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Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Kevin Levitas promoting ethics on the school board
With sincere apologies to John Heneghan, Kevin Levitas is my new hero! As reported in this week's edition of The Champion, Kevin, a state house representative from District 82 in DeKalb, has introduced some important legislation that will impact our school board and certainly our schools. Called "The DeKalb School Board Transparency Act", the legislation would subject our board members to an ethics commission designed to prevent conflicts of interest such as the one Gene Walker had this past year which sparked a lawsuit against him and the Authority filed by the Board of Education.
Walker, while serving as the chair of the DeKalb Development Authority, used over $21,000 in campaign contributions from the Sembler Company to win a seat on the DeKalb County Board of Education. Ironically, he did this at a time when the school board was discussing whether or not to endorse a Development Authority planned $51 million tax abatement for the Sembler Company. This action, seen as a huge conflict of interest by many voters, was the pivot point for finally bringing an ethics law for the board to the fore.
Walker vehemently defended his two positions, but eventually resigned from the Development Authority. He is quoted in an earlier interview with The Champion as saying, “It’s a dead issue with me.”
Now, in the recent interview with The Champion (linked at the top of this article) Gene has tried to minimize and brush the proposed legislation aside, calling it "frivolous".
"Walker said he has never spoken to Levitas about the legislation and called the lawmaker’s efforts “frivolous.” Walker has said he resigned from the authority because he and other authority members felt he had become a distraction. Walker said he did nothing illegal or wrong and disclosed contributions he received from Sembler.
“Every contribution I receive I report on a financial disclosure statement, and universally, every place, transparency or full disclosure is the anecdote for the appearance of a conflict of interest,” he said. “There’s much more important things [Levitas] should be working on.”
As has been reported at Atlanta Unfiltered, although Gene Walker did disclose the Sembler $21,000 campaign contribution, he only did so two days after winning his seat on the school board in a runoff. When questioned about the delay in reporting, he is quoted in the article as saying, “I was trying to win. My time was better invested in shaking hands than in filling out forms.” Georgia law requires candidates to report contributions promptly so voters have access to that information before casting their ballots.
Laws such as this one posed by Levitas are vital in order to give power to the people - where it belongs. We simply have to be certain that our representatives are looking out for the needs of the people - especially when our children are concerned.
Kevin has to pre-file this legislation and garner enough support at the State to make it law. Please, contact your local DeKalb legislator and let him or her know that you want this law passed. If you are not certain who your elected officials are, click here and you'll be given all of them, from Obama to your state rep.
Thank you Kevin!
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Gene Walker is so clueless he doesn't realize how unethical it was not to disclose his Sembler contributions while he was chair of the DeKalb Development Authority.
I can't wait until his term is over and he is voted out of office. He brings nothing to the BOE except to keep the North vs. South DeKalb divide going.
Gene is a lot like Dick Cheney. He had other priorities. Getting elected took priority over behaving ethically.
Thanks, Kevin! But to think....we could have had Ernest Brown in that seat!!! People on this blog talk all the time about getting rid of board members and wax poetic about electing better people the next time. Are you kidding? Except for Dr. Speaks, every other seat in the school board races had MUCH better candidates. Forums were held; meetings, yard signs. But Ernest Brown was outspent by THOUSANDS of dollars in the Walker war chest! Who spends thousands of dollars on a school board race?
What makes you think that Sarah Copelin-Wood, Zepora Roberts, Jim Redovian, and Jay Cunningham will be unseated? Especially in the cases of Copelin-Wood and Roberts, they get all kinds of goodies to their parts of the county and the people who really know how bad they are cannot swim against the tide of those who've been hoodwinked by those two. How many years have they been on the school board?!
My last child will graduate in 2011 and I'm tired of fighting. Thomas Bowen and Pam Speaks are quite bright. Jim Redovian's heart is in the right place. But until we get people on the school board who are willing to stand up to the Lewis administration and question every fiscal and instructional proposal, we'll be in the same boat two, four, six years from now.
