Watching A Superintendent Dig His Hole Deeper

The latest audit from Adam Edelen’s office made clear that the hiring of Montgomery County Schools superintendent’s wife was an illegal case of nepotism. Anyone paying any amount of attention to audits understands just how damning the language used in the report was.

So it’s fitting that the Mt. Sterling Advocate minimized the audit with the following headline:

School audit exam concludes

The paper did admit the following, though:

As it appears Anna Powell was ineligible for the position as posted…

That’s progress, right?

But let’s get to the juicy stuff. The story where the paper assists Joshua Powell in spinning his way further into the corruption hole.

In a statement to the Advocate, Superintendent Josh Powell said Tuesday he finds “significant error” in a report released by state auditor Adam Edelen’s office regarding the hiring of his wife, Anna, as director of special projects.

Powell said he stands behind the legal authority to hire Anna.

“The claim that the job description was modified in order for her to be hired is untrue and, in fact, I believe that the old job description would have been appropriate as well. The problematic change that the report cited included changing ‘reports to superintendent designee’ to ‘assistant superintendent,” which I believe to be congruent,” Powell said.

“The second change the report claimed problematic was the removal of ‘evaluates employees as assigned.’ Simply put, we would not have assigned Dr. Anna Powell to evaluate any employees, therefore not needing a change in job description,” Powell added. “Furthermore, former Director of School Improvement Lisa Stone evaluated the assistant director of special projects, and would have evaluated both the director of special projects and assistant, if she had remained employed with the district.”

-SNIP-

Powell told the Advocate the additional claim by the state auditor’s office that the term “director” has supervisory implications is also unfounded.

“In Kentucky, and consistent with SBDM (Site-Based Decision-Making) law, most directors, especially those that oversee special education, are compliance officers and the role of the director of special projects, as it is with all districts in Kentucky, dose not allow the evaluation of teachers and aides throughout the district which, gain, is consistent with SBDM law. Instead, directors of special education work with principals and others to inform and monitor compliance. When issues arise, directors have to report them and infractions to either the school principal or the personnel director,” Powell said.

Unfortunately for Powell, who is apparently terrified, supervising and evaluating employees are two different things.

Here comes the crazy:

“Furthermore, these districts have been investigated by agencies like OEA, who also claimed a differing opinion than what state law suggests. Fortunately, we reside in a country that is governed by legal process and, most importantly, the Constitution, and just because a state agency says something does not make it law.”

But, uh, it does. Since that state agency quoted the law directly from the Kentucky Revised Statutes.

Powell told the Advocate h wished the auditor’s office would have provided him time to review its findings before they were released to the media so that he could have “responded and refuted the errors.”

“It is a concern that the ‘findings’ were not shared with our district, and that they were referred to other state agencies. It appears the auditor’s office could have saved taxpayer money by simply reviewing other previous cases involving the same circumstances.”

Powell was given plenty of time to respond. In fact, the auditor’s office arranged an embargo to provide Powell ample time. It doesn’t help matters that officials in the auditor’s office confirm to us that Powell attempted to stonewall throughout the investigation.

More from the story:

Despite the report, Powell said he remains committed to “leading all of Kentucky’s public education system.” However, he said he does find it disheartening that he has to endure continued scrutiny that he says comes with making positive change.

“It is evident (to me) why so many school leaders do not take appropriate action for fear of going through endless attacks and audits. I cite the aforementioned as a primary reason that the commonwealth needs to allow unrestricted charter schools so as to focus on student achievement, rather than politics and bureaucracy,” he said.

Pee alert? Because he refuses to admit publicly that he faces scrutiny because he works for a taxpayer-funded government agency. And because he’s drawn attention to himself. From his wife’s horrific EPO filed against him, to the corruption in Union County for which he was reprimanded, to the illegal nepotism in Montgomery County.

There’s another interesting part of the paper’s story that’s worth paying attention to:

Montgomery County Board of Education Chair Kenney Gully told the Advocate Tuesday he had not had a chance to speak with the board attorney to “get a gist on what their take of the report is.”

“I know what I think, but I probably should get a legal opinion,” he said.

-SNIP-

“If we come together and think or agree the hiring was not proper, then we will address that. We are early on in the process right now. This was just handed to us this morning, he said. “I have not had a chance to talk to the attorney.”

-SNIP-

“I have my opinion on what this report says, but I just want to make sure we go over this with an attorney. Unfortunately, sometimes these things turn into legal jargon that is difficult to understand.”

If you read the audit, you already know there’s nothing “difficult to understand” about it.

What Gulley said is interesting because of what occurred during a closed session of the board. According to two separate sources who were present during the closed session, here’s what went down:

Powell allegedly said, when addressing the audit confirming his wife was illegally hired, “If that report went across the desk of Terry Holliday right now, he would throw it in the trash.” He then hinted that Holliday would be able to influence both the OEA and EPSB. And then he started laughing.

Gulley, along with Kelly Murphy, were also caught up in a fit of laughter.

Gulley is alleged to have made a comment about the state auditor “not being the law” and said he had no intention to follow Edelen’s recommendations. When someone (we have been unable to verify their identity but believe it was a board member) questioned whether it would be a good idea to ask the Office of the Attorney General what it thought about the illegal hiring of Anna Powell, the laughter stopped and the subject was changed posthaste.

It’s safe to say this won’t end well for Montgomery County.