Farley: Report is misleading

Jun. 05, 2014 @ 07:26 PM

OXFORD — The leader of Granville County’s school system broke his silence Thursday.

Superintendent Tim Farley, in an interview exclusive to The Dispatch, said an audit report has misled the public, and the truth on controversial administrative salaries hasn’t been fully shared. He said he didn’t want to indict anyone; rather, he only wanted to reveal what he believes is the truth supported by minutes of the school board meetings.

Farley said he planned to meet independently with three media outlets during the day. He offered copies board meeting minutes, salaries of the state’s 115 school district superintendents and a lengthy list of accolades for the district during his tenure. He chose to center his discussion with The Dispatch on contracts, salary and job performance.

He said a fund balance that has grown from $250,000 to $10 million in his tenure has saved teacher positions. He also said he agreed to a contract change taking away an automobile allowance last September and made another offer for reduction in salary this year that the board declined.

He shared a February 2013 listing of superintendents’ annual base salary from the Fiscal Research Division of the N.C. General Assembly. Farley was listed at $193,430.64, which was 20th highest. Another published report from last August and updated in March by WRAL-Ch. 5 online taking sole source credit in collecting all contracts has him ninth highest.

“I am really sorry that all of this controversy has gotten in the way of the wonderful work that this district does,” Farley said. “I want our people to have a truthful account so we can get back to the reason we’re here, which is children. I don’t want my contract to be a distraction. That’s why I’m giving you what I see is the truth.

“I really do get this. Board work is really hard work. Board members work really, really hard. But they live in a political world. I don’t. I’m a school guy. I do the best job I can with what I have at my disposal to try to help our teachers help our kids. That’s what I do.”

Farley said the audit by Jill Wilson and Bryant Starrett of the law firm Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard was deceptive.

“I do want to say, I really hate this audit misled the people — and it did mislead people,” he said. “It misled them about my contract. It made people believe that, somehow, I had engineered these contracts, and the board didn’t know about it, and I had given myself and Dr. Jordan these huge raises.”

Allen Jordan, a retiring associate superintendent, was cited in the audit for having gone from a salary of “just over $92,000 to almost $172,000” with only $1,800 noted in board minutes.

Jordan was also referenced for a January 2013 raise “applied retroactively even though the fiscal year was over.”

“It is in bold in the audit,” Farley said. “That never happened. It never happened. It was an error in the contract, a typographical error. You can go to our finance office and find out. That error was presented to Brooks Pierce in their interview by me, by the board chair, and we presented it as a fact that you need to know that this is an error. And, yet, it finds its way into this professional audit report. How? How did it get there if they knew?”

The school board held a called meeting on May 16, a Friday, that drew more media and community attention than usual. Another this past Monday lasted until midnight before being recessed and drew a standing-room-only crowd that spilled onto the front steps.

Speakers requested answers. The board went into closed session for several hours, emerging with no action but a confirmation to resume next Wednesday.

The Dispatch attempted to reach each of the school board members for response to Farley on Thursday and was successful with two of seven.

“I have no comment,” said Brenda Dickerson-Daniel, the chairwoman who was defeated in the May election. “We will resume the meeting on Wednesday night.”

Board member Leonard Peace confirmed Farley’s statement about inaccuracies in the audit report.

“I noted things in it that weren’t correct,” he said. “I informed the board that there were discrepancies. My understanding was that accepting the report did not necessarily mean agreeing with it.”

Peace said he would like to see Farley remain as superintendent.

The audit includes a Page 4 reference to Farley’s contract. The audit reports Farley’s contract is noted with an amendment from the May 7, 2012, board meeting, but board minutes don’t indicate a vote.

According to the board minutes, administrative contracts recommended for four-year extensions were approved by a unanimous 7-0 vote during that meeting. Another year of extension was awarded to Farley in the June 27, 2013, meeting — again approved 7-0.

The audit’s findings state board members were surprised to learn “material contract terms contained in contracts of senior employees, especially the salary and other payment provisions.”

Sharing the board minutes showing seven members voting, Farley said, “What does that mean? It means board members were informed about my contract; it means they had the opportunity to discuss it fully among themselves. It means they followed the correct procedure by voting on it in open session, and it means they acknowledged what they had done when they approved the minutes of the meeting. And it means two members authorized by the board to act for the board signed my contract.”

Farley said he lost an assistant superintendent two years ago and didn’t fill the position. He also said he doesn’t plan to fill Jordan’s spot.

“By not putting somebody in her position, and I absorbed it. I took on the responsibilities; I saved two teaching positions,” Farley said. “The board felt, because I had done that, that I needed to have some kind of salary increase, which, again, they voted on.

“I want to hasten to say about my salary, that I went twice to them recently and said if my salary is a bone of contention, I voluntarily will decrease it. Let’s just talk about it. Didn’t happen.”

One of those meetings was a private conversation with a board member. The other was to the full board earlier this year.

Before the automobile adjustment in his contract was made last fall, Farley had warned the board of an impending report by WRAL.

“In August, we had gotten word WRAL was going to run a story on salaries,” Farley said. “So I let my board members know that this is going to come out, and it’s not going to look good. It never does.”

In September, closed sessions ensued with discussions on his contract.

“They discussed it again in October,” Farley said. “On the fourth of November, they discussed my contract a third time.”

And they approved the changes, 7-0.

“They knew. How could they not have known if the car was discussed in the contract and taken out?” Farley said. “How could they not have known about the items in the contract?”

Farley said he doesn’t believe anyone involved intended to be deceptive.

“But does it mean the board members didn’t know what was in my contract? Absolutely not,” he said. “After that May one, they approved my contract twice and reviewed it twice and voted on the minutes of each meeting — twice. How could you not know?”

Farley said the fund balance increase is important. Districts are recommended to have enough emergency money to cover a month’s expenses. At $250,000, Granville had less than a week of operating expenses. He estimated $10 million could cover three to four months.

“By having that fund balance, we’re able to save jobs, teaching jobs,” Farley said. “We’ve not sent folks home. We’ve contracted because we have to, just like every district has to, but it is still a healthy fund balance, and it will protect us this coming year. I’m proud of that.”

Asked what is in the best interest of Granville’s schools, Farley said, “Just to move forward. Come out and say what you’ve got to say about this, get the facts out there and just move forward.”

And he doesn’t feel he’s the only one who should offer facts.

“When the audit says they didn’t know and they didn’t vote, that’s absolutely false,” he said. “They did know, and they did vote on it, not once, not twice, but three times. And the minutes that were approved reflect that.”

He figures two options are on the horizon.

“One, life goes on,” Farley said. “Whatever is put out to the public is put out to the public, and we move forward as I think we should.

“Two, they move to take some kind of action against me.”

When activity heated up in February and March, Farley said his counsel would be ready should his character be in question.

Between February and March:

• One school board member accused other board members of meeting in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.

• That same member described a request for auditing an entire process of compensation to school district personnel as a “political stunt.”

• The school board approved a third-party probe of policies, processes and actions regarding compensation in the school district, resulting in the Brooks Pierce audit.

• Dickerson-Daniel stepped down from presiding at a meeting to address accusations of improprieties.

• And Farley told the board legal action — “consequences” he said — would come should his character or integrity suffer as a result of “collateral damage” from the board’s activities.

“I just want the truth out,” Farley said Thursday. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job of laying out exactly what happened, when it happened, with documentation that supports my contentions. And if it goes farther, obviously, I think I’ve got a pretty decent case.”

 

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.