I truly am pleased to see Kevin Levitas' ethics proposal and I really hope it passes. But until we have more informed voters across the county, I'm afraid we'll get more of the same.
Cere, thanks but if I could be a hero in only the eyes of my children that alone would be enough for me; unfortunately the teenage years are fast approaching. ;-)
Kudos to Kevin and the other members of the DeKalb Delegation who come January will join together to push through this important local legislation.
ah - no - remember when you shaved your head to raise money for childhood cancer? That was heroic! I don't suppose Kevin will shave his head to support this bill....maybe I will!
Jim Redovian is a good, good man, and he is aware of many of the issues we discuss here on DCSW. Trust me, he is not one of the problems on the BOE. Get rid of Walker, Cunningham, , Womack, McChesney Zepora and wacky Copelin-Wood, and things will change really, really fast. Womack keeps the North DeKalb vs. South DeKalb divide going as much as Walker, Zepora and Copelin-Wood do. McChesney could not be more unimpressive.
The bill is a marker for challenging the behavior (decisions) of board members AND employees.
CONCENTRATE ON THE EMPLOYEES--and go beyond their decisions into their operations. Thats where the fraud and waste are.
Nice article Cere. I was at Dan Weber's TownHall at Henderson Middle (only about 20 people there). Kevin did a good job explaining this at the meeting--altho the meeting was Dan's opportunity to talk transpo and water too.
---and Kevin mentioned he has discussed other more far-ranging strategies for getting at operational inefficiencies and academic results.
I don't know who he is discussing such things with, but it'll be great if such a conversation is formalised into a citizen review.
Anon. 9:11, I agree---Jim Redovian is a great guy. I'm a DSA parent (an unpopular admission on this blog, I know, but there it is). Jim and Sherrill Redovain are wonderful people and I know that Jim cares about all DeKalb County kids.
But I still want to know how we're going to unseat Zepora Roberts and Sarah Copelin-Woods (and Jay Cunningham) next year. The time is NOW for good candidates to be found. And even then, it's going to be tough!
We had GREAT candidates last year, worked hard to get the word out about them, and we ended up with McChesney, Womack, and Walker. Good grief!
We need smart, engaged, intellectually curious people on the board.
No worries about DSA ScotSue, as I stated on another thread, DCSS maintains a "scarcity" mentality, meaning there isn't enough basic supply of ANYTHING to go around, so everyone ends up pitting against each other to demand morsels and crumbs - while noticing that many of the favorites seem never to want for anything. DSA wants for a lot and has for a long time, and we have been hard on special programs at this blog - but in the spirit of Thanksgiving and a New Year approaching, I will make a personal pledge not to fall into the trap of comparing who has what of those who have little to nothing. I will only focus on the big budgets, the big bloat and the big waste - which by and large is in the Central Office and not really in schools much of anywhere.
We have to stick together and not let them divide us or we'll look like third world people lined up at the back of the truck fighting over the free food delivery, while the leaders feast on fine food and wine. It's a trap to throw attention away from the real problem -- waste and bloat - and I'm not biting anymore.
Well put, Cere! Thanks for the kind words. FWIW, I've known one of the health and PE teachers at Cross Keys for a few years. She is amazing in the dedication she has for her students. She is only one of many incredibly great teachers at CCHS. Their student newspaper is really well done, with the wonderful international flavor.
You're right, Cere! We all need to support each other. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
This came from Dr. Lewis in response to my inquiry about the fitness center at Mountain Industrial. It rather fits in with the "scarcity mentality" Cere brings up:
Thank you for allowing me to respond to your question about the Wellness Ctr. at Mtn. Industrial.
First, the Board of Ediucation purchased this faciility in 2002 for $10 million dollars for the purpose of relocating administrative offices. on North Decatur Rd. However, there were no funds available for renovations at that time.
