Montgomery County Schools Corruption Uncovered: A Multi-Part Look At Collusion, Spin And Coordinated Attacks On Investigators

This is PART ONE of a series.

For those of you who think Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell hasn’t assisted Richard Hughes (this guy) in his PR scheme and with his advertising campaign, you’ll probably want to go ahead and take the rest of the week off.

Because I’m about to give you a glimpse at what we have obtained via open records requests from various government agencies in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Emails that Powell forwarded to Hughes. Proof that Hughes coordinated everything he’s said WITH Powell. Proof that Powell has launched a coordinated attack against the EPSB (et al — including Jake!) for trying to hold him accountable. And more. Waaay more.

Hold on to your wigs, ladies.

Let’s dig in…

In this first email, you’ll see that assistant superintendent Phil Rison is being represented before the Education Professional Standards Board (yep, he’s under investigation) by Powell’s personal law firm. Paid for, of course, by Montgomery County Schools. Conflicts of interest on all fronts.

What’s scandalous is that these are communications that typically would be private. But these folks used government email systems that are subject to sunshine laws in order to communicate. So let’s tear everything apart.

From attorney Cravens Priest to Phil Rison:


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Here’s the text:

Phil,

Attached is a 9-10-14 e-mail and 9-11-14 correspondence I received (on 9-15- 14) from Alicia Sneed regarding an offer to meet with you. The correspondence sets forth numerous allegations against you and mentions the hiring of your daughter and brother as employees in the District. We were not aware of the hiring of your daughter and brother. Mike Owsley has reviewed the correspondence and we would like to discuss it with you. Let us know when you are available to discuss the correspondence after you have had a chance to review.

Cravens

Rison forwarded the documents to Jacqui Johnston (Powell’s “Chief Administrative Officer”) and Joshua Powell, who then forwarded them to Hughes.

Want to read the attachments?

From Alicia Sneed of the EPSB to Cravens Priest regarding Rison:


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Text:

Cravens,

I am working on a letter to you outlying a potential avenue for negotiating Phil Rison’s case; however, I am afraid that Rison’s interests may be directly adverse to another of your client’s interests. Although I don’t necessarily have an issue with the same counsel representing co-respondents in EPSB matters, Mr. Rison, as a subordinate of his co-respondent, may feel that he has to go to along with what is in his co-respondent’s best interest in order to keep his position.

I wanted to give you a head’s up before I send a letter that may cause a conflict of interest. I know from representing individuals in criminal matters and agencies in civil matters that whenever a conflict arises among clients that it is not pleasant for the attorney of record who has to figure out what to do, sometimes on the fly. In criminal law, I was often blindsided by a conflict, and usually at the most inopportune time, like the day of the trial.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Alicia Sneed

See that part about conflicts of interest? The EPSB didn’t have to do them the courtesy of bringing that up.

Here’s the letter Sneed mentioned:


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Text:

Dear Mr. Preist:

Recently, we discussed Mr. Rison’s case during a telephone call. You asked if I was going to dismiss the case against Mr. Rison now that his co-respondent was set for a hearing. I cannot dismiss Mr. Rison’s case because I have strong evidence that he was involved in violations of the Professional Code of Ethics. I am confident that I can prove that Mr. Rison, as head of the interview committee, recommended the hire of Anna Powell because it was what his superintendent wanted, and that in exchange for the hiring committee’s recommendation, Mr. Rison’s daughter and brother were hired by Montgomery County Schools.

Although you may argue that I have merely a circumstantial case against Mr. Rison and that he acted in the best interest of students of Montgomery County Schools, I believe that the evidence will be clear. Mr. Rison’s family and Mr. Rison benefitted from him carrying out his co-respondent’s wishes. Mr. Rison interviewed Anna Powell for a position she legally could not take. When he recommended her for the position, the position description had to be modified so she could even take the position and I intend to present testimony that hiring a person for $90,000+ salary who cannot supervise either certified or classified staff is a misuse of funds.
Mr. Rison knew that Anna Powell was the superintendent’s spouse, and therefore could not legally take a position that required her to supervise others, but he recommended her anyway. If there was not collusion between himself and the superintendent in this matter, then Mr. Rison was purposefully trying to get his co-respondent removed as superintendent. If that is true, that would also be a violation of the Professional Code of Ethics. I anticipate that his co-respondent might make this argument in his defense, especially since it known in the community that Mr. Rison was in the running for the superintendent’s position prior to the hire of his co-respondent.

