The Morehead Jail Mess Rages On

There could be very little money to help Fayette County’s low-performing schools in the tentative 2015-16 budget set for approval by the school board on Tuesday. [H-L]

The U.S. has spent an unprecedented amount on incarceration and rehabilitative programs over the past decade, yet the rate of prisoners returning to jail has largely gone unchanged. But curbing those figures may have little to do with additional funding, and more so with tweaking reentry logistics. [HuffPo]

A Kentucky appeals court has upheld a ruling that prevents the developers of the Bluegrass Pipeline from using the power of eminent domain to purchase property easements. [C-J/AKN]

Genetic information from a 35,000-year-old wolf bone found below a frozen cliff in Siberia is shedding new light on humankind’s long relationship with dogs, showing canine domestication may have occurred earlier than previously thought. [Reuters]

Maybe they shouldn’t be building a monster of a new jail that costs umpteen million dollars? Rowan County Fiscal Court Tuesday authorized County Attorney Cecil Watkins to file suit against the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC). [The Morehead News]

Analysts, commentators and politicians are increasingly viewing President Barack Obama’s strategy on Iraq as one step forward and two steps back – or worse. [BBC]

Glasgow Mayor Dick Doty announced Thursday that the field of candidates for the city’s chief of police position was whittled to six from nearly 20 this week by members of a focus group Doty appointed. [Glasgow Daily Times]

The New York Times put a 1,700-word piece on its front page Tuesday that accuses the EPA of violating federal laws on grassroots campaigning. The paper ran the story despite knowing the accusation is not true, a fact that is buried deep in the article. [Think Progress]

The “wow” is back at Eastern Kentucky University’s Hummel Planetarium. Recent equipment upgrades have made the 27-year-old facility an even more attractive option for campus uses, for school groups from around the region, and to the public, officials said Thursday. [Richmond Register]

From the Department of Things Ken Ham Wouldn’t Understand… A scientific discovery in Kenya, first reported in April, challenges conventional wisdom about human history, say the scientists who made the discovery and are now releasing the details. [NPR]

So, what happened? Saturday is the deadline set by the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection for the landfill to come into compliance with an agreed order issued in January of 2014 regarding odor problems. [Ashland Independent]

Charter Communications announced early Tuesday that it will acquire Time Warner Cable — a little over a month after a proposed deal between Comcast and Time Warner was killed by regulators. [The Hill]

How to fail: Matt Bevin edition. Bevin, as he has since last November, blamed the media for creating a perception that he didn’t support U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after losing to him in the primary last year. [H-L]

The Illinois Senate approved a bill Thursday that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. [HuffPo]

On Failing An Entire Community…

What the hell?

Just read these bits from the Mt. Sterling Advocate:


Big time impact as board of education abolishes positions


Last week, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to abolish more than 20 positions.

Among those is Phil Rison’s position as director of student services/assistant superintendent.

Most board members are saying little. Two claim they simply followed the recommendations of Acting Superintendent Donald Pace.


Whatever the case, there doesn’t seem to be a straight answer. While the board says many of the positions were unfilled, a number were filled.

And no board member, or Pace, for that matter, will directly answer why Rison’s position was eliminated.


Now, the story is that Rison never actually had the role of superintendent, that he wasn’t even listed under that title on the district’s website. The Advocate, however, always referred to Rison in stories as “assistant superintendent,” and not once were we corrected.


Regardless, Rison is a long-term educator. He’s dedicated his life and career to students and staff in our schools. He deserves better.

Or at least a real explanation, as does the rest of this community. This is not the first instance in which our board has made a bold move and then offers no or few comments about its decision. These elected officials should never in the practice of not directly answering/addressing the public — the very people who put them in their positions — when decisions such as this are made. We encourage the board to be more open in the future!


Confusion reigns over Phil Rison’s position


He was visibly shaken when the board announced its decision at the May 11 meeting. At the time, he said “the decision speaks for itself.” He has declined further comment.

In addition to his duties at Central Office, Rison has also served as athletics director for the school district and is currently slated to become a member of the Kentucky High School Athletics Association Board of Control. He frequently speaks on subjects related to school athletics at conferences across the U.S.

