Powell's EPO Mess Wasn't As Simple As Claimed

There were more than fifteen calls made to law enforcement over the course of an evening from his wife and family members. An Emergency Protective Order was issued but never served. Emergency custody of the children was granted to his wife. There were allegations of serious physical abuse, fears children would be killed by him, fear of suicide, allegations of holding guns to his wife’s head, frightening concerns about a cache of automatic weapons and anxiety over the alleged abuser’s close relationship with a small town sheriff.

The alleged abuser? Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell. The wife? Anna Powell, the person the State Auditor of Public Accounts says Joshua Powell illegally hired.

The incident led to a heated scene at a January 2013 school board meeting. Montgomery County’s local newspaper half-covered it without really bothering to dig in. We highlighted it all in May of this year.

To fully understand what went down, let’s re-examine the local paper’s coverage:


FROM THE PAPER

Board addresses Powell EPO situation
Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013
By Afton Fairchild Spencher
Advocate staff writer

The Montgomery County Board of Education met in a special session Thursday, Jan. 24, to discuss a personnel issue.

Many people were in attendance at the meeting, including one local man, Bruce Walters, who brought copies of an Emergency Protective Order that was filed in Warren County Dec. 30 against Superintendent Josh Powell by his wife, Anna Powell. Walters passed out copies of the EPO to the many people who were in attendance.

The board immediately went into closed session for more than an hour, before returning with a statement. The statement was issued in regard to the acknowledgement of the EPO, which claimed issues of domestic violence against Josh, but was withdrawn by Anna Jan. 2 before any action could be taken.

Kenney Gulley, board chair, read the statement to those in attendance.

“The Montgomery County Board of Education is aware of the domestic violence allegations against Superintendent Josh Powell,” Gulley read. “The allegations are a civil matter, and have been withdrawn. The board of education is an administrative agency that has powers only provided by statute. The Educational Professional Standards Board is responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of misconduct of educators, including superintendents. The standards board has the authority to suspend or revoke the certificates of educators that allegedly engage in misconduct, or impose other conditions that protect the safety of students and the integrity of the professional. The legal staff of the standards board works to protect the children in Kentucky public schools, and assists in ensuring that educators maintain the dignity and integrity of the profession. The board understands that the standards board is aware of these allegations, has opened a case and will proceed with an investigation.”

Board Vice Chair Kelly Murphy then made the motion requesting the board attorney Michelle Williams contact the EPSB to see if the process could be expedited, since investigations of this type often take a while to conduct. Sharon Smith seconded the motion, to which all other board members voted in agreement.

The Advocate has contacted the EPSB and was informed that an investigation has, in fact, been opened, but that no further information could be disclosed at this time.

After the vote, Gulley offered the Powells and their representation an opportunity to speak.

The first to speak was Anna, who addressed the public with concerns about her personal business being aired.

“… The very nature of this meeting, which was prompted by certain malicious individuals, has forced me to disclose private and protected information because I have no other choice,” Anna said.

Anna proceeded to explain that she has a disability that requires her to take medicine. However, as she is four months pregnant, she said she has been unable to take the medication that she requires. This, in addition to hormones caused by the pregnancy, caused her to act viciously toward Josh and file an EPO after a dispute the couple had. in which Josh told her he needed a break, she said.

Upon realizing her mistake and admitting she made up the allegations in her statement, Anna said she immediately retracted it, contacting local authorities to inform them she did not want the EPO served. She said she felt much shame for her actions.

“Josh and I were over this in a few days, not even a second thought,” she said. “Our kids were happy, we were happy. Then yet, because of all of this, and all the pleasure that you all get out of somebody’s pain, I am here in front of you all tonight telling you all thins that I know you all would never want to get up and tell anybody.”

Anna thanked all those who have been supportive to she and her family during the past several weeks.

After Anna spoke, Kentucky Education Association representatives Peace Ifeacho and Tim Southern spoke to the crowd. Both shamed those in attendance and others in the community they claimed were spreading rumors.

Ifeacho vouched for the character of the Powells, and encouraged the public to leave them alone while they deal with this private matter.

“What are you trying to accomplish?” she asked the crowd. “(Anna) herself has told you there is nothing to save her from, so are you trying to tear down Josh Powell? In which case, are you trying to tear him down for what he’s done for Montgomery County. Is that the problem you have with him? That all of the sudden, this district has gone from here to here? Is that what you want to criticize him for?”

Southern reiterated Ifeacho’s message, citing nothing illegal had happened and there was no story to be spread. Southern said some people had posted negative comments on an Internet forum, adding that libel and slander are against the law, and said the matter would not stop there.

Josh ended the meeting with his statement, apologizing that his personal life had disrupted the educational process. He praised the integrity and character of those who stood by he and his family in recent weeks, but told others that “the days of turning my cheek are now over.”

He also stated that while he has lived here now for some time and that this experience has hurt he and his family, it has also made them come to a realization.

“Now, flaws and all, for the first time, we truly are a part of this community,” Josh said.

The public was not given the opportunity to respond or ask questions, and the meeting was promptly adjourned.