Subsequently, the building sat unoccupied for 7 years until there was passage of SPLOST 3. Keep in mind that the citizens of Dekalb passed SPLOST 1 and 2 and used the funds to initiate an aggressive building program throughout the disrict. After having spent 1 billion dollars on the two SPLOST programs, a needs assessment revealed that we still had 2 billion dollars worth of needs.
Prior to the approval of our present construction program, the district submitted a list of 32 priority requests for voter approval. Mtn. Industrial was included in this legislation. Lakeside, Avondale Cross Keys and other schools are part of this building program.
In summary, DCSS has more schools and buildings than any district in Ga. Thus, it will take additional SPLOST programs to satisfy all the district's needs. I hope that my response answers some of your questions.
Write your state rep and ask them to support Kevin's bill, "The DeKalb School Board Transparency Act".
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
1 To enact the "DeKalb School Board Transparency Act;" to provide a code of ethics for the
2 DeKalb County School System; to provide for prohibited practices; to provide for disclosure;
3 to provide for sanctions on appointed officers and employees of the school system for
4 violations; to provide for an ethics commission; to provide for membership; to provide for
5 appointment and vacancies; to provide for eligibility; to provide for duties and powers; to
6 provide for compensation; to provide for complaints against board members; to provide for
7 hearings and actions; to provide for sanctions; to provide for appeals; to provide for a
8 training program; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date; to repeal
9 conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
10 BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF GEORGIA:
That link at the bottom of the post that says "click here" to see who your representatives are is out of date. It still shows Vernon Jones as CEO of Dekalb County.
Well gee. Let's see. Ironically, also on the agenda is an "ethics" policy (Item G2). I guess they had their new legal representation (Sutherland, etc) draw up something to make it look like they already have it "under control" so that no one needs to vote for Kevin Levitas' bill - which would be actual LAW.
This is so transparent it is laughable.
Some highlights of my favorite parts:
3. Board members will work with each other in a spirit of harmony and cooperation even when there are differences of opinion.
6. Board members will base individual decisions on fact rather than supposition, opinion, or public favor, and will uphold the final majority decision of the Board.
7. Board members will recognize that authority rests with the Board acting in legally convened meetings and not with individual members of the Board.
8. Board members will first communicate complaints from the community to the Superintendent and not to the public or the press.
17. Board members will not use, or lead others to believe they will use, their influence to obtain employment or promotion within the School District for any individual.
23. Board members will not vote or otherwise participate in discussions, deliberations, or decisions regarding any matter in which a reasonable person would consider them to have a conflict of interest
Also, it appears as though they are planning to form an "Ethics Committee" of citizens appointed by them! Ironically, none of these citizens is allowed to "hold any elected or appointed office and is not a candidate for any office in the governments of the United States, the State of Georgia, DeKalb County, or any municipality in DeKalb County;" - but the same requirement is not demanded of board members themselves.
Nor is it demanded of employees of DCSS - ie: the director of Internal Affairs.
"17. Board members will not use, or lead others to believe they will use, their influence to obtain employment or promotion within the School District for any individual."
Lucky for the Guillory's and Marcus Turk they are already in.
There are other people who deserve demerit points with regards to this issue involving the former chair of the Development Authority.
After the aforementioned individual won election to the school board, the new CEO of DeKalb County chose to proceed with the reappointment of this individual to the development authority.
That reappointment, in turn, was approved by a majority bloc of the county Board of Commissioners.
So there are plenty of eggs to go around for the individuals who had the authority to prevent the foreseeable conflict.
Right, Anon, and if you are paying attention, you already know that most of those who approved this double-dipping and conflict of interest by Walker, also received campaign contributions from the Sembler Co. Heck, even the cheerleaders at Lakeside got $20,000 from Sembler - Gene should be offended. ;-)
I'm a Kevin Levitas fan, and he's not even my district representative.