“Frustratingly bad,” is how one concerned teacher in Montgomery County introduced the latest nonsense to us. We couldn’t agree more.

This is yet another instance of that small town newspaper deliberately misleading its readership and providing a massive disservice to the community. It’s possibly the most dishonest move we’ve yet seen from the paper. From providing Joshua Powell a platform to spin and lie to ignoring major scandals and government records, it’s been bad in Montgomery County. But this is probably the worst.

Why it’s bad: anyone who has half paid attention to Montgomery County the past two years knows why Phil Rison’s position was abolished. So let’s highlight a few of those reasons:

  • Bid rigging
  • The iPad scandal
  • Title IX scandals (plural)
  • Misappropriation/use of funds without approval on multiple occasions
  • Special Education testing scandals
  • Anna Powell
  • Getting his entire family hired
  • EPSB investigations

To name a few. All backed up with government documentation, video, email, police reports, audio.

To suggest the man is a saint with the best interests of the school district at heart is not only disingenuous, it’s disgusting.

Rison’s job description was altered by Joshua Powell and Jacqui Johnston, approved by the previous school board. You’d think actual journalists could spend fifteen seconds searching the school district’s website to determine that.

Suggesting that no one from the district ever complained to the paper about the way it identified Phil Rison? Perhaps because the previous school board, run by Joshua Powell, Kenney Gulley and Kelly Murphy was a documented hot mess. Or perhaps because the paper ignored anyone but those three, including current board members. Maybe they could have filed an open records request every once in a while or reviewed a personnel file or two.

Shysters like these are the reason we provide mountains of documentation. So there’s no room to claim a lack of objectivity. Because Montgomery County deserves better than a handful of corrupt good old boys manipulating everything that goes on in local government and the school district.

And Rison becoming a member of the KHSAA Board after getting caught deliberately misleading and misreporting Title IX spending information to that very organization? After repeatedly getting caught spending thousands upon thousands of dollars without authorization or any sort of approval? Hahahaha.

Still wondering why Montgomery County can’t have nice things?

It’s because of the good old boy network, which includes the Mt. Sterling Advocate.

P.S. Alice Anderson and the rest of that school board do need to get a grip and start putting that shitty paper in its place. In addition to being more transparent and less paranoid. They can start with ending their effort to have lawsuits filed by people like Michelle Henry dropped. Anderson, Smith-Breiner and Morgan are all on record supporting Henry, so they ought to back their hypocrisy up a taste.

P.P.S. Lindsay Rison Maples, Phil Rison’s daughter, is one of the people losing a job in the district. She currently serves under Anna Powell as an occupational therapist. Several teachers and an administrator have contacted us to say Lindsay’s been holding Admissions and Release Committee meetings with teachers, instructing them to contact the school board to press for bringing occupational therapy positions back. That should end really well for her. Since that’s not only unethical but potentially illegal.

Jack Went To Western Kentucky

A Kentucky Court of Appeals panel heard arguments Tuesday on whether a circuit court judge was correct when he ruled last year that Bluegrass Pipeline cannot use eminent domain to take private property for construction of a natural gas liquids pipeline. [H-L]

“Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cry?” she continued. “I mean, enough is enough. We’ve had too many lives lost at the hands of police officers. Enough is enough.” [HuffPo]

If you haven’t been following the Cordish-4th Street nightmare in Louisville, you’re really missing out. This is easily the millionth racial discrimination suit against the joint. Greg Fischer just keeps throwing millions and millions at the developer for nothing. Gets worse by the minute. [C-J/AKN]

Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have reached a deal on a long-awaited draft of legislation to speed up the approval of new drugs and treatments. [The Hill]

The Grayson city council called a special meeting Tuesday to finalize its contribution to a $75,000 matching grant to benefit its future downtown park. [Ashland Independent]

A divided Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that states can limit judicial candidates’ ability to personally appeal for donations, a rare victory for supporters of campaign finance limits. [Politico]

The Barren County Schools Local Planning Committee heard from district department directors Monday at Red Cross Elementary School. [Glasgow Daily Times]

During Tuesday’s marriage equality arguments in the Supreme Court, several of the Court’s conservative members suggested that same-sex couples should not be given equal marriage rights because these couples have not enjoyed those rights for most of the past. [ThinkProgress]