Now let’s look at the EPO filed by Anna Powell:


CLICK TO ENLARGE


CLICK TO ENLARGE


CLICK TO ENLARGE

Some detail from the form:

Prior arguments all day Friday. Josh has threatened me numerous times and physically abused me over the past 7 years of marriage. He picked me up by my throat Friday afternoon. His anger and rage escalates as night time gets closer and after time kids go to sleep. He told me to go to basement so we could end all this. He has choked me, beat me, kicked me, threw me down repeatedly in the past. I knew if I didn’t leave right then, he would kill me. I knew if I couldn’t get my kids or he would kill me. I have lived through many nights in the basement and I was too afraid to … make it through another night.

As you can see, Powell swore on the EPO that her husband violently attacked her, abused her for seven years, had about 70 guns in his basement and she feared for her life. Joshua allegedly picked Anna up by the throat on Friday, December 28, 2012. Twice, in her sworn statement, she said she knew he would kill her. Two days later, several counties away, the EPO was filed on December 30, 2012.

Though immediately sent to Montgomery County Sheriff Shortridge, it was never served. We now know that Anna Powell expressed concern to several law enforcement officials about her husband’s close relationship with Shortridge.

Anna later retracted the EPO, as we reported, claiming she was (to paraphrase) having difficulty because of a pregnancy.

The whole thing was just a sad mess. But any time someone on the school board or any concerned citizen asked a question, they were threatened by Powell and other education officials with legal action and retaliation.

So the community left it at that, afraid to pursue anything, left with nothing but unanswered questions.

Thanks to a months-long open records effort, we have obtained copies of law enforcement reports and more than a dozen telephone calls between Anna Powell, her relatives, the sheriff and others in law enforcement. Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the calls we won’t be releasing them in their entirety — or at least not unredacted — even though they’re part of the public record. It would be inappropriate to release telephone numbers, addresses and such. Surely everyone reading this can agree.

The calls tell a much different story than the one shared during that January 2013 school board meeting. Claims made by Anna Powell and her relatives weave together a narrative that’s so far removed from what the public was told that we feel it’s imperative to shine light on the rest of the story.

Montgomery Countians can form their own opinions. The incoming school board can do the same. They all deserve the full story and it has so far been kept from them. Thanks to open records laws (these calls are public record, so move along with your claims of anything different), citizens can now get answers and leave gossiping in the dust.

Before listening: please keep in mind that the Powells have small children who deserve love and support. Their marital problems and whether or not they exist would typically be no one’s business — they’re only public because they made them public in late 2012 and early 2013 by filing an EPO and involving law enforcement. The real issue here is comparing what was said publicly and what was said during a number of calls to law enforcement.

Call 1:

In this call, you’ll hear Anna’s sister-in-law giving dispatch and a deputy specifics about what had occurred. While on hold, you’ll hear her discuss with her family that Anna was choked until she passed out. You’ll hear claims of the children being at risk of death with discussion about preparing Anna for BRASS — Barren River Area Safe Space.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall1.mp3]

Call 2:

Anna calls dispatch to confirm that the order was received from Warren County.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall2.mp3]

Call 4:

Anna calls dispatch again to verify that the EPO was sent. During the call she expresses urgency to pick up her children before it is served, detailing fear of going alone, explaining emergency custody, alleging that Powell could react poorly.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall4.mp3]

Call 6:

Anna’s sister-in-law calls the 911 center to speak with the deputy and while on hold, you’ll hear chatter about Joshua Powell calling to find out what’s going on.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall6.mp3]

Call 7:

Dispatch puts the call out about Anna’s sister-in-law having a dire emergency. A deputy responds that the sheriff is attempting to call her.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall7.mp3]

Call 8:

Sheriff Shortridge calls dispatch to get assistance from social services and asks about when the EPO arrived. There’s some chatter about the ordeal.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall8.mp3]

Call 9:

Anna’s sister-in-law calls the 911 center to further discuss picking up the kids. While on hold, there’s discussion about alleged emotional abuse, pregnancy and continued concern about Joshua Powell attempting to find out what’s going on. She details a call she had with the sheriff and a call she had with Powell, expresses concern that Joshua could harm the children.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall9.mp3]

Call 10:

Social services calls dispatch regarding the EPO, further illustrating that it wasn’t a simple matter.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall10.mp3]

Call 12:

In this lengthy call you’ll hear Anna Powell go through the entire ordeal, conversation about the sheriff communicating with the state police.

While on hold Anna discusses calling BRASS, alleging that she feared her life could be over if she didn’t get out. She details the damage she feared her husband could cause with AK-47s, high-round clips, shotguns.

Anna expresses concern about her husband being well-known, being “big buddies” with Sheriff Shortridge, fears of her husband reacting poorly upon being served and all of that. She tells the Sergeant that he needs to take backup with him because her husband has 72 or 73 guns.

Powell says she never leaves the house, that Joshua will call her crazy, that he’ll be upset because this will ruin his career.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall12.mp3]

That guy deserves an award for patience.

Call 14:

Anna calls dispatch just before 6:00 A.M. after apparently not deciding to pick up her kids that night. She says her husband was aware of who she had called and details what occurred throughout the evening, expressing concern that Joshua had fled… along with some other things, to say the least.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall14.mp3]

Call 15:

Anna Powell calls dispatch one final time and has a conversation with Sheriff Shortridge. She claimed her husband would not be the guy the sheriff was familiar with on a professional level.

[audio:http://pageonekentucky.com/audio/powellcall15.mp3]

The Powells haven’t responded to requests for comment. We can only hope they get the help they need if they need it.

Now Montgomery County finally knows.