WARNING: Some language contained in this story is horribly offensive.
Over the past couple days you’ve learned that Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell and his circle of cohorts in the district planned and executed an extensive campaign of retribution and defamation against iPad whistleblower Jennifer Hall.
It’s not just me saying that. You can take my opinion out of it. It’s all documented in police reports obtained by law enforcement sources at the Kentucky State Police and verified by Montgomery County Schools via an open records request.
Those two stories offer a look at the extreme lengths people will go to in an attempt to cover their tracks. They’re a glimpse at sickening, heart-breaking attacks paid for with taxpayer dollars. There’s no denying what occurred. Detractors attempting to attack the messenger (me, along with this website) can no longer push their bogus talking points built around a scheme to defend the indefensible.
But the real juice is hitting today.
What you’re about to read can only be described as unbelievably damaging for outgoing Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell. It’s a seven-page diatribe he delivered to the school board that appears to go beyond insubordination. It’s filled with what an average reader can surmise are flat-out lies, defamatory remarks and attempts to blackmail the school board with threats of reporting them to investigative agencies. Contained in the letter is language that is sure to offend you, so consider yourselves warned. Some of the allegations are so salacious (murder and threatening lives) that I believe them to be actionable in court. In addition to probably being grounds for his permanent dismissal.
Members of the school board refused to provide me with a copy of the letter and the district’s attorney refused to provide it on at least five separate occasions. Luckily (or unfortunately), Powell or someone close to him appears to have distributed the letter to the Office of Education Accountability, Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday and the Mt. Sterling Advocate. Someone in Holliday’s office eventually caved, leaking a copy for us to share with our readership.
Get ready. Take a potty break. Get a snack. And hold on to your wigs. What you’re about to read is more than 3,000 words (20+ minutes) of material that is both alarming and rage-inducing.
Here’s the letter:
CLICK EACH TO ENLARGE
And here’s a transcript of the letter:
The Montgomery County Board of Education
Board Attorney Shelley Williams
Board Member Alice Anderson
Board Member Sharon Smith
Board Member Kelly Johnson
Board Member Bill Morgan
Board Member Donna Wilson
I am writing this letter in an attempt to be granted immediate relief in the form of reinstatement as the Montgomery County Superintendent and a very public and formal apology. Otherwise, I will seek remedy for my family and I for the short-term and long-term damages that have occurred and will occur as a result of the Montgomery County Board of Education’s and individual member’s illegal and malicious actions against me. I also want to report the fear of retaliation against my wife, Dr. Anna L. Powell. Furthermore, I am requesting an investigation regarding the Board’s actions, the actions of individual members, and the actions of local board attorney, Shelley Williams for what I consider to be unethical and illegal activities.
The Board has attempted to interfere with a civil proceeding, specifically the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB) versus Joshua Ewing Powell hearing scheduled to occur on January 12, 2015. Conveniently, the Board has chosen to suspend me less than one week prior, which has caused additional harm.
The information and supporting evidence of my allegations is by no means inclusive. Relevant witnesses to confirm the allegations include but are not limited to Donna Wilson, Kenney Gulley, Kelly Murphy, Steve Osborne and Fern Reed. Additionally, Board Attorney Shelley Williams has witnessed several of the infractions.
It has come to my attention that the Board of Education was less than pleased when I hired Chris Barrier as Director of Law Enforcement and Larry Dixon as Instructional Supervisor. These actions were well within my authority and all laws were followed. During a Board meeting on January 5th, members of the audience were well aware of the meeting to be held on January 7th, as well as the actions the Board would take. The public was not made aware and neither was I. Also, there exists clear evidence that some Board members, including Alice Anderson, had met together and with Shelley Williams specifically to achieve the goals on January 7th prior to the January 5th meeting, which was the first meeting for new Board members. In addition to this, it is my belief that services from Larry Bryson were performed even though the Board had not approved a contract.