Looks like Walter Blevins is off to a horrible start in Rowan County. [The Morehead News]

Administration officials—often unnamed—frequently seem to celebrate drone strikes that kill suspected militants. But the administration has also worked against disclosures of less positive aspects of the CIA’s program, including how many civilians have been killed. [ProPublica]

With less than three weeks to Kentucky’s primary election, democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway is talking about several issues. [WPSD]

The US economy “all but stagnated” in the first three months of the year, growing at an annual rate of just 0.2%, official figures show. [BBC]

Minority employees are being retaliated against and threatened with the loss of their jobs because of the pending Human Rights Commission complaint against Fayette County Public Schools, William Saunders, president of the Lexington chapter of the NAACP, told the school board at a Monday meeting. [H-L]

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality in June, many advocates believe it will be in large part because the court of public opinion has already decided that it’s time. Support for same-sex marriage is at a record high and continues to grow as social conservatives fight to push back the tide. [HuffPo]

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Lawn Darts of Fate! Contest runs through the end of the week. [Page One & The ‘Ville Voice]

Berea: Afraid Of Gays But Not Fracking

Berea City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday expressing opposition to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in watershed areas near the reservoirs from which the city draws its drinking water. [H-L]

A federal appeals court on Tuesday said Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, had a right to weigh in on two lawsuits challenging how Missouri conducts executions. [HuffPo]

A new study released by the American Institutes for Research found that students in Kentucky made gains on the ACT after the implementation of Common Core, but stopped short of attributing the gains to the new standards being rolled out in states around the country. [C-J/AKN]

Kentucky senator Rand Paul announced Tuesday his plans to run for president in 2016, with the libertarian becoming the second Republican to officially declare his candidacy. Here are some key facts to know about the first-term senator. [The Onion]

Oh, look, Jamie Comer’s mad about negative ads hitting the airwaves. He’s complaining about Hal Heiner breaking a promise not to go negative. Kind of like Comer broke promises to treat his staffers — not just Holly Harris — with respect. [CN|Toot]

When Colombian men rape Colombian women, it is news. When US soldiers and private defense contractors are the rapists, not so much. [The Nation]

Pee alert. Comer is particularly happy about it. Contending six years ago, he was the only Republican state representative in Kentucky who publicly supported Paul in the primary. “Absolutely, absolutely,” Comer said when asked if he would benefit from Paul’s run. “The more people that vote, the more people I’m going to win this election by.” [WAVE3]

The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans’ international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed. [USA Today]

Will you be going to Governor Bigot Beshear’s Kentucky Derby celebration in Frankfart? [Click the Clicky]

An interview with Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday got testy as the libertarian-leaning Kentucky senator, fresh off launching his presidential campaign, battled suggestions he had changed his views on foreign policy. [The Hill]

Don’t forget that Sannie Overly and the Democrats are fighting to keep everything secret. [Page One]

The Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign is getting up to a $60 million boost from donors including Michael Bloomberg, who pledged $30 million personally Wednesday to further the group’s new goal of shuttering half the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 2017. [Politico]

Brett Higgins, the now-resigned Montgomery County Schools tech hack, lied to the school board. He recently told the board that high-speed internet wouldn’t be making its way to Eastern Kentucky. But whattya know? It’s gonna happen. [H-L]

A white South Carolina police officer was arrested and charged with murder Tuesday after video showed him fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back. [HuffPo]

Local Paper Lets Joshua Powell Bury Himself

It’s become abundantly clear that the Mt. Sterling Advocate is the absolute worst. At least when it comes to its readership getting any semblance of an honest story about what’s gone on with Joshua Powell and Montgomery County Schools.

But you know what it is good for?

Hilarity! And for allowing Powell to burn his own barn down.

Let’s lookit some excerpts from the paper’s March 19 coverage:

Powell testified during last week’s hearing that while he is receiving his salary during his suspension, he is not receiving other benefits, including $900 a month for travel and technology expenses and $11,000 he claims is owed to him by the district.

Powell told the judge he has not been able to travel to a national conference at which he was to speak, which he said would benefit both the district and himself, as he would be able to look for other employment.

PEE ALERT? Powell claims he’s been unable to attend conferences because the board won’t pay for him to travel — that it’s preventing him from getting a job.

