far as, Terri Smith's connection with Lyn Wenzel is concerned, it is plain to see there is a connection because of Ms. Wenzel's former position as Assistant Superintendent of Fayette County Schools and the land deal. This connection is ripe for conflict. Think about it. Read Ben's article again.

Folks are always talking about "The Good Old Boys Club." Fayette County also has a "Good Old Girls Club." Last night, we acquired some new blood in the County Commission. We need some new blood in our education system. Smith and Smola weren't successful in pushing Charlie Cave on the County. So, I'm certain, their back-up plan centers around Wenzel.

The Fayette County School System needs someone who has no CONNECTIONS with Smith and Smola. The Fayette County School System needs to avoid any appearance of CONFLICT whatsoever.

For everyone in agreement, please write a letter to the Board of Education and voice your preference on the selection of our new Superintendent. It is vitally important. If you send a letter, whether it is email or U.S. Mail, keep a documented record of it. Ask for a reply from the Board and keep a documented record of the reply.

mbest's picture

in a blog. Not inclined to write emails on your behalf.

The article I blogged about concerned Wenzel and an 11 year old connection. 99% of your blog was about Smith and Smola and only briefly mentioned Wenzel in the end again referring to a connection 11 years ago. I don't even remember someone who sold me a house 11 years ago.

Again I don't know Wenzel. I just thought (and still think) the story trying to link her with someone she met that long ago with no other recent connection is lame.

Well, isn't this a shocker?! What an incestuous bunch!

We pulled our kids out of Booth Middle School when Lynn Wenzel was principal because of the wacky programs she was bringing into the curriculum! We went to see Ms. Wenzel when the teachers were eliminating academic classes for weeks at a time, playing psychological games in their stead. Ms. Wenzel was sympathetic and told us at our meeting that this was disturbing and she would have to look into it further. Imagine our surprise when we read the FCBOE Annual Report, where Ms. Wenzel stated it was her goal to bring this very program into the schools. She knew exactly what was going on! This woman would jump on any of the latest unproven Education Reform Bandwagons to blow through town and put them in the school (with the approval of Dr. DeCotis, I might add). Once we clued the FCBOE into what was going on at Booth, the program was pulled. But I can't imagine what she has put in place since then, in her position up in the administrative office.
This woman is dangerous for the state of education in Fayette County. Making her Superintendent would be a Disaster!

So the woman who publicly blasted Board Chair Terri Smith's longtime adversary Dr. Robert Todd <a href=" Teacher Joy Clark"</a>, a self-proclaimed expert in Fayette County school's ethics policy, turns out to be a <em>nom de guerre</em> for Fulton county Instructional Specialist Joy Clark Belyeu, the sister of real estate developer Burton Clark, who is in turn a business associate of Terri Smith's husband.

Gosh, what a small world!

It's unfortunate that the Citizen publishes this salient bit of information on election day, when it's far too late to have any impact.

The applications for the 3 finalists are available at the Fayette County Schools main office. Citizens are encouraged to comment.

More to come on the Wenzel/Smith/Belyeu ongoing connection - just need to double check facts.

grassroots's picture

Anyone knowing particulars on these Superintendent candidates would be
Leave in comment section.

We seem to be having a difficult time as of late in finding a slate of honest politicians in Fayette County? And why is that? My friend, I think it's just symbolic of our "me first" and "I want what you have" culture. Heard of any poor people elected to public office lately?

This whole Wenzel/Smith mess reminds me of how politics works in Chicago, absent the snow. Those of you who are waiting for an investigation of "the facts" into this most noteworthy news before you form an opinion are either extremely naive, or personal friends of either or both of these ladies.

In the first place, I don't think Lynn Wenzel is professionally qualified to be the the supt. of Fayette schools. And secondly, from talking with those who have worked with her, it seems she has accumulated too much dirty personal laundry to be considered a top tier candidate.

I say let's look outside the city limits of Hooterville for a suitable candidate to direct our school system. Goodness knows as ineffective as our BOE is (and we've stooped to drawing a candidate whose most outstanding qualification is "they love Fayette County"??), we need a strong leader in the supt. position.