After Anna Powell was hired by the district, Mr. Rison’s daughter was hired in an Occupational Therapy Position for which she had to be issued a temporary license pursuant to KRS 319A.100 and pursuant to that statute she could only practice under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist. Mr. Rison’s brother was also recently hired, even though he has retired from education. The position for which he was hired, high school athletic director, has plenty of individuals who are qualified for the role currently available for hire, and therefore his hiring is questionable under KRS 161.605(3).

Furthermore, I have information that Mr. Rison may have conspired to have Amanda Reffitt pink-slipped due to her affair with another staff member, Chris Barrier. Mr. Barrier was married to an educator in the district that Mr. Rison mentored. I intend to argue that Mr. Rison’s co-respondent handled a problem for Mr. Rison and Mr. Rison owed the co-respondent. Also, the co-respondent has made remarks that he was trying to create a dynasty in Montgomery County Schools. It seems by hiring Mr. Rison’s daughter and brother and by Mr. Rison assisting in hiring the co-respondent’s wife that the co-respondent is indeed trying to create some sort of “powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time.”

Mr. Rison was also aware that his co-respondent blamed Kelly Wallace for filing a Title IX complaint with United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Mr. Rison may deny that he was aware of his co-respondent’s belief or that Ms. Wallace was pink-slipped from the district first and foremost because his co-respondent wanted her gone, but I have credible witnesses who will testify that Mr. Rison was aware of his co-respondent’s determination to retaliate against Wallace for her “betrayal.”

Although I am convinced I do not need Mr. Rison’s testimony against his co-respondent to successfully prosecute the case against him, I am interested to hear what he has to say regarding this matter. Therefore, I am extending an offer to meet with Mr. Rison. During this meeting, I will not use anything he says to me against him at a later date and he may use this meeting to convince me of his innocence or to provide me with information he believes will clear his name.

Please assure Mr. Rison that regardless of my current conviction that he was co-conspirator with his supervisor/co-respondent, I am willing to listen to what he has to say with an open mind. My understanding is that prior to the hire of his co-respondent that Mr. Rison was highly responded in the community and I know that he is a deacon in his church, so I do not believe that his conduct was malicious. I want to use this meeting to give Mr. Rison the opportunity to present a defense or offer information that he believes will be mitigating or exculpatory. I cannot promise him that what he tells me will result in an offer of dismissal, but I am willing to allow him to convince me that he deserves lenience or a dismissal.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you,

Alicia A. Sneed

There you have it. Powell and Rison can no longer deny what we all know to have occurred. There is absolutely an investigation. And now we know what it involves.

No, this doesn’t mean the investigation can be stopped by them now. Because Powell’s crew, apparently in collusion, made the decision to open these documents up to random individuals.

But it gets better. Powell forwarded additional emails to Hughes. The first is a response from Priest to Sneed, followed by Sneed’s reply and another response from Priest:


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Text:

Alicia,

As discussed in our call today, Phil Rison has reviewed and considered your 9-11-14 correspondence, but can not agree to meet with you under the terms of the correspondence.

Cravens

And:

Cravens,

I will proceed with making an offer based on the evidence I have then. I hope to give you something next week.

Please explain to Mr. Rison that I do not offer anyone a dismissal until I have good cause to dismiss the case, as I have to ultimately convince the EPSB to accept that resolution. My offer to meet with Mr. Rison was a favor to him since you asked that I dismiss his case. If Mr. Rison would like to provide me with information that is exculpatory or mitigating in writing, I will gladly review it, but since he is declining the offer to meet under the terms of my 9/11/14 correspondence, that offer is officially rescinded.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Alicia A. Sneed

Finally:

Your 9-11-14 letter was not only less than amenable, but it also included false allegations

Yep. That’s how Priest responded. Rison forwarded it to Powell and Johnston. Powell then forwarded it to Hughes.

The question you’re probably asking yourself is why on earth Powell would be sending this material that would typically be protected by attorney-client privilege to some random guy at Morehead State. It’s going to take a bit to give you an answer but it’s worth the wait. Stick with us.

There’s more tomorrow…

UPDATE:

CLICK HERE for Part Two.