Once you’ve finished laughing…

Powell can’t get a job because there are like 800 pending lawsuits against him, he’s under EPSB investigation, the board has suspended him and will be naming an acting superintendent in a matter of days, the state auditor says he illegally hired his wife and the feds are sniffing around.

The bit about travel? Let’s get real. Even if he wasn’t suspended by the board, he wouldn’t have been able to travel. Those dates coincide with EPSB hearing dates. Dates Powell was required to remain in Kentucky. Pretty conniving how he and his attorney, Ed Massey, used a flat-out lie in an attempt to spin Judge Coleman. That had nothing to do with the school board. Just plain shady.

Not being able to afford to travel? Guess that’s why he and his family weren’t able (cough) to fly to Florida from Lexington last week. Right? Because he can’t afford to travel?

The best part: Powell at the same time tried to get out of his EPSB hearing by claiming… wait for it… that he had to travel to a conference.


The paper decided to promote this nonsense it got from Powell. Apparently, the school district once again paid District Administration Magazine for a fake award:

Montgomery County Schools named District of Distinction

By Ariana Rawls Fine

Montgomery County Schools has been named a District of Distinction by District Administration magazine. Montgomery County was among 62 districts that were honored in the March 2015 round of Districts of Distinction, the magazine’s national recognition program for K12 school districts.

The magazine sent out a request for submissions and it was suggested Montgomery County submit the district on the basis of its reading program—iRead to Succeed. The district sent its submission at the beginning of December…

Fascinating stuff.

What’ll happen in Montgomery County when people begin to realize there’s been testing fraud, financial impropriety, nepotism, whistleblower retaliation, gender discrimination, open records violations galore? Will people be upset? Will they be surprised? How will they feel when they learn that kids have been placed under the wing of special education in an attempt to rake in more cash and manipulate test scores? Will it be shock and awe?

We’ll never know because the paper will never shed light on anything. Those folks have been complicit in the nightmare that is Montgomery County Schools.

Corruption & Crazy Meet In Montgomery County

Last week the embarrassingly bad newspaper in Montgomery County — the Mt. Sterling Advocate — published another silly article about Joshua Powell and the Montgomery County Schools winning the “Best Places to Work” award. Which we’ve previously reported is something you literally pay for.

Take a look:


11th Annual Best Places to Work in Kentucky award winners announced


Local winning companies are Traditional Bank Inc. (medium company), Edward Jones, Farm Credit Mid-America and Montgomery County School System (large company).

The competition is a multi-year initiative designed to motivate companies in the commonwealth to focus, measure and move their workplace environments toward excellence.

Powell is sticking it to them and not even giving them a reach-around.

But this week? The paper gave Powell gobs of space to attack the board of education without bothering to give anyone the opportunity to comment or prove just how wrong the man is.

Have a look:


Massey claims the case is being watched closely by the Kentucky School Administrators Association because it will set a precedent regarding suspension of superintendents.

“If they are allowed to do this it means boards can suspend superintendents for any reason,” he said.

Okay, stop laughing. Because here’s the deal: Duh? The board can hire the superintendent and should be permitted to suspend the superintendent. Just as the superintendent can suspend employees for any reason.

Massey argues the board cannot remove a superintendent without a statement of charges and an investigation by Terry Holliday, the state education commissioner, into the accuracy of the charges and an evaluation of his overall performance and educational performance of students in the district.

That’s where Massey’s flat-out lying to the small town newspaper and they’re too lazy to check him on it. The law allows for the board to terminate a superintendent, they provide that list of charges to the superintendent and to the commissioner of education. The commissioner has 30 days to respond. There’s nothing requiring an investigation and there’s absolutely nothing required on the performance or student performance front. But that’s Powell’s big defense — that he’s some magical test score crusader who changes lives in just a matter of months.

They’ll both likely develop intestinal discomfort when they learn a full-scale academic audit is going to be considered by the board once Powell is terminated.

The craziness in the paper continued:

Powell alleges the decisions made by the board Tuesday night are another example of the board trying to cause harm. He claims board members are “absolutely powerless outside of a board meeting” and that restricting access to a public school district in which four of his children attend is “ludicrous and another example of the board abusing power,” adding that suggesting he be granted permission from Morgan outside of a board meeting is contrary to state and federal laws.

