Republican State Senator Gerald Dial, one of the longest-serving members of the body, has asked Attorney General Luther Strange to investigate the circumstances surrounding how an anonymous smear sheet aimed at Jefferson County school superintendent Craig Pouncey got from a July 12 state school board meeting to the Alabama Ethics Commission. (Pouncey was one of six applicants interviewed for the job of state superintendent on Aug. 4.)
Here is what we know. Prior to the July 12 SBOE meeting, someone distributed an anonymous letter at the seat of each board member. This pertained to Pouncey’s doctoral dissertation done in 2009 and contended that he received improper help. Members I spoke with afterwards paid it no attention. A former school superintendent said during his active years as an educator all anonymous info went in “file 13.”
However, Ethic Commission General Counsel Hugh Evans, III wrote to Juliana Dean, general counsel for the department of education on July 15, “Please be advised that we have received a complaint alleging certain possible violations of the Ethics Law on the part of Warren Craig Pouncey, a candidate for Superintendent of the State Department of education and a former employee of the department.”
Now Senator Dial wants to find out how this little scenario played out. Why was anonymous info passed along to the Ethics Commission and who did it?
He and Senator Quinton Ross also have a resolution calling for the creation of a joint legislative committee to investigate the same issue.
This is just one of the issues clouding the selection of Michael Sentance as state superintendent.
Another is why were two members of the state board openly campaigning against Pouncey? Since when do members of an interview committee try to sway fellow members prior to a decision? Especially considering that the person they oppose might end up as the new superintendent.
Matt Brown circulated an email to unnamed recipients on Aug. 10 which says, “Unfortunately, some of the tea party members on the Board are supposedly pledging their support for pro CC (Common Core) candidate, Dr. Craig Pouncey. He was clearly trying to bring pressure to bear on members Betty Peters and Stephanie Bell.
But what makes his statement so disingenuous is that Brown himself WAS NOT supported by the tea party when he ran earlier this year to retain his seat. That support went to Jackie Zeigler who handily defeated him. Plus, Brown received $149,000 for his campaign from the Business Council of Alabama who are strong supporters of the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards. Yet the readers of his email are supposed to believe he is solidly in the tea party camp and opposed to the standards his chief campaign contributor supports.
(As we reported here, the truth is that Michael Sentance DOES NOT oppose the Common Core in most cases.)
Mary Scott Hunter told a number of people at a recent Business Council of Alabama meeting that Craig Pouncey would not be considered for the state job because of the Ethics Commission investigation. There is NO Ethics Commission investigation.
Hunter also put out a statement since the selection of Sentance defending him. She said, “I liked his resume’ from the outset. He grew on me all along the way.”
But she failed to mention that Sentance was also a candidate for Alabama’s top slot in 2011 when Tommy Bice was selected. His resume’ today is the same as it was in 2011. He has not changed positions since then nor does his resume show any projects undertaken since then. Hunter was on the board in 2011. So she now likes a resume she rejected in 2011?
There are two common threads linking Brown and Hunter. One is that they both want to run for higher office. Senator Trip Pittman of Baldwin County (where Brown lives) has said he will not seek re-election in 2018. He played a large part in getting the governor to appoint Brown to SBOE in 2015 and Brown has indicated his interest in seeking this seat.
Hunter has played with the idea of seeking statewide office in the past. She apparently flirted with the idea of running for governor in 2014 and is said to be looking hard at running for Attorney General in 2018.
The other thread is each have strong ties to the Business Council of Alabama. As mentioned, Brown got $149,000 from them earlier this year and Hunter received $90,000 from BCA for her 2010 and 2014 campaigns for state board.
The troubling thing in all of this is that the education of the 740,000 students in Alabama’s public K 12 schools seems to be of little concern. It is a tale of hard ball political maneuvering. Nothing else.