I don't know for sure, but I don't think Mayor Haddix is exactly rolling in the dough. Also, I don't get the impression that Mr. Imker or the other current council members have large bank accounts, or are trying to enlarge them at public expense. It seems the 'rich' people tend to serve at the county level. I do agree that we should look outside the county for our next school superintendent. I say go with the guy from Maine, as he might be able to get lobster on the school menu.

grassroots's picture

According to article:
DiCotis was upset with all board members and urged to get along. Then he singled out Bob Todd with "expression" of ethics complaints last day in office. What a hypocrite . He's left on a sour note. Now only some has to submit a formal complaint because of what he did.

See details at

opusman's picture

No spine John decotis opened this door with Terri Smith on trumped up ethics complaints about working together in harmony!
What a crock ! Do we need to go back to the pod casts and see who publicly in a BOE meeting created and acted inharmoniously calling other BOE members liars. Also, who was caught lying red handed about other board members?(smith and smola)

"Invincibility lies in the defense. The possibility of victory in the attack."

What a joke to go on your webiste and see that the real 3 stooges gave you the Thomas Paine Award. You have got to be kidding. Don't hurt yourself patting yourself on the back. Brown, Todd, McCarty and Meyers in a circle....congratulating each other. You are right about the WFB being the wrong road, but that shameless self promotion went to far to stomach. You give Thomas Paine a bad name! To use his name without his permission or even his ancestors or estate is ridiculous. You lost some credibility with that. So are Todd, Brown, and McCarty claiming to be equivalents of Thomas Paine. Please, give me liberty from the crap!!!

grassroots's picture

I have several awards just sitting gathering dust in a closet like you. I don't post them all. I take pride in helping the community defeat SPLOST, elect the best candidates, expose fraud and corruption, and next the final defeat and burial of the WFB which was a goal we started 18 months ago. Posting it was of the moment of celebration of out whole group of writers who have articulated a lot of fine articles. Not my ego. Thanks to all who contributed to the success of SPLOSTPOLL this year. We haven't lost an issue yet that we've endorsed. Give me a worthy article with a unique take that's not so cynical and maybe we'll post it.

me.and_the_sea's picture

It was done during the election when they were pulling out all stops. You remember, lying to the lawyer so he would spread their manure all over Highgrove and Whitewater via email trying to tamper with the outcome of the elections. Really classless, but we knew that already.

I hope everyone shows up at the next BOE meeting to hear how the 3 tone deaf amigos deal with the fact that they hit every sour note in their unharmonious bag of tricks lost.

It is very apparent they care nothing for the children.

ginga1414's picture

Smith and Smola have too much time on their hands. It appears that their brains are really working overtime on creative manipulation.

As a Certified Court Reporter, I have worked on cases where the bad guys have records that would reach across this country. I often wondered how they found the time to get themselves into so much trouble. A lot of bad guys have what is known as an "M.O." "M.O." or "Modus Operandi is a characteristic pattern of methods of a repeated criminal act, used to identify the culprit."

It seems that Smith and Smola are establishing a very distinctive "M.O." Our other county newspaper published an article stating that former Fayette County School Superintendent John DeCotis, as a final act, telephoned Mike Bryans with the system's accrediting organization to complain about Dr. Bob Todd. Before that, there was the false rumor about Dr. Todd's stating that Whitewater HIgh School students would be transferred to Sandy Creek High School. That was traced to Smola. This latest scheme looks like just one more attempt by Smith and Smola to hamstring our Board of Education. It has their "M.O." all over it.

Will Smith and Smola never stop? They are digging their own graves with the people of Fayette County. In the past they have been given the benefit of the doubt. However, there is no doubt remaining when it comes to who is causing the turmoil with our Board of Education.

The combination of Smith, Smola and Wenzel would destroy our educational system.

In an article written by Ben Nelms titled "Details released on superintendent finalists," Ben has supplied information taken from our new superintendent candidates' applications. I urge everyone to read that article, evaluate the candidates and let your views be known to the Board of Education.

Does anyone know when the decision will be made?

ginga1414's picture

Abacus2, the Board of Education website says, "The superintendent will be chosen from the list of finalists at a future board meeting. If you have comments you would like to share with the Board regarding any of the applicants, please do so via email here:

The website has a schedule of meetings. However, the upcoming meetings will be a "Work Session" on August 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm. There will be a regular meeting on August 17, 2010 (Agenda Review: 6:30 - 7:00pm Regular Meeting : 7:00pm).

I sent an email to Dr. Todd at

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