It’s time for some EPOs, to say the least.

Powell says he has not participated in various school activities such as athletic events his children participate in and has not visited the schools his children attend, “which has caused great inconvenience and great harm to my family.”

Guess who rarely visited those schools and rarely, if ever, attended athletic events.

He’s trying to claim there’s a conspiracy to oust him:

“[D]iscussions are occurring outside of board meetings and current members have no intent of complying with law.

“Additionally, when viewing the items on the Feb. 10 board agenda following the proposed injunction, there existed strong evidence to support the fact that many decisions have already been made prior to public meetings and the results of the meeting confirmed the suspicion,” Powell claims.

Spoiler alert: it’s not a conspiracy. The entire community wants him to be fired.

Here’s where Powell reveals Donna Wilson was part of his own conspiracy to wreak havoc, only to turn on him upon realizing she’d been manipulated into lying and breaking the law:

“I am most disappointed and heartbroken by the actions of board member Donna Wilson. … She witnessed the atrocities committed by the board members and has discussed it with me multiple times during the past two years,” Powell alleges.

“In addition to this, Mrs. Wilson disclosed that the board clearly acted against the advice of attorneys Larry Bryson and Shelly Williams regarding the legality of suspending me. Mrs. Wilson voted against the suspension on two occasions but caved in tonight and voted to extend my suspension, “Powell claims.

“I do not know whether she relied on bad information or caved to the pressure but Mrs. Wilson may very well have lost her immunity for willfully and intentionally violating the law, just as the other four members have,” Powell alleges.

Crazy beams on high, for sure. Because there have been so many atrocities… just… wow. If that’s not retaliation against Wilson, we don’t know what is.

Then the paper gave the man almost an entire page to further go berserk.

Suspended superintendent Josh Powell claims the allegations a newly hired Lexington firm has been asked to investigate involving him are “false, defamatory, reckless and an attempt to retaliate against me for reporting the board and individual members for the same conduct during the Jan. 5, Jan. 7 and Jan. 10 meeting.”

He claims the hiring of Sturgill, Turner, Barker and Maloney “adds to the already frivolous spending allocated to Michelle Williams and Larry Bryson to investigate me for EPSB matters.”

Uh… pretty sure this all started as a result of tons of lawsuits and other complaints filed against Powell. And Larry Bryson resigned. But frivolous spending? Like spending $1.5 million on Chromebooks and still not having policies and procedures in place to protect them? Or spending tens of thousands of dollars on construction for his wife’s office without board approval?

Financial mismanagement — “In addition to dramatic improvement in the area of student achievement, I have helped lead the district into unparalleled financial management and transparency as well as initiated processes that far exceed typical financial practices in the commonwealth. … The previous board chair reviewed each bill every month and local auditor Artie White at my request scrutinized us beyond contractual obligations in the ongoing audits of our district, as I have requested as much from him,” Powell claims.

“In addition to this, many of the same disgruntled people reported me for improper financial practice,” he alleges. “The State Auditor’s Office completed an intensive and comprehensive five-month audit of our district and gave our district a clean bill of health and also reported that the auditor’s office discovered that the organization was performing exceptionally well.”

Powell claims a “plethora of information” exists to dispute the allegations and “the district has maintained superb documentation to prove it.”

We’ll deal with student achievement at a later date. But it appears Powell has at the very least attempted to utilize the special education program to manipulate test scores. Otherwise, all the special ed teachers wouldn’t constantly be screaming from the rafters. And it doesn’t help that there’s audio of Powell discussing going home to work on test scores. We’ll publish it in a few weeks, as it’s currently part of an ongoing lawsuit against Powell.

Fascinating that he admits former chair Kenney Gulley approved his spending each month. Because the other board members tell me they rarely had the opportunity to review monthly spending and the current board attorney was kept in the dark by Mike Owsley of ELPO. In fact, Powell, according to current and former board members, refused to deal with Michelle Williams at all. She wasn’t even provided copies of lawsuits as they were filed against Powell and the board. The entire Powell legal operation has been so shady that circuit court records appear to show that the district was never served with a copy of Powell’s suit and didn’t obtain a copy until board chair Alice Anderson physically went to pay for a copy.

