Mason County school district under investigation

2011-11-22T22:00:00Z 2011-12-09T04:13:39Z Mason County school district under investigationMARLA TONCRAY Ledger Independent
November 22, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Since June, the Mason County School District has been under investigation by the Office of Education Accountability in Frankfort.

The OEA was created by the Kentucky General Assembly to investigate complaints against Kentucky school districts and is a separate entity from the Department of Education.

According to Karen Timmel, division manager of investigations at OEA, the agency's primary charge is to investigate violations of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, however, if during an investigation other issues outside the realm of KERA are uncovered, OEA refers those activities elsewhere.

"If there's any activity that rises to the level of criminal activity during an investigation, it is referred to the Attorney General or Kentucky State Police, if it's a matter of bad bookkeeping, it would be referred to the Auditor's office," Timmel said Tuesday during a phone interview.

Timmel clarified the activity "may not be criminal, but in need of attention to detail."

Acknowledging that the investigation is ongoing, Timmel was unable to comment on specifics of the case or provide a date when a final report will be issued.

She did acknowledge that two OEA personnel were in the district on June 16 and 17, and a "large amount" of documents were secured during that visit.  Timmel said documents were also requested two additional times, and the agency "waited quite a while" on documentation from Superintendent Tim Moore for the third request.

When asked why it has taken so long to get a final report issued on the investigation, Timmel noted that every case stands on its own and some cases take longer than others.

She did note that financial records are sent out for auditing purposes.

"We don't have the staff to do all our audits of financials," said Timmel.

Moore said Tuesday the investigation was initiated after a complaint was filed with the OEA and questions have focused upon travel expenses, servicing of his vehicle at the school garage, and the provisions of his employment contract.  Questions have also been posed about providing a vehicle allowance versus use of a school vehicle by Assistant Superintendents Kelly Middleton and Liz Petitt, Moore said.

He said right now there are three school vehicles provided for employee use: Gerald Fulk, for purposes as director of pupil personnel; one for the maintenance garage; and one for transportation (bus) garage. 

Regarding the document requests, Moore said "Anything related to contracts, travel, whatever they asked for, we gave them."

Moore said this is the first time the district has been under an OEA investigation, but there have been times the OEA has contacted him on issues such as principal hiring.

In answer to questions about the use of the district's gasoline pump located on Kenton Station Road, Moore said district bus drivers, Fulk, Assistant Transportation Director Larry Brewer, Head of Maintenance Larry Ruark, and himself are authorized to fill up at the pump. The system requires a key code and mileage reading and Fulk controls the keys to the pump, Moore said.

When asked if he receives a stipend for gasoline, in addition to being allowed to fill up at the district gas pump, Moore said "no."  He volunteered information that in 2003, members of the Mason County School Board voted to provide him a stipend to purchase a vehicle, which is used for district business.

"There's always things you can do differently.  I think we've done a great job of managing our money," Moore said when asked about the investigation as it relates to the handling of district finances.

Board of Education Chairwoman Janet West was also contacted Tuesday.  West said she met with two OEA personnel and the entire school board is aware of the investigation.  West alluded to the allegations being made under an anonymous system and said "I did not care about the anonymous person and then I asked them "Do you have a grievance or several greivances?"  They were very vague," West said.

"I met with two ladies and I believe Ann (Porter) did, out of courtesy and kindness," said West, adding she had her lawyer with her for the meeting.  West said the women could provide no specifics and she didn't feel comfortable and she decided to discontinue the meeting.

"They asked questions in all kinds of arenas...I told them I wanted a list of items from them and they wouldn't provide them, so I ended the meeting," said West.

Once the report is completed, the school district will have two weeks to respond to OEA.  Timmel said after the district's response, her office will issue a final report with, or without changes or adjustments.

Timmel said the Kentucky Department of Education is not notified of an investigation, unless it is determined a district needs KDE oversight or training, or if a person, like a board member, should be removed from office.

The Ledger Independent has requested a copy of the OEA final report.

Copyright 2015 Ledger Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. ridgerunner
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    ridgerunner - November 24, 2011 11:28 am
    Mason under investigation since this summer and this is the first story? Any other school public or private and there would have been daily updates...
  2. gleroyjr
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    gleroyjr - November 24, 2011 6:23 am
    it is about time someone investigated the county school system. our tax dollars going for personal gain. the school is too top heavy. this is a waste of tax dollars.
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