Search Becoming A Political Spectacle

As I begin this it is 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 9, less than 48 hours before the state board of education is to convene to select a new state school superintendent.  Yet, members of the board have yet to see an agenda for the meeting, though they normally get one the preceding Thursday or Friday.

Nor do any of them appear to know what process will be used to make their selection.  Several have told me that efforts to find out have been futile thus far.

And rumors are rampant about political muscle being flexed.  Apparently there is an effort afoot to delay a final decision on Thursday and prolong the process, thus voiding the deadline set by the board several months ago.

This article, appearing today on the Alabama Political Reporter site, adds even more intrigue.

At the July 12 regular meeting of the board, someone left an anonymous “smear sheet” at the seat of each board member.  The object of this was Craig Pouncey, currently Jefferson County school superintendent and former chief of staff for state superintendent Tommy Bice.  A letter contends that Pouncey used state employees to “write, edit, compile, review, and submit his doctoral work?”  They included five pages of copies of emails from August, October and November of 2009 purporting to substantiate this claim.  I have a copy of this info.

About the same time someone filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission about the same issue.  Hugh Evans, III, general counsel of the Ethics Commission wrote Juliana Dean, general council for the state department of education on July 15, 2016 notifying her of the complaint.

(You can see the Evan’s letter in the APR article. There are also two letters refuting the claims in the smear sheet.)

As best I can determine, the ethics complaint was filed anonymously.  And there is not indication that the ethics commission is conducting an investigation into the matter.

None of my sources recall such a letter in the past.  If you are not investigating, why do you notify general counsel of a department about a former employee?  And as one school superintendent told me, “I have heard over and other again in presentations by the Ethics Commission that they only consider information from named and verifiable sources.”

The Evan’s letter says, in part, “As the Board recognizes, there is a reporting requirement under section (of Alabama code) 36-25-17 of activities that constitute violations of the Actg.”

Here is that code section:

Section 36-25-17

Reports of violations, cooperation of agency heads.

(a) Every governmental agency head shall within 10 days file reports with the commission on any matters that come to his or her attention in his or her official capacity which constitute a violation of this chapter.

(b) Governmental agency heads shall cooperate in every possible manner in connection with any investigation or hearing, public or private, which may be conducted by the commission.

While I am not an attorney, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night, my interpretation of (a) above is that a state department head should let the Ethics Commission know if a potential violation comes to their attention–not the other way around.

So someone who doesn’t have the guts to sign their name puts out a smear sheet on July 12 and three days latter the Ethics Commission tells the state department of education general counsel about a complaint.  And this is smack dab in the middle of a search process for a new superintendent???

And someone keeps telling us that everything involving public education in this state is “all about the kids.”  Sure it is.  And Larry Lee, Auburn class of 1966, is headed out to buy a new shirt that says “Roll Tide.”

 

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