Embattled Granville County superintendent: 'I did nothing wrong'
Posted June 5, 2014
Oxford, N.C. — Days after community members called for him to resign, apologize or give back some of his pay, embattled Granville County Schools Superintendent Tim Farley says he did nothing wrong and has no plans to resign.
The public's frustration stems from an audit released May 16 citing problems with how the school system handled contracts for top administrators, including Farley and Associate Superintendent Allan Jordan – both of whom have hired lawyers to help deal with the media attention and community backlash.
The audit found that the full school board "did not always take formal action" to approve, amend or extend the contracts and that some board members were "surprised to learn the details" of the contracts, including what top administrators were being paid.
School board members met in closed session several times in recent weeks to discuss the audit and "personnel issues." They plan to meet in closed session again next Wednesday, June 11, at Northern Granville Middle School to accommodate the large crowd of community members expected to attend.
Farley says "it's a possibility" that he will be fired, adding that he knew he would "end up as collateral damage" after the audit was released.
"The audit, it's a horrible document. It's factually incorrect," Farley said, during a nearly hour-long interview at his Oxford home Thursday afternoon. "I'm frustrated because I didn't do anything wrong. I'm not guilty of anything, so I'm going to stay and fight."
Greensboro attorney Jill Wilson, who was hired by the school board to conduct the audit, released a statement to WRAL News on Thursday evening, saying "the public records speak for themselves."
Farley: 'There's nothing illegal here'
Farley says he and his family have been harassed since the audit was released. He took a personal day off work Thursday and spoke with numerous media outlets, including WRAL News, to share his side of the story. He provided reporters with a large stack of documents, including meeting minutes, budgets and salaries, that he compiled to help prove his case.
"The board members knew. They knew what was in my contract," Farley said. "There's nothing illegal here. I did nothing wrong."
Granville school board Chairwoman Brenda Dickerson-Daniel told WRAL News on Thursday evening that she had no comment about Farley. However, she wanted to "thank the public for their patience with us as we work through this situation."
Board members began questioning Farley's salary, he says, after WRAL.com posted a story last August about the salaries and contracts of the state's 115 public school superintendents.
As of July 2013, Farley made nearly $193,000 a year, making him the second highest paid superintendent in the state with fewer than 25,000 students, according to the audit. Granville County Schools has about about 8,600 students.
"It's a lot of money, and I understand that," Farley said.
The reason, he explained, is that he took on an assistant superintendent's job after she left instead of hiring someone to replace her. In return for taking on more responsibility, he received a car and an extra $1,090 per month for transportation expenses. That move helped save two teaching positions, he said.
Farley says community members complained after seeing his salary and contract, so he agreed to give up the $1,090 per month so he wouldn't "be a lightning rod."
"I'm not who I'm being portrayed as," he said, noting that people have said hurtful things about him. "You lined your own pockets. You stole from the children. You are a thief. None of that is true."
Farley points to the school system's improved finances since he became superintendent in July 2007. That same year, the school system's fund balance was $250,000, Farley said. As of 2013, it was $10 million. The fund balance helps pay for emergencies and unexpected expenses that come from budget cuts or unfunded state or federal mandates, he said.
Farley says he also helped save the school system $2.2 million by implementing a new energy-efficiency policy. Despite those statistics, Farley says, he sat silently and listened as community members blasted him at Monday's school board meeting.
"We need to do whatever we can do to get this administration out of here. A change must come," community member Clarence Dale said, as people in the audience clapped and shouted in agreement.
Bullock resident Susan Hiscocks called for the administrators' actions "to be brought out to the light," while Oxford resident Jeffrey Grigg fought back tears as he demanded to know the truth.
"These actions, if true, bring a disgrace to this community," he said. "If it's true, then shame on you."
Farley: 'I want to retire here'
One person who wasn't at Monday's meeting and hasn't personally spoken out about the audit is Jordan, the associate superintendent. He plans to retire later this month – a move that was planned months ago and has nothing to do with the audit, according to Farley.
The audit found that, from 2007 to now, Jordan's total compensation "changed from just over $92,000 to almost $172,000, which was applied retroactively beginning Jan. 1, 2012, through the present, with only $1,800 of that increase actually resulting from board action."
Attorney Ellis Boyle, who represents Jordan, said his client doesn't think there was anything inappropriate in the contracts.
When asked about Jordan's salary, Farley said he thinks the figures quoted in the audit are incorrect. He blamed a typographical error for making it appear that Jordan got a large retroactive raise, which he says was not the case. Farley says he pointed out the error to the auditor, but she still included it in her report.
"If folks would realize the distortions in that professional audit," Farley said. "I hope people say, 'hmm, maybe there's another side to this.'"
When asked if all of his contracts were voted on by the full board, Farley says yes, they were.
"My contract extensions in 2013 were voted on by the board in open meetings, and all of my contracts and contract extensions during the entire time I've been employed with Granville County Schools have been signed by two board members," he said.
The auditor disagreed and wrote that former board chair Leonard Peace "believed he and counsel for the board were authorized to not only engage in negotiations with senior staff, but to enter into contracts on behalf of the board of education without any formal action of the board whatsoever."
Former board attorney Jim Cross, who helped handle the contracts, is no longer welcome at the board table. The school board replaced him with a new attorney, Nick Sojka, who recently told the media that