Granville school board faces controversy

Mar. 22, 2014 @ 08:16 PM

OXFORD — An accusation of improper action has been made, a compensation auditing process is coming, and the superintendent in Granville County has served notice his attorney is ready.

Granville County’s school board, with three members who have filed for re-election this year, has taken its disagreements public. And now there is some effort to reel them back to private.

Within the past month:

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

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

• The school board, in a specially called meeting, has approved a third-party probe of policies, processes and actions regarding compensation in the school district.

• The board’s chairwoman stepped down from presiding at a recent meeting to address accusations of improprieties.

• And the superintendent 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 recent activities.

Board member Patrick Cox made the accusations of an illegal meeting while addressing the board at the March 10 meeting, according to a draft of the minutes from the meeting. In a prepared statement to the board, Cox said the meeting took place in Greensboro during November. He attributed the change of chairmanship from Leonard Peace to Brenda Dickerson-Daniel as organized during that meeting.

When the board met Feb. 19 in a special session, Cox was not present. The board, with five of six members favoring, decided to hire the Greensboro law firm of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard to “conduct a full investigation including, particularly, a review of the forensic and accounting evidence regarding the payment of compensation,” according to approved minutes of the meeting.

Peace was the only vote against the motion brought by Daniel.

Cox, in his March 10 address to the board, called that action a “political stunt.” Daniel is up for re-election, opposed by Tom Houlihan.

Toney Smith is also seeking re-election, as is Catherine Lyon, who is opposed by Danny Eudy.

Cox moved to have the board apologize to Peace, its former chairman, for the way in which he was replaced, explain why the audit is needed and promise to conduct it in open session. The motion was defeated 4-2 vote, with only Cox and Peace supporting it.

Contacted by The Daily Dispatch to elaborate on his concerns, Cox said, “I can’t speak of that.”

He also declined to comment on why he thought the change in chairmanship took place illegally, why he described the Feb. 19 meeting as illegal or why he thought the board went into closed session that night.

Board members Donnie Boyd, Lyon and Smith responded to Cox’s comments through the Oxford Public Ledger newspaper.

The Dispatch attempted by email and telephone to speak with Cox and other board members. Cox declined to comment. No other responses were received.

Daniel responded to Cox during the March 10 meeting, stepping down from presiding at the meeting to do so. Addressing Cox, she denied a November meeting in Greensboro had taken place, said no accusations of Peace have been made, and said she’d stand by truth regardless of the election outcome.

She also questioned a March 7 meeting between Cox, Peace and Dr. Allan Jordan.

Peace, according to the draft minutes of the meeting, responded he was interested in the present and not the past and would defend his position. Peace said someone among the board felt contracts were done “illegally.”

According to the draft minutes, Daniel asked Peace if he felt offended and he said he did not.

Tim Farley, the superintendent, “concluded the discussion,” according to the draft minutes, “by saying he had done nothing wrong, illegal or improper and would not be collateral damage.”

The draft minutes also include, “Dr. Farley further stated that if his character or integrity suffer, then the board should be aware that his attorney advised that there would be consequences.”

According to confirmations provided by Deborah Dupree, the executive administrative assistant to the superintendent and clerk to the board of education, notice was given for the Feb. 19 in accordance with the state General Statute 143-318.12.

 

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.