Former Montgomery County Board Did No Due Diligence, Holliday Partially Responsible

Here’s the deal: the former Montgomery County Board of Education, led by former chair Fern Reed, Steve Osborne, Kenney Gulley and Kelly Murphy (the last two being guys we ousted), appears to have done no due diligence in hiring fired superintendent Joshua Powell. The board merely took a remarkably bad political appointee’s word as the gospel. Then all hell broke loose.

About a year ago we reported that outgoing Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday ignorantly recommended Powell for several awards. Troubling for sure.

But what we discovered in July during a deposition of Holliday? He recommended Powell for the job in Montgomery County, communicating directly with Osborne. Almost alarming.

Record of that communication/recommendation was nowhere to be found in Powell’s personnel file. Which isn’t surprising when you remember everything else that was missing or half-baked.

In examining Powell’s personnel files from his previous school districts (Trimble, Union, Cloverport — search the archives if you want to read the files), it became clear that those files and other records pertaining to the man weren’t requested by Montgomery County Schools until after the official hiring decision was made. And no one thought that was problematic.

Good old boy politics. Dereliction of duty. No real background check. No due diligence. All the blatant red flags missed.

And you wonder why Montgomery County can’t have nice things.

Your Afternoon Montgomery Co Update

Just a couple things.

Jim Dusso finally filed against fired former Montgomery County Schools superintendent Joshua Powell and the district.


The Mt. Sterling Advocate finally mentioned Jennifer Hall’s amended complaint that we mentioned years ago:



Former Montgomery County Schools day care worker Jennifer Hall has filed an amended complaint naming former Superintendent Josh Powell and Director of Childcare Kristi Carter in their individual capacities as defendants.


“During her employment by defendants, plaintiff reported and disclosed, in good faith, facts and information relative to actual and/or suspected mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse of authority, violations of federal and state law, statutes, policies and regulations occurring within and in the course of operation of the Montgomery County School System to appropriate authorities, including Superintendent Joshua Powell,” the amended complaint states.


Hall alleges wrongful discharge and retaliation by Powell and Carter after she reported understaffing in the childcare program…


She claims she was initially suspended from June 16 to Aug. 4, 2014, while Jacqui Johnston and Phil Rison “investigated” the false and contrived allegations against Hall.

That comes on the heels of the Montgomery County Board of Education essentially recognizing that… well, let’s look at yesterday’s story:

3. WHISTLEBLOWER — You participated in efforts to seek criminal charges against an employee, who turned over an IPad to the attorney general even though the school law enforcement officer informed you the employee was possibly protected by the Whistleblower Act, which resulted in a lawsuit.

The board recognized that Jennifer Hall is a whistleblower and the Powell administration retaliated against her.

Happy Friday.

Rison Hearing Results In Serious Findings, Board Holds Strong

Former assistant superintendent of Montgomery County Schools, Phil Rison, has been through the wringer with fired former superintendent Joshua Powell. We’ve spent years reporting document after document, recording after recording, police report after police report. It’s a mess no matter how you look at it.

So we were beyond surprised when Rison, who chose to retire in the face of an investigation and knowing his job was being abolished, chose to push the Montgomery County Board of Education for a due process hearing. A bizarre event in which Rison and his attorney, Wayne Young, ignored Kentucky’s shield law to effectively drag me into court as if I’m to blame for the corruption merely because I reported it.

That’s all over but I could still use your help covering costs.

And since it’s all over, I’ve obtained a copy of the Findings of Fact, Conclusion of Law, Decision from the board. To say it’s bad for Rison is an understatement.

From the Findings of Fact:

1. MAINTENANCE BUILDING — You failed to follow regulatory procedures for the renovation and construction relating to the maintenance building and failed to obtain appropriate and timely Board of Education and Kentucky Department of Education approval. The maintenance building was nearly completed before the BG-1 was brought to the Board on September 16, 2014.

2. TITLE IX AND BASEBALL FACILITIES — You permitted the filing of incorrect Title IX reports with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association for the years 2011, 2012, 2013 and potentially 2014, indicating there were no improvements on the baseball field facility even though approximately $176,000.00 was expended on the baseball facility.

3. WHISTLEBLOWER — You participated in efforts to seek criminal charges against an employee, who turned over an IPad to the attorney general even though the school law enforcement officer informed you the employee was possibly protected by the Whistleblower Act, which resulted in a lawsuit.

4. UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT — The auditor of public accounts, Adam Edelen, by a letter dated December 17, 2013 advised that unreasonable modifications were made to the director of special projects’ position description which is not consistent with the job title and district documentation. You, as the assistant superintendent of the district, chaired the selection committee that recommended the spouse of the superintendent for the position and communicated the hire to the Montgomery County Board of Education.

5. An agreed order between you and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board was approved and required you to train in the areas of eight hours of professional development/training in the area of educational certification; hiring school personnel with an emphasis on the compliance of KRS 160.345; and development/training in the area of school facilities, construction and management.

6. The Board of Education abolished your position. The Board of Education has the authority to abolish positions, not the superintendent. Once the Board of Education abolishes a position, it is the superintendent’s duty to carry out any personnel matters which are related to the abolishment.

