Unredacted audit shows variance

Report: Board did not always take formal action on administrator contracts
Jul. 17, 2014 @ 08:52 PM

An unredacted copy of the audit of district policy showed the Granville County Board of Education didn’t always take formal action on administrator contracts.

After numerous requests to the Granville County school board, The Dispatch has received an unredacted copy of the report on a review of policies and procedures related to Granville County Schools administrators’ contracts.

The report was authorized by the Board of Education at a special meeting Feb. 19 and was received May 5. It was released to the press and the public on that date but with several redactions — that is, with some sections blanked out — leading The Dispatch to request an unredacted copy.

Titled “Review and Recommendations for Administrator Contracts,” the report was authored by Jill Wilson and Bryan Starrett of the law firm of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard.

In reporting the findings, Wilson and Starrett wrote: “A review of records, including contracts, minutes and financial records, shows that the Board of Education did not always take formal action to approve contracts for administrators, to amend existing contracts, and to extend contracts of some administrators.”

Two redactions were made in a sentence dealing with the superintendent’s contract. The uncensored sentence, with redactions shown within parentheses, reads: “Minutes from open (and closed) session do not show any reference to a vote on the Superintendent’s contract or employment status (and a passing reference in closed session minutes,) but no vote or authorization, about ‘employee benefits’ for the superintendent.”

Although the second redacted phrase is ambiguous, it appears to indicate that a passing reference was made in closed session to a vote on the superintendent’s contract.

In a paragraph dealing with extensions to the contract of the associate superintendent, the unredacted sentence, again with redactions within parentheses, reads: “In fact, the Board did not authorize, order or resolve any such extension at any time according to the minutes of open (and closed) session.”

When asked why the board felt it was important to make the redactions, board chairwoman Brenda Dickerson-Daniel referred the question to interim board attorney Nickolas Sojka.

The board had two concerns about releasing an unredacted copy of the report, Sojka said.

“Were we violating the confidentiality of closed session proceedings, and were we opening the door to further requests for confidential information?” he said.

He said there is an interplay between personnel confidentiality and closed session rules on one hand and the public meeting law on the other.

“We have to be very careful,” Sojka said.

The school board had authorized the investigation after several months of concern about compensation received by top administrators for Granville County Public Schools.

In August 2013, WRAL-Ch. 5 aired research on salaries of North Carolina school superintendents. It reported that with total compensation of $211,162, Granville County Superintendent Timothy Farley was the second-highest paid superintendent of a school district with fewer than 25,000 students.

Dickerson-Daniel indicated in the Feb. 19 meeting that school board members had expressed concern about compensation, leading to commissioning the Wilson-Starrett review.

Even though the copy of the report released in May contained redactions, it created anger among the public, some of whom demanded that Farley be dismissed. Farley said at the time he thought if people saw the full report, they would have a more positive view of his situation.

After a series of specially called meetings, which included lengthy closed sessions, the school board on June 11 announced an agreement had been reached between the board and Farley in which he submitted his resignation effective June 30 and the board would pay him a $318,000 severance allowance.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.