The Valdosta Daily Times
Despite rumors which began in August 2013 concerning issues involving the assistant superintendent of the Lowndes County School system, the school board did not take any action following an investigation into the issue. Instead, the school board accepted the retirement request submitted by Troy Davis in December 2013, effective on March 31, 2014.
The Times requested comment from Superintendent Wes Taylor regarding the investigation, but due to a mutual confidentiality agreement signed between the school system and Davis, was informed that no one can comment on the record.
The agreement states, “The Parties will not disparage the other Party or its board members, officials, or employees during the remainder of Davis’ employment with the District and following his retirement.” It also states, “Davis agrees to keep any information as it relates to his employment while at the District confidential including any and all financial information and/or trade secrets.”
Beginning in August, The Times began receiving calls from citizens about raises within the Lowndes County School System. Questions regarding the raises and Davis’ involvement were deflected by personnel pending the outcome of an investigation, and the Times was told that Davis’ alleged temporary reassignment to the bus barn was for a special project at the request of Taylor.
The Times submitted an open records request with the School System on Oct. 8, 2013, asking for copies of records “pertaining to disciplinary actions or hearings since Troy Davis’ date of employment” and also “”all records regarding the salaries of staff working full or part time at the LCSS administrative offices.” On Oct. 11, Human Resource director Randy Cooper gave the response to the Times’ editor, and there were no documents of any disciplinary action or investigation
included. None of the salary information provided showed raises for any of the personnel.
A private citizen familiar with the issue filed an open records request in January, which included a request for a copy of the report developed by Dennis Fordham, a copy of the retirement letter from Davis, a copy of the employment contract and two amendments for Davis, a copy of the Jan. 13, 2014 personnel recommendations for the board and a copy of the board meeting minutes for Jan. 13, 2014.
According to the new records packet, in Sept. 2013, Fordham visited the Lowndes County School District to investigate claims that Davis had issued pay raises without the consent of Superintendent Taylor or the Board of Education.
“It is clear from the interviews and review of documents that Dr. Davis directed the Coordinator of Payroll to put into place at the beginning of FY2014 salary increases of which the Superintendent and the Board of Education were not specifically aware,” Fordham’s report states.
According to the report, a document was provided to the Superintendent from Davis showing that the annual salaries for employees Brandi Wisenbaker, Geneasha McFarland and Lisa Culpepper during FY2014 were higher than originally approved by the board.
Wisenbaker’s board approved salary was $27,520. Davis’ document showed her being paid $43,252.10.
McFarland’s board approved salary was $48,933. Davis’ document showed her being paid $59,548.02.
Culpepper’s board approved salary was $45,567.00. Davis’ document showed her being paid $52,906.97.
Fordham’s report was presented to Superintendent Taylor on Oct. 10, 2013. The open records request from the Times was at the Board Office on Oct. 8 and answered on Oct. 11. The report was not included and the salary information did not reflect the alleged raises.
According to Fordham’s report, Davis believed that he had the authority to make the decision, that “he could make line item expenditures as he deemed appropriate as long as the total expenditures for the year did not exceed the grand total approved.”
Prior to the release of the report, the Superintendent and the Board believed that Davis was performing his job appropriately and trusted him to do so, and the report stated that they “had no basis to know they needed to restrict his exercise of authority because he did not tell them what he was doing.”
On Dec. 16, 2013, the board approved Davis’ request for retirement. The Times was informed that the raises never technically went into effect, and since Davis’ retired, no disciplinary action was taken by the school board.