That’s some unreal small town nonsense.

Hiring practices — “I had to quickly change policies that were, in my view, illegal and unethical regarding hiring,” Powell alleges. “I have carefully and purposefully adhered to strict hiring guidelines in an attempt to eliminate biased practices and, also, to empower the very individuals that are responsible for their respective schools. This allegation is as surprising and unfounded as the rest, especially since I am not alone responsible for the hiring of any employee…

Reality: the state auditor says Powell illegally hired his wife. In exchange for the hiring of Powell’s wife, Anna, there are allegations that Powell hired relatives of Phil Rison as payback/thank-yous, as Rison was one of the individuals involved in the hiring process.

But unfounded? What’s unfounded is anyone in their right mind claiming that hiring people to work in major positions requiring licensing… without being licensed… is anything but corrupt.

Here’s where you have to try not to laugh:

Hostile work environment/unprofessional conduct — “Past employees, including board members, and those who were held to a higher standard of conduct (e.g. professionalism, civility and performance) may report that I have created a hostile work environment because they have confused their interactions with me with the practice of accountability, which was quite unfamiliar to some.

Again, the board is clearly alleging this in order to produce harm, especially due to the miraculous changes that have been made since my arrival in the areas of work environment and professionalism,” Powell claims.

“The board has been made aware and been presented with various documentation that suggested the district has made remarkable gains in civility, workplace engagement, school culture, and working conditions,” Powell says, citing the 2014 Best Places to Work award as an example.

Because it’s professional and civil to tell Michelle Goins Henry to watch out for her little family, to repeatedly try to arrest Jennifer Hall and take her on a bogus frog march orchestrated for the newspaper despite the county attorney and law enforcement telling Powell she was a whistleblower, to attack every member of the school board on bizarre personal levels, to use taxpayer-funded equipment and communications services to develop mind-boggling schemes with people like Richard Hughes.

That award, though? Hahahaha.

Powell went on for paragraph after paragraph, claiming he’d refused to take part in alleged illegal and unethical efforts pushed by board members, again attacking Alice Anderson and Sharon Smith-Breiner. He’s even claiming he’s a… wait for it…

“I intervened when I should have and have refused inappropriate requests. I have reported to the appropriate agencies their unacceptable behaviors relating to personnel and district management, as well as other actions of the board and individual members and their subsequent allegations against me constitute a prime example of Whistleblower retaliation,” Powell alleges.

We’ll wait while you stop laughing.

Pro-tip: Whistleblowing usually happens before getting caught red-handed BY POLICE in an attempt to retaliate against actual whistleblowers.

Is that a joke from the newspaper? Were they publishing that just so we could make everybody laugh?

Powell claims that due to the ongoing harm caused to he and his family, “I promise to seek every avenue available in order to provide relief for the damages that I have incurred. More importantly, I am in the process of taking steps to hold this board and the individual members accountable for grossly violating law and ethics; and I believe their behavior could have a negative impact on all the school districts in the commonwealth if they are not held accountable for their actions.

“For boards and individual board members to make decisions based on retaliation, contempt and hatred is an abuse of power and, more importantly, extremely damaging to the employees and children of a school district,” Powell alleges. “The inappropriate behaviors exemplified by this board set public education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky back at least 50 years; and if it is not aggressively addressed will have negative ramifications across the state.”

That, dear reader, is what people living in the reality-based community call an extreme case of projection. Powell is projecting what he is alleged to have done onto the people attempting to hold him accountable for his own actions and behavior. He does the same to journalists attempting to report on the matters.

The paper closed with the following in an effort to further keep its readers ignorant:

Powell reiterated that he has “considerable concern, even fear” for school employees, including his wife “and most importantly, the children of the district.” He said he alos worries about the children of other districts who may be negatively impacted by the reported recent actions of the school board here.

“As stated in previous correspondence, I offer this as a plea for assistance from local, state and national entities,” Powell said.

Mind blown? It’s some poop house rat crazy stuff.

Shameful. The only media outlet in the community there that’s supposed to support and inform its readership.

And people wonder why Montgomery Countians turn to Page One for the real story about Montgomery County Schools.