He consistently creates or supports legislation that produces thoughtful solutions to relevant issues.
Yes, our Dear Ole’ Mr. Gene Walker was offended and was justifiably upset. As for the “racial divide”? Well, please excuse me for pointing out the obvious fact that there is, indeed, a seemingly racial divide within DeKalb County. The color is MONEY GREEN- (not Black nor White) and they (POPE’S, RAMSEY, WALKER, LEWIS, et al) are fighting and hanging on for dear life to keep this racial divide (MONEY GREEN) swayed to their side. Has absolutely nothing to do with Education or legitimately making AYP as a DCSS district!
Seriously, though, the “race card” being played in DeKalb County is offensive, pathetic, and insulting. Eugene Walker, Ronald Ramsey, Patricia & Vincent Pope, Crawford Lewis, Josie Alexander, Gwen Keyes Fleming are all of the African American persuasion. The majority of the student population in DCSS is of the African American persuasion. Thus, the nefarious/criminal/unethical/immoral activity that these individuals are possibly doing is AGAINST their own race. If these allegations are proven to be true (hate to lament…but I havveeeee thhhheee documentsss to prove it!) then these Miserable Miscreant Individuals are snatching the future right from underneath the DCSS students. How absolutely hideous is that???!!! Without a good solid education, how on Earth will these students successfully move on to college and then on to society? How many of these potentially un-educated or mis-educated students will end up in our penal system?
Let’s look at the Atherton Elementary School CRCT scandal for a moment, shall we?
This excerpt is from the AJC article, Ga. School official resigns amid cheating probe June 12, 2009 – by Dorie Turner (Associated Press Writer) – www.ajc.com
ATLANTA — A suburban Atlanta elementary school principal has resigned and the assistant principal has been reassigned because they changed answers on fifth-grade standardized tests to improve scores and help the school meet federal achievement standards, officials said Thursday.
An investigation determined Atherton Elementary principal James Berry and assistant principal Doretha Alexander had altered answers on last summer's state math tests, said DeKalb Schools Chief Deputy Superintendent Robert Moseley. The state said Wednesday that scores at four schools in different districts had been changed.
The higher scores helped the schools make "adequate yearly progress" and avoid penalties under federal No Child Left Behind standards, said Kathleen Mathers, head of the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.
An analysis of the answer sheets show up to 40 erasures on some tests, compared with the average of two per student on tests that were not altered, Mathers said. Students would not have been able to complete the tests and change that many answers, she said. State officials said no students are under suspicion.
"We don't think kids cheated," Mathers said. "We think kids got cheated."
What, Oh, What are these innocent, voiceless, powerless children going to do when they are not prepared to compete on a state level, a national level, let alone a global level?
Yes, Yes, My Dear Friend Cerebration, Racial Divide is indeed an issue. The color of the Racial Divide is what I take exception to. Money Green! Remember, Money Green!
FACTUAL INFORMATION – CRONISM & RACIAL DIVIDE (MONEY GREEN, MONEY GREEN) at its Best! (or Worst)!
The Sembler Company contributed a total of $18, 000 dollars to our Dear Dear Ole’ Eugene Walker’s BOE Campaign. Have a look see on me!
Racial Divide is indeed an issue. The color of the Racial Divide is what I take exception to. Money Green! Remember, Money Green!
FACTUAL INFORMATION – CRONISM & RACIAL DIVIDE (MONEY GREEN, MONEY GREEN) at its Best! (or Worst)!