The outcome:

[T]he action in demoting Rison is sustained.

Fun thing about the hearing: The claim was made during proceedings that those mega spending claims reported on Title IX documentation were merely the result of a typo. A typo that must have been made dozens of times. A typo that, according to the latest Title IX report (Warning: External PDF Link) filed with the Kentucky High School Athletics Association, most certainly has not been corrected. Rison also attempted to blame school principals for some of the mess, claiming he had nothing to do with it.

See the document for yourself:

Interesting how that all worked out.

And you wonder why Montgomery County can’t have nice things.

A Curious Moment In Montgomery Co

A new auditor is about to dig in at Montgomery County Schools and there’s speculation galore about where he ought to look.

We’ve reported for years (now that’s literal — more than two) about problems surrounding maintenance budgeting and spending. And today we’re sharing another tidbit that should send up red flags all over the place.

An email from Jacqui Johnston to Phil Rison pushing a man named David Walters (maintenance) out of the way:

That was right around the time Walters, et al, went to school board members and others (not confidentially) to report irregularities and alleged shenanigans they’d discovered and asked for help. Those shenanigans occurred during the period of time tons of cash was being spent on baseball field construction/renovation. Walters discovered there was all the sudden no money in his accounts but there was no explanation. Curious, eh?

After being aligned with Powell in the beginning, Walters, who sold Powell his home, did what was right. Then the Powell crew pushed Walters out.

Fascinating stuff, truly.

Wanna help pay fees associated with fighting off these shysters? Click here. We will not allow them to identify our sources or retaliate against them.

Interesting Times w/Powell’s Money Lady

This evening the Montgomery County Board of Education will meet.

Feel free to click here (Warning: External PDF Link) to access the meeting agenda.


Angela Rhodes will present the 2014-2015 Annual Financial Statement.

Jacqui Johnston will merely report the Treasurer/Food Service Director Reports & Accounts Payable information — along with the assistance of another staffer —and Personnel Activities.

My, how things have changed.

This Was SOP In Montgomery County

Many have asked through the years why Joshua Powell’s inner circle turned a blind eye to illegal nepotism when he hired his wife.


It’s because they didn’t think it was a big deal to hire up everybody’s relatives, allowing spouses do things like this:

Hiring relatives of the inner circle was standard operating procedure.

Wanna help pay fees associated with fighting off these shysters? Click here. We will not allow them to identify our sources or retaliate against them.

Turns Out Hating People Is Expensive

HELP PROTECT OUR SOURCES! Stop the Montgomery County-Joshua Powell-Phil Rison insanity! [CLICK HERE]

The private attorneys whom Beshear hired to handle the state’s appeals have a $260,000 contract, of which $231,348 had been paid by July 20, according to state records. Total cost to taxpayers: $2,351,297. [H-L]

Fears of a China-led global economic slowdown drove Wall Street to its steepest one-day drop in nearly four years on Friday and left the Dow industrials more than 10 percent below a May record. [HuffPo]

Dozens of anti-abortion protesters Saturday called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, waving signs decrying the organization’s “atrocities” and praying for an end to abortive practices. [C-J/AKN]

If you’ve followed the saga involving Joshua Powell and Montgomery County Schools? This episode of This American Life will send chills down your spin. [This American Life]

The state Revenue Cabinet filed a brief Tuesday with the state Board of Tax Assessment Appeals saying the Madison County Property Valuation Administrator and the county assessment appeals board failed to follow its “direction and advice” in denying tax exemption to the Grand Campus residential property leased by Eastern Kentucky University. [Richmond Register]

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Granny) is not a turtle. Ian Ziering of “90210” was in the movie “Sharknado.” And Sapphire from the movie “Almost Famous” is a “Band Aid.” [The Hill]

Glasgow’s next police chief, pending city council approval, said he believes in having a very transparent department. [Glasgow Daily Times]

President Barack Obama has been briefed on developments in global financial markets, the White House said on Monday after world stock markets plunged. [Reuters]

After heavy criticism emerged late last school year about the cleanliness of Williamsburg Independent School’s building — steps were taken to remedy the problems. [Times-Tribune]

The White House has hired its first openly transgender full-time member of staff, officials have confirmed. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan started working as an outreach and recruitment director for presidential staff on Tuesday. [BBC]

For the third time, Judge-Executive Walter Blevins proposed a longevity pay benefit for county employees. And for the third time, the motion died for a lack of second on Tuesday in Rowan Fiscal Court. [The Morehead News]

Ah, back-to-school season in America: That means it’s time for the annoyingly aggressive marketing of clothes, and for the annual warnings of a national teacher shortage. [NPR]

Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones told his radio audience Monday morning that he is actively considering a run for the U.S. House of Representatives, and he will make a decision before the University of Kentucky’s basketball season starts. [H-L]

Rand Paul’s campaign is teetering on the edge, with the once-trendy presidential candidate telling fellow Kentucky Republicans that his chances of winning the 2016 GOP nomination are no better than “1 in 10.” [HuffPo]