Editor's note: The following is a synopsis of the 26 allegations the Pine Bluff School Board has made against the district superintendent, Jerry Payne, who was terminated Tuesday night.
Editor’s note: The following is a synopsis of the 26 allegations the Pine Bluff School Board has made against the district superintendent, Jerry Payne, who was fired Tuesday night. Click here to view a PDF copy of the letter sent to Payne by the school board members outlining their reasons for firing him.
1. The board believes that Payne misrepresented facts to the board or other district officials in conducting the district’s business (between Aug. 16 and Sept. 15, 2011), the board said regarding a vendor named Reginald Fields, a friend, who said the district had technological problems. The board disagreed with Payne’s recommendation to hire Fields and believed Payne proceeded to pay Fields for work that wasn’t approved by the board. The panel also believes there was no competitive bidding for the work, a violation of state law.
2. The board believes that in addition to two payments made to Fields previously, Payne asked the board’s consideration of two more checks paying Fields a total, in excess of $54,000. The board believes that it instructed Payne to provide copies of all four checks, which weren’t submitted.
3. The board believes that Payne also sought payment in a similar manner for a vendor named Rose Y. Lee for “goods and services provided” Dec. 20, 2011, and Jan. 20, 2012, paying her $7,763 without board approval, a contract, or competitive bidding.
4. The board believes that Payne failed to comply with written board directives, primarily about $10,000 in moving expenses it paid. The board believes that it did not receive the justificatory receipts until they were provided by a legislative audit team. With the exception of a rented moving truck, the board believes that Payne’s purported “moving expenses” were inappropriate, including new furniture and appliances, linens and other housewares, and disbursement of funds to his wife and children. On Feb. 21, 2012, the board believes Payne reimbursed the amount of money “under protest,” insisting that he had provided valid receipts.
5. The board believes that while a consultant for the district (before becoming superintendent), Payne received reimbursement from the district for items not included under contract.
6. The board believes that Payne violated district policy by soliciting a status change of district personnel through the mail, attempting to move an employee into a new position from the district technology office. The board believes that the new position did not exist and in order to obtain board approval, the board believes he sent board members a ballot in the mail, apparently to solicit either votes or information about the board’s vote.
7. The board believes that Payne employed district personnel without board approval of their employment contracts.
8. The board believes that Payne hasn’t followed board policy by failing to prepare to consider the renewal of contracts for administrative and supervisory personnel at the February 2012 board meeting.
9. The board believes that Payne hasn’t followed board policy by failing to prepare to consider the renewal of contracts for teaching staff at the April 2012 board meeting.
10. The board believes that the board also has a duty to evaluate Payne’s performance periodically and on Dec. 20, 2011, the board shared a review of concerns with him from district parents, teachers, and certain board members. On Jan. 17, 2012, the board believes he received a written reprimand for the concerns brought up at the Dec. 20 meeting and his lack of progress in addressing them. The board believes that it evaluated him at the same time, in accordance with its duty, considering the performance and the performance goals set by McPherson and Jacobson, the consulting firm that directed the search that led to his hire. On both evaluations, his overall performance was classified as “poor.” The board believes that that it discussed the results of each evaluation with Payne who requested 10 days to discuss the documents with his attorney and then refused to sign these documents.
11. The board believes that Payne has used the district’s automobile for personal reasons, namely to drive to the state of Georgia to attend a friend’s funeral, which the board believes is not official business.
12. The board believes that Payne were directed to provide quarterly reports from all district vendors and these reports were not provided.
13. The board believes that Payne was directed to hire a deputy superintendent and an assistant superintendent and those hires were never made.
14. The board believes that Payne failed to follow district policy on employee grievances. Each time the board has been asked to consider an employee grievance, Payne denied any knowledge despite receiving service of all grievances, the board said. At least three grievances remained pending for at least four months each, despite the district’s policy that grievances be processed and resolved within a 10-day period.
15. The board believes that Payne phased out or reassigned district positions without board approval. “In particular, the Board believes that when staff have filed grievances against you personally, you have retaliated by denying their grievance, and then transferring or eliminating the staffer — which might be in violation of both state and federal law.”
16. The board said he was directed to provide weekly updates on district actions to the board every Friday, but the updates weren’t consistently submitted.
17. The board said Payne was supposed to provide board packets for regular meetings on the Thursday before each meeting by 5 p.m. in a sealed envelope. This wasn’t done consistently, the board said, and they also were concerned that some personal information, such as Social Security numbers, was left exposed to anyone.
18. The board believes that Payne’s contract provides that professional development travel must be pre-approved. Repeatedly, board members attempted to contact Payne at his office, only to be told that he was traveling on professional development — multiple trips that had never received board approval.
19. The board believes that the board was required to attend a mandatory financial training on Nov. 2, 2011, allegedly received a text from Payne saying the training was cancelled but it was not. When board members arrived at the training, Payne was there.
20. The board believes that Payne introduced and implemented new personnel policy without going through the Personnel Policy Committee or the board. For example, he implemented a dress code policy for faculty and staff by directive to the principals.
21. The board believes that Payne repeatedly violated the Freedom of Information Act. When asked for salary information or other financial information, the board believes that he failed to respond.
22. The board believes that Payne repeatedly violated district policy on hiring, demotion, firing, promotion, and discipline.
23. The board believes that Payne failed to provide the board notice of FMLA requests.
24. “It has been expressed that you had similar previous negative experiences at previous schools. Had the board known of these previous negative experiences, the boardwould not have considered your application.”
25. The board believes that Payne was directed to continue an investigation of the district’s financial practices revealed as the result of an independent audit. The board believes he failed to do so.
26. The board believes that he approved and implemented a math program at the junior high school costing in excess of $30,000 without bids or board approval- which might be in violation of state law and district policy.