This Takes The Cake In The Montgomery Co Saga

Ever wondered what it looks like when a small town paper goes blindly to bat for someone under multiple investigations, someone who has repeatedly lied to them and dragged them into mess after mess by accidentally revealing their symbiotic relationship?

No, not talking about the paper in Morgan County and prison-bound Tim Conley.

We’re talking about the Mt. Sterling Advocate and that paper’s seeming desire to publish everything embattled/outgoing superintendent of Montgomery County Schools Joshua Powell says as the gospel. The paper publishes nearly every claim he makes, behaves as if every assumption he makes is based in reality and ignores mountains of evidence even when documents have been published or, lately, even when documents are in the paper’s possession.

Sure, the paper’s nose-turning coverage has been written here in the past but its coverage this week takes the cake. Along with actions from some of its stenographers.

We’re going to ignore its reporters demands that school board members issue public comments about documents and letters without allowing them to first read them — because even we give people the opportunity to have discussions and read documents (just ask Jacqui Johnston, cough). We’re also going to ignore those same reporters’ claims that we have used nefarious means to obtain the documents they have obtained from the same people. We’ll focus instead on the paper’s million page whackadoo coverage of the Powell mess this week.

This week the paper ran above-the-fold stories with headlines that paint Powell as a helpless victim. The headlines are just out of this world.

Take a look for yourself:




Mind blown?

Some excerpts:

In the letter to Holliday, which is dated Jan. 7, Powell tells Holliday he is “in need of immediate intervention and assistance.” He specifically requests Holliday investigate school board members he mentions in the letter, alleged conduct that has occurred in the district “and advise me whether or not to forward this complaint to the Office of the Attorney General and/or the governor’s office.”

Last week, Karen Timmel, acting director for the OEA, said she could confirm the letter to Holliday was forwarded to her office from the Kentucky Dept. of Education.

“As KDE does not have authority to direct OEA to conduct an investigation, the letter is being reviewed as all complaints received in this office are reviewed. The review is to determine whether the letter contains allegations which would fall under the jurisdiction of OEA and would warrant an investigation by this office.”

Nancy Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the KDE, also confirmed last week the KDE received the letter to Holliday, but not the letter to the local board. No written response was issued to Powell, the KDE said.

“However, consistent with statutory authority and Kentucky Dept. of Education policy, the letter was forwarded to the Office of Education Accountability for further investigation since allegations against local school officials were raised in the letter,” she told the Advocate.

Nanzy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, is now spinning on behalf of Powell. The best part of that? She was the reporter at the Courier-Journal who half-assed coverage of Robert Felner as I blew his scandals out of the water several years ago. For playing pat-a-cake with KDE and Frankfort, Nancy was rewarded with a cushy job.

But the meat of that excerpt rests on KDE not receiving the letter Powell wrote to the board and the fact of the matter is that Holliday’s office definitely had it. In fact, a male former employee of Montgomery County Schools — a guy now working directly with Holliday — spread it far and wide. As did Montgomery County Schools central office employee, Cindy Kincaid, the woman who delivered Powell’s letter to the board.

On that note, the guy Powell used to deliver the Holliday letter is alleged to have made copies of it using district equipment. Because teachers at the high school sent me photos of it after finding several copies in a lounge.

The coverage continues:

“When I arrived, I was dumbfounded when I noticed the various issues related to leadership, management and personnel. In addition to that, I was equally surprised by the lack of checks and balances in financial affairs, and quickly realized why the district was low performing in virtually every area.


School finance was an area “that caused tremendous concern,” Powell alleges, and made him “extremely nervous due to the fact that a plethora of ‘red flags’ were noticed.'”

He went on to write about alleged abuse of federal stimulus dollars and complained about a lack of transparency, which was enough to cause anyone even loosely following this scandal to do a spit take.

But financial checks and balances? You know, the things that exist to guarantee the elected school board has financial control over taxpayer dollars. The statutorily-required things that keep local government running in Kentucky. The checks and balances Powell himself attempted to dismantle by pressing the board to give the central office more control over finances, by ousting individual bookkeepers from each school and moving all finance work into his office controlled by just a couple employees who answered only to him. The checks and balances he ignored when entering huge sales contracts. The checks and balances he ignored by using his personal attorneys — ELPO — who came with him from his previous school district, often working to prevent the entire board from having access to legal billing invoices.