Eugene Pierce Walker, Sr. Election Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report for DCSS Board of Education-
SPECIAL 6-DAYS BEFORE SPECIAL RUN-OFF ORIGINAL REPORT – December 2008 (http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/reports/boe08/WALKEREUGENE_6daysSpecialRunoff08.pdf)
→10/29/2008 our Ever Evasive DeKalb County District Attorney – Mrs. Gwen Keyes Fleming contributed a monetary donation of $250 to Walker’s campaign
→11/29/08 former DCSS Superintendent – James R. Hallford – Contributed a monetary donation of $500 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mr. Craig Sher of THE SEMBLER CO.@ 5858 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL 33707- Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mrs. Judy M. Sher - @ 2300 Sunset Way, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706 - Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mr. Gregory Sembler of THE SEMBLER CO. @ 5858 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33707 - Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mr. Mel Sembler of THE SEMBLER CO.- @ 5858 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33707 - Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mr. Brent Sembler –Vice Chairman of THE SEMBLER CO.- @ 5858 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33707 - Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mrs. Debbie M. Sembler - @ 5858 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33707 - Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mr. Jeffrey S. Fuqua Manager of THE SEMBLER CO.- @ 830 Ponce de Leon Terr NE, Decatur GA - Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→11/19/08 – Mr. R. Sheren Fuqua - @ 830 Ponce de Leon Terr NE, Decatur GA Contributed a monetary donation of $1,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
SPECIAL 15-DAY RUN-OFF AMENDED REPORT – October, 2008 (http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/reports/boe08/WALKEREUGENE_15daysSpecial08_amend.pdf)
→9/27/08 – Mr. Jeffrey S. Fuqua Manager of THE SEMBLER CO.- @ 830 Ponce de Leon Terr NE, Atlanta GA 30306 - Contributed a monetary donation of $2,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→9/27/08 – Mr. Craig Sher of THE SEMBLER CO.@ 5858 Central Ave, St Petersburg, FL 33707- Contributed a monetary donation of $2,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→9/27/08 – Mr. Gregory S. Sembler – Real Estate Developer of THE SEMBLER CO. @ 6305 Burning Tree Dr, Seminole, FL 33707 - Contributed a monetary donation of $2,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→9/27/08 – Mr. Brent Sembler –Vice Chairman of THE SEMBLER CO.- @ 5858 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33707 - Contributed a monetary donation of $2,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→9/27/08 – Mr. Mel Sembler – Real Estate Developer of THE SEMBLER CO.- @ 5858 Central Ave. St. Petersburg, FL 33707 - Contributed a monetary donation of $2,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
Feel free to email me @ email@example.com
EUGENE P. WALKER - DCSS BOE
SPECIAL ELECTIONS ORIGINAL REPORT for December 2008 (http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/reports/boe08/WALKEREUGENEDec08_Special.pdf)
→12/2/08 – Valerie Ramsey – No address given. No occupation or company name given. Contributed a monetary donation of $250 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
*Ok, here is where it starts to get very very interesting. But you MUST BE IN THE KNOW! I am stating that at times, certain people who are up to nefarious activity (miscreants) try their best to fly UNDER the radar.
HOWEVER, I am a quick study and
was taught by the best….(Her Royal High-Ness of Construction….Patricia Ann Reid Pope)! Anyway, Ms. VALERIE RAMSEY A.K.A. Mrs. DELORES V. RAMSEY, A.K.A. Mrs. DELORES VALERIE CARRINGTON-RAMSEY is married to GUESS WHO??? Yep, our very own Dear Dear State Senator Ronald Bernard Ramsey, Sr.
Although there is seemingly nothing illegal about a campaign contribution from the Dear Dear Senator’s wife, one must question the Cloak & Dagger move to “fly under the radar” ----(there is much more of this revealed in the book – BLACKBORAD – CORRUPT!)
