An otherwise calm Putnam County School Board meeting turned contentious during Board Member reports Tuesday as School Board Member Lisa Parsons questioned whether copies of an investigation into the conduct of former PCSD Human Resources Director Werner Hollaway were distributed improperly by the man charged by the board to write the report, PCSD School Board Attorney Jim Padgett.
Padgett, as he wrote in a previous response to Parson's written request, said at the meeting that copies of the investigation he conducted into Holloway's actions including use of the district's e-mail system were given by Padgett to Hollaway, Superintendent Tom Townsend, and he said he gave four board members' copies to Sharon Cormeny, Townsend's secretary.
The copy to the remaining board member, Nikki Cummings, Padgett said he gave to Cumming's mother as they met by happenstance in the Campbell Building.
Parsons said that after a recent story in the Palatka Daily News claimed to quote directly from the report, which statute requires be kept confidential for 10 days to allow the subject (Hollaway) opportunity for review, it was clear a person or persons gave the report to the newspaper directly or leaked portions of it to its editor Larry Sullivan.
A story last weekend in the Daily News purportedly quoted from interviews Padgett conducted with district staff members, including members of the school district's Human Resources office.
"It is my firm belief someone has provided a copy of your report to the PDN, or people have quoted from it directly," Parsons told Padgett at the meeting.
Parsons said she believed if the report was leaked to the paper it was a direct violation of state law and leaves the district open to possible legal action by denying Hollaway his stautory rights, as the newspaper claimed to quote directly from Padgett's report before the required 10 days passed allowing its public distribution. Padgett said he distributed the report to the seven people on July 31.
Cummings interrupted Parsons, saying she believed she was referencing the fact that Padgett gave Cumming's copy of the report to her mother. Cummings said that transfer occurred as Cummings was not in town on July 31.
Padgett at the meeting cautioned the board to limit discussion of the investigation as the matter was not on the agenda and the 10 days Hollaway is entitled to review the report and prepare possible rebuttal had not expired.
Townsend's Executive Assistant Pam Douglas said after the meeting that she kept the other four board members' copies of the report in her office, where they retrieved them.
Padgett recommended a special meeting regarding all aspects of the investigation and the report's distribution be discussed following the expiration of the 10-day period.
"No one is more concerned with protecting the rights of Mr. Hollaway than I am," Padgett said.
The meeting is set for 10 a.m. on Aug. 16.
Board member Terry Wright suggested a district policy be considered requiring all sensitive material be signed for by those receiving it.
During the discussion, Townsend said it is only because of a conversation between him and Padgett that Padgett did not provide a copy to Palatka resident David Wade, a vocal critic of Townsend.
Padgett fired back, saying Townsend could "use the word 'because'" but he did not provide the document to Wade.
Board member Kathy Jorgensen criticized Wade for what she called his assault on the resources of Putnam County taxpayers, holding up a thick stack of hand-written documents by Wade that Douglas, Cormeny and other public employees routinely print for board members.
"These are taxpayer dollars (spent) at the request of one person with his own agenda," Jorgensen said.
For years, Wade has made a multitude of public records requests from the local school system. Townsend confirmed that along with his with hand-written notes copied by school staff and distributed to board members, Wade has made "an inordinant amount of public records requests" to the district.
Wright agreed attention to matter is needed.
"The system just can't deal with it," he said of the volume of requests made by Wade.
Padgett told board members Florida law states a person requesting public documents can be charged 15 cents a copy and a "reasonable clerical fee" for staff time spent collecting and culling the information.
"We're not a copy service," Jorgensen said. "It's costing the taxpayers money. Every time I see another stack I see dollar signs. We're elected by the taxpayers. This is ridiculous."
In other news:
Townsend announced he has posted the job of PCSD Human Resources Director and has asked the Florida Department of Education's Professional Practices division to conduct training to educate employees on the proper use of district e-mail and other forms of communication.
Townsend announced 155 local teachers will each recieve between $1,812 and $5,437 from Teacher Incentive Fund money won by the district's Grant Aquisition Team. Another 60 participating teachers will recieve between $906 and $1812.