After the meeting on January 5th, Shelley Williams had reported that the January 7th meeting was about me, yet refused to specify. During the following day, Shelley Williams indicated that the Board was afraid of what I would do next and concerned with the number of transfers, which supports the Board’s attempt to prevent me from being involved with personnel. To provide additional support, the Board is attempting to “freeze all district positions that are vacant or that may become vacant effective immediately until further direction by the Montgomery County Board of Education for budget reasons”. This is most comical. The board has one of the largest percentage reserves in the Commonwealth (approximately 9.2 million). This information has been presented to the Board by local auditors and is also publicly displayed on the Kentucky Department of Education’s website. The intent of the Board is clearly to circumvent the law in terms of hiring personnel. Both Chris Barrier and Larry Dixon are district level positions and were both were hired recently.
The Board is attempting to provide the Board Chair Alice Anderson to execute the contracts with both Larry Bryson and Michelle Williams, which is an attempt to hide the actions of the Board. As Board attorney, Shelley Williams represented Alice Anderson when Anderson was charged for making fake identification cards for minors by using school equipment. The District incurred the fees for Andersons defense.
Social media has produced many of the claims and investigation against me. However, the information is a fabrication and has been used specifically to cause harm to me. The Board is acting in reaction to the fabricated information.
The Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) Executive Director Wayne Young has provide a very specific and detailed letter citing the Board’s various illegal activities, including improper agenda, illegal actions, and the suspension of the superintendent. In an attempt to remedy some of the actions, the Board is having a meeting on January 10th, 2015. Wayne Young is an attorney and has provided you with very clear directions regarding the legality of your actions. If individual Board members and the collective Board refuse to adhere to the law, then individual members and the Board will be held responsible. In other words, you have been informed and will lose your immunity as individual Board members if you do not follow the law.
The Board’s actions are a breach of contract. I was hired to specifically turn around the school district and the actions that I have been investigated, sued, and charged with were certainly in the scope of my practice. To deny coverage for any of this is a breach of contract. Not only is this inferred by my practice, it is also specified in my contract.
I presented a letter from Attorney Chris Miller in regards to breaching my contract. The letter contained statements statements from Alice Anderson and Sharon Smith-Breiner, which were retaliatory. Rather than attempt to correct the behavior, the Board provided further retaliation when they illegally suspended me only two days later.
The meeting on January 5th stated that the Board wanted to reduce my compensation by specifically not paying my travel and technology reimbursement.
This practice creates a tremendous hardship on my family. Furthermore, combined with the fact that the Board has refused to pay my legal expenses, attempted to remove Mike Owsley as my representation against EPSB, take away the technology needed to help defend me, and suspended me prior to the EPSB meeting this is clearly a means to provide additional harm. Furthermore, it is clearly an attempt to interfere with the civil proceeding, as well, and will be sufficient grounds to reinstate me as superintendent.
The Board has restricted my travel therefore attempting to cause further harm. I have been invited to present at multiple conferences and my contract specifically allows for such. The Board’s actions would provide extreme harm and I am requesting that immediate resolve is granted.
There is clear evidence that the Board had malicious intentions against me as well as hid their actions from the public. Retired Superintendent Sonny Fentress attended the January 7th meeting. Mr. Fentress is well-known to take acting and interim superintendent jobs. Mr. Fentress has never attended a board meeting and was clearly there to be appointed.
The agenda for the January 10th meeting seeks to remove me from Board secretary. This is also a gross violation of my rights and will cause further embarrassment and humiliation.
Board members Kelly Johnson and Bill Morgan have had almost no contact with me. Kelly Johnson has made false and defamatory comments about me at his practice. Neither has had any training as Board members.
It has come to my attention that the Montgomery County Board of Education has threatened to sue Dr. Holliday if he took any action regarding my suspension. I believe this to be a testament to the Board’s intent to retaliate against me as well as perform malicious actions. This action speaks volumes in regards to the blatant disregard for law and my rights.
The Board voted to end the contract with Board Attorney Mike Owsley and cited that they did not want to pay for two attorneys. Ironically, the Board illegally hired Larry Bryson and is attempting to provide additional compensation to Board Attorney Shelley Williams as evidence by the January 10, 2015 Board Agenda. If hired, both attorneys will be paid approximately 400 to 600 dollars per hour in an attempt to “dig up dirt”. None of the charges are specified as required by law.
The Board is obviously attempting to circumvent Statute and the Commissioner of Education’s authority. The Board realizes that I would remain in my position until the recommendation of the Commissioner, which, would most certainly not occur because no specific legal charges have been made. Circumventing this process is illegal the Board and individual members will be held accountable.