Fascinating that the paper didn’t bother to dig in to any of those allegations.

If there actually was fiscal mismanagement with federal stimulus funds and Powell didn’t report it? Uh, can you smell the disaster that’ll spell out? If he had documentation that he’d reported anything or brought concerns to the board, he’d have revealed it by now.


However, Powell claims, that those held to a higher standard were not happy.

“They began to ferociously attack me, both personally and professionally.”

Powell then talks at length in his letter to Holliday about board members Sharon Smith-Breiner and Alice Anderson, both former school employees who Powell claims “quickly began on a path of retaliation” after being elected to the board.


Powell describes several reported encounters with Anderson during his first year while she was district custodial supervisor. She later resigned her position, and ran for school board.

Powell alleges in the letter that when both Smith-Breiner and Anderson were elected board meetings “quickly shifted from student-centered to adult-centered. Unprofessional comments were made publicly and privately.


He claims that Smith-Breiner “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,” noting that various other alleged infractions involving her have been reported to board members, the commissioner of education, Kentucky School Boards Association and Williams.

Fascinating, isn’t it? Projecting exactly what he’s done to so many employees that they’ve all sued him and the district. Most of their complaints backed up with audio tape, emails, dozens of sworn statements and even police reports. But all he’s got are his own claims — though, in his final days at the district, he had Jacqui Johnston and Phil Rison combing through stacks of records in an attempt to find straws onto which he could grasp (yep, Joshua, your buddies are spilling the tea).

And the crazy part? Even more about his bizarre fantasy of Alicia Sneed being on a witch hunt against him. It’s just… well, you can read all the documents we’ve previously published here and form your own opinion. But we think it’s batshiz crazy.

One thing that’s further fascinating to see is that board members have begun to stand up for themselves:

Smith-Breiner, reached by the Advocate Tuesday, said “This (letter) is another example of where he (Powell) is taking something completely out of context. Some of the statements have no truth whatsoever, and the others he’s taken out of context and made it into something more.”

Johnston told the Advocate, “I had only been to two board meetings when we received the seven-page manifesto. There was nothing confidential to leak, everything that we discussed we voted on. This is how Josh Powell operates, but Josh Powell can’t fire me, he can’t demote me, I’m not going anywhere.

“I’ve said and campaigned as such, that I didn’t want to renew his contract, and that we need a motivator instead of an intimidator,” Johnson added.

Oh snap?

Lest anyone think we’re making it up about the paper not providing board members the opportunity to review what they’re commenting on?

“Smith-Breiner said Wednesday morning she had no comment on the letter. Anderson said, “I don’t know anything about the Terry Holliday letter, have not seen it.”


You’ll note that the paper didn’t mention a word about Powell’s claim of a death threat. Folks can suggest it’s because they didn’t want to mention racist language till the cows come home but let’s get real. If Alice Anderson made a death threat toward Joshua Powell or made him feel uncomfortable, he would have been screaming at the top of his lungs and pressing law enforcement to sink every tooth available into her. There also would have been OEA complaints and multiple government agencies would have investigated something so serious.

It’s just one big pustule of awful. Mind-boggling. Insanity. Corrupt. Unethical.

The man gets held accountable by his boss (the board), reviewed by the agencies tasked with licensing him (OEA, EPSB and such) and then goes on an extreme mission of retaliation against everyone remotely involved for merely doing their jobs. He’s worked to intimidate the board (you’ve read that scandalous letter), constantly claims Alicia Sneed is out to get him, threatened/frightened Michelle Henry (you’ve heard the audio), attempted to frog march Jennifer Hall (you’ve read the police report) in a publicity stunt with his friends at the paper, worked hard to attack the messenger by doing everything in his power to threaten and intimidate me. And the local newspaper just snickers, rolls its eyes and tries to keep the community ill-informed and complacent.

What the hell is wrong with the water in Montgomery County?

Seriously — what the hell is wrong there? Because everything related to the school district and this mess makes the entire community seem like good old boy central.

These poor people are terrified and stressed to the nines and the damn paper is playing along.