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information
SPECIAL 15-DAY RUN-OFF ORIGINAL REPORT – October 2008 (http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/reports/boe08/WALKEREUGENE_15days08.pdf)
→9/27/08 – Mr. Sy Richards, Architect @ 2159 Greensward Dr., Atlanta, GA 30345 Contributed a monetary donation of $200 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
*Sy Richards Architects is amongst Pat Pope’s Top 5 – must Pre-order the book for the full scoop – BLACKBOARD – CORRUPT! The True Story Behind the Corruption in DeKalb County School Systems. Email email@example.com for additional information
→10/10/08 – Ms. Maria M. Mullin – of DeKalb Co. Dev. Authority @ 201 W. Ponce De Leon Ave, Ste #4, Decatur, Ga 30030 Contributed a monetary donation of $200 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→10/11/08 – Mr. Richard A. Stogner – of DeKalb Co. Government @ 590 Spindlewick Dr. Atlanta, GA 30350 Contributed a monetary donation of $250 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
→10/11/08 – Mr. Bishop Man – Eddie L. Long – of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church @ 1267 Greenridge Ave. Lithonia, GA 30058 Contributed a monetary donation of $2,000 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
*Wow! Mr. Eddie & Mrs. Vanessa Long of New Birth– Well, upon completion of my research, I almost vowed to NEVER SET FOOT IN A CHURCH AGAIN, Folks! (you MUST pre-order this book!)
REPORT – Dated June 30, 2009 – (http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/voter/reports/boe09/WalkerEugeneJune09.pdf)
→6/18/09 – William Russell & Johnson, Inc. - @ 817 Peachtree, Atlanta, GA Contributed a monetary donation of $500 to Walker’s Special Run-Off Campaign
* William Russell & Johnson, Inc. is amongst Pat Pope’s Top 5 – must Pre-order the book for the full scoop – BLACKBOARD – CORRUPT! The True Story Behind the Corruption in DeKalb County School Systems. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information
RACIAL DIVIDE – (MONEY GREEN)
Businesses listed under Eugene P. Walker, Sr.
♦ATLANTA WEST COLLISON & FRAME REPAIR, INC. @ 3162 Boulder Park Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30311(Control No #0120771)
♦TAXMAN REALTY, INC. @ 3162 Boulder Park Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30311 (Control #K611106)
♦NORTHWEST CONCRETE CONTRACTORS, INC. @ Boulder Park Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30311 (Control # K321652)
♦E. WALKER TIRE, INC. @ Boulder Park Dr SW, Atlanta, GA 30311 (Control # K321652)
♦PRAISES UNLIMITED, INC. @ PO BOX #54132, Atlanta, GA 30344 (Control # K005695)
♦PRO ACTION REALTY, INC. @ 3162 Boulder Park Dr SW, Atlanta, Ga 30311 (Control # H606887)
♦TAXMAN & ASSOCIATES, INC. @ 3162 Boulder Park Dr SW, Atlanta, Ga 30311 (Control # J820541)
♦THE DEKALB TECH FOUNDATION, INC. @ 495 North Indian Creek Dr, Clarkston, Ga 30021
Disclaimer – Bad is bad. Wrong is wrong. Against any race and at any time!
In response, the board attorney proposed that the board pass their own ethics policy. This went over like a lead balloon at the last board meeting - as shown in the minutes -
Proposed Ethics Policy
Mr. Bowen noted that the presentation should have been entitled “A Recommendation for a Proposed Ethics Policy” Dr. Walker requested that the presentation by Ms. Judy O’Brien, Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, be pulled from the agenda regarding the Proposed Ethics Policy. He expressed concern with the origin of the proposed policy and stated that this proposed policy was premature in response to proposed legislation that specifically negatively targeted DeKalb County Board of Education. Dr. Walker also noted that it would be more advantageous to the Board to not attempt to address rumors and inuendos that are spreadheaded by certain groups and\or individuals with personal vendettas.
After a brief exchange, a motion to remove Discussion Item - Proposed Ethics Policy from the agenda was made by Dr. Walker. The motion was seconded by Mr. Cunningham, and with a vote of 5\4, with Dr. Walker, Mr. Cunningham, Ms. Roberts, Mr. Redovian & Ms. Copelin-Wood voting yes; and Mr. McChesney, Mr. Womack, Mr. Bowen & Dr. Speaks voting no, the motion passed.
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