There is much evidence that exists regarding the malicious, unethical, and illegal activities of Board members. When Sharon Smith was elected to the Board, she immediately wanted to buy me out of my contract. This attempt was made during her first meeting.
Sharon Smith has been working closely with EPSB Director of Legal Services Alicia Sneed and has locally spearheaded the collaborative effort with Alicia Sneed to provide harm to me. She has interfered with the civil proceeding and in her own words, wants to pay me back. Various other infractions concerning Sharon Smith have been reported to Board members, the Commissioner of Education, the Kentucky School Board Association (KSBA) and Board Attorney Shelley Williams. Both Board members and Shelley Williams have observed many of the behaviors.
The various unethical, illegal, and uneducated actions and comments from Board member Alice Anderson are too numerous to present and can be referenced in my complaint to the Commissioner of Education. On one occasion, Anderson presented both her prejudicial views as well as her threatening behavior towards me. During a meeting in my office and shortly after she was elected as a board member, Mrs. Anderson discussed her long-time friend of whom she referred to as “Nigger Bill”. She repeated the inappropriate name more than ten times and looked at me and stated that, “If I wanted Nigger Bill to come to town and kill somebody, he would”. She repeated the comments three times. I found the comments towards the individual more disturbing than her threat to have me killed.
However, the prejudicial behavior has been par for the course with Mrs. Anderson. As stated, Anderson informed the Board during a public meeting that the Board should not hire Mexicans due to her believe that “Mexicans steal everything”. In addition to this, Alice Anderson refuses to adhere to the pick up and drop off policy at McNabb. The individual that she refused to follow directions from, in regards to moving her vehicle and following proper procedures is Jason Woodard, whom is an African American.
After the board meeting on January 7th concluded, Board Member Alice Anderson overstepped her boundaries as a board member and placed Assistant Superintendent Phil Rison in charge of the district by stating, “You’re in charge, Phil, til further notice.” Obviously, this was illegal, not public, and caused the distric to be quite confused.
Various illegal and unethical actions committed by Mrs. Anderson have been reported to the Commissioner of Education prior to the Board’s special called meeting on January 7th, 2015. Additionally, the behaviors have been reported to Board members, the KSBA and Board Attorney Shelley Williams. Both Board members and Shelley Williams have observed many of the behaviors, as well.
Shortly after being elected, Board Member Bill Morgan attempted to broker a deal with me in regards to getting me out of my contract early. He also stated that we were spending too much money at MCHS and were not getting anything out of it. I believe his comments were directed against Shannon White. In addition, he attempted to hire Larry Dixon for a position in Fleming County. Larry Dixon selected to work under me, instead, which did not make Mr. Morgan too happy.
Kelly Johnson is a local dentist and operates a business in Montgomery County. Several individuals have reported the various defamatory and derogatory comments he has made against me. Mr. Johnson clearly ran on the ticket to get rid of me and wife. According to report, he has promised to fire Dr. Anna Powell and re-employ former employee Michelle Cannoy, as well as promote Cannoy to Director of Special Projects.
Mr. Johnson is one of the few paying advertisers for pageoneky.com. He has release confidential information from Board meetings to the site. He is not the only Board member to have done so. Other Board members are aware of the infractions, as well as the evidence. Mr. Johnson’s release of confidential information to pageoneky.com has produced tremendous harm and clearly violates the ethics and oath of being school board members in the Commonwealth.
Board Attorney Shelley Williams has been providing directives to district personnel since I have been suspended, which is clearly a violation of Kentucky law as well as ethics. She has directed district employees to not pay bills and, also, she has personally approved bills for the entire district in my absence. Mrs. Williams has been directed employees not to interact with me, disclose information to me, and has attempted to circumvent interfere with the EPSB civil proceeding. One example includes her email to Attorney Mike Owsley suggesting that he not subpoena employees during the work day. Ironically, when the EPSB delivered subpoenas during the work day to employees nothing was said.
When I arrived to the district, the practice of Board Attorney Shelley Williams was questionable, specifically related billing (Title work of vacant land, billing for reviewing services from other attorneys, and gouging.). I discussed specific events with Mrs. Williams as well as multiple Board members. Mrs. Williams was less than pleased when we added Board Attorney Mike Owsley and has fought against it until Owsley was fired. In addition to this, she negotiated a contract in a closed session with the Board to pay her .5 the billing rate when she reviewed bills and paperwork from other attorneys, who were paid by insurance. This was not on the agenda and not made public.
The conduct of Mrs. Williams has been discussed multiple times with multiple past and present board members, who all expressed the same concern. Since the arrival of Board members Sharon Smith and Alice Anderson, there has been much discussion into firing Mike Owsley and proving Shelley Williams with additional work, some of it being quite trivial.
The Board and individual members through have interfered and continue to interfere with the EPSB civil proceeding. Since my suspension Board member Sharon Smith attended the central office and met with Jacqui Johnston for approximately one hour on January 9th. Mrs. Johnston is a key witness to the EPSB case Smith-Breiner’s visit was clearly to intimidate the witness.
In regards to the EPSB charges, multiple Board members, including Sharon Smith directed me to terminate Dusso’s contract. Yet, the Board denies coverage to pay for charges related to Dusso.
Firing attorney Mike Owsley because board members Alice Anderson and Sharon Smith believed that I would lose Mike Owsley in the defense of claims. They were quite surprised when this was not the case.
Reducing my compensation has produced a great hardship on family as well as inhibits my ability to successfully defend myself against EPSB charges. Attorney Shelley Williams and every member of the Board have sufficient knowledge regarding the charges against me.
The Board voted 3 to 2 to fire Mike Owsley due to having two Board attorneys yet have hired another board attorney Larry Bryson whose fees exceed Mike Owsley’s.
Further investigations will produce widespread harm to the District, individual employees and my family and I. The actions of the Board have produced fear and conspiracy throughout the district. Many employees are terrified with the sentiment, and cite that fear that “if the Board can illegally take action against me, then what can they do to them”.
As you know, Dr. Anna Powell is protected through her disability and marital status and any attempts to retaliate against her in any manner will be ferociously met. Dr. Anna Powell has already filed complaints with the appropriate agencies and individuals.
Board Attorney Shelley Williams supported the legal process of hiring Dr. Anna Powell and specifically stated that nothing was done incorrectly. With this, several other attorneys, including KEA attorneys, Mike Owsley, and KSBA attorney Theresa Combs indicated the same.
Board member Sharon Smith-Breiner has attempted to interfere with district processes and intimidate Dr. Anna Powell. Mrs. Smith-Breiner attempted to coerce Dr. Anna Powell into making her granddaughter qualify for the Accelerated School, knowing that Dr. Anna Powell would be testing her granddaughter. Mrs. Smith continuously attempted to retrieve information about her granddaughter despite not having a release from the custodial parents, attempting to violate the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Board member Alice Anderson has significant disdain for Dr. Anna Powell’s alleged involvement with the report against Anderson to the Office of Educational Accountability (OEA). Mrs. Anderson’s actions when Anderson performed a hostile takeover of the Early Learning Center caused extreme emotional and physical harm to Dr. Anne Powell. She received medical treatments as a result of Anderson’s directives.
I have been investigated multiple times by multiple entities for most of my tenure in Montgomery County and the fact that this Board is spending more money to investigate me for unspecified allegations is nearly unbelievable. This is unconstitutional and a gross abomination of my due process rights and any negative results obtains will obviously be filled with contempt. The act is also an attempt to hide actions from the public, as evidence by KASA Executive Wayne Young’s letter and the refusal to share public information. Furthermore, any further derogatory and defamatory comments made about me in public by any Board member will be met with civil recourse. The Board of Education’s counsel (hired by the District’s insurance carrier) has responded to every allegation or charge against me and comments or investigations made to the contrary would be a most curious contradiction.
A Board with integrity and class would have allowed me to complete my contract and finish the legacy of turning around this low performing school district. Instead, the Board has relied on vengeance, retaliation, social media, and have abused their authority.
Again, the Montgomery County Board of Education has no legal authority to suspend me and combined with the fact that they have breached my contract and reduced my compensation, I will be seeking immediate injunctive relief. I expect to be reinstated in a very short time. I am simply requesting that you adhere to the law and prevent further harm.
This Board has defamed me by the actions in an attempt to maliciously provide harm. Your steps that you have taken are actionable and have produced significant and widespread damage to the district, individuals employees, and my family and I. My school aged children have suffered ridicule as a result of the Board’s illegal and unethical actions against me and let me clear in saying that I will not tolerate any further harm and will take the appropriate actions necessary to seek remedy.
Again, I strongly encourage the Board, individual Board members, and Board Attorney Shelley Williams take the appropriate and requested actions.
Joshua E. Powell, Ph.D.
First: Surprising that this guy thinks he has any insight into advertising, sources and the like. He apparently has no clue that ads can be geo-served and he most certainly has no idea about who provides us with information. Because it’s certainly not Kelly Johnson, a new member of the board who knew absolutely nothing because he’d been to a grand total of zero full school board meetings when that letter was written. He was useless in terms of information. So unhelpful that I can actually prove it (that’s how little he knew). Crazy shiz, really. Attempting to drag PageOneKentucky.com into the mess for merely being the messenger, presenting information obtained via open records law. Just crazy.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what board attorney Shelley Williams provided as a statement:
The Board received a letter from Dr. Powell that was hand-delivered on January 10, 2015, shortly before going into Executive Session to discuss Dr. Powell’s suspension and the non-renewal of his contract.
Dr. Powell’s letter contained numerous inaccurate and false statements as well as threats of legal action, among other things.
The Board stands by its decision to suspend Dr. Powell pending investigation and the non-renewal of his contract.
The letter, as you’ve just read, is out of this world bizarre. Bogus claims that Alice Anderson is racist, creating fake IDs for minors, threatening him with murder (!), claiming Sharon Smith-Breiner is involved in the EPSB’s investigation, that Kelly Johnson is defaming him, yadda yadda yadda.
It’s sheer insanity. Or, in other words, career suicide.
No judge in their right mind is going to look at that letter and back Powell up. Any attorney defending it is sure to be laughed out of court.
More on the Anderson racism claims made by Powell… her former supervisors and colleagues tell us the allegation(s) are a farce. In fact, some of Powell’s people in central office tell us that he’s merely using Woodard because it was part of his scheme all along: hire someone with a criminal past (arrests in Barren and Hart Counties for wanton endangerment and first degree burglary) to work closely with children, give them a huge promotion, they owe you when you need them to back you up later.
And the claim that Anderson initiated some sort of hostile takeover? Powell and company filed a complaint (yes, they did, you can read the government report for yourself, no opinion necessary) with the Office of Education Accountability against Anderson. The OEA’s investigation exonerated Anderson and revealed that Powell’s team had orchestrated the entire stunt. To claim that his illegally-hired wife had to seek medical attention after that is… wow. Really, speechless.
A final note: Powell appears to have taken some bait we left for him and has potentially committed perjury (not yet revealing how/why but it involves sworn testimony he’s already given).
Sources at OEA tell us Powell has filed a complaint against the school board alleging members communicated with me during closed session. Which is a bit of a mistake on his part.
He was baited when we published a note about board members informing us they were coming out of closed session. While true that board members informed us, they were former board members, not current. They emailed information obtained from members of the audience (one of them a former board member himself) present at the meeting. Folks they were communicating with via text message.
But it’s nice for him to finally admit he reads everything here 24/7. He’s inadvertently allowed us to identify and track several people based on IP and device MAC addresses, which has also allowed for the identification of folks responsible for carrying out a campaign of defamation against me (Jake).
He’s currently, according to multiple witnesses and emails we’ve reviewed, using a minor child (a student at Montgomery County High School) to operate a website focused on attacking me personally. It seems they’ve dug up the nonsense published against me in 2011 (remember when I sued and won?) and have done some really crazy shit — like spreading photos of my mother’s dead body — and having a private investigator in Lexington attempt to meddle in my business (Hi, Sal!) endeavors.
The more this man attempts to attack the messenger, the more alleged victims come forward, the longer this story becomes, the more documentation gets leaked.
Don’t for a second think this is the end of our coverage. Because dozens of sources have provided us with thousands of pages of material that we’ll continue to cover.
This is why Montgomery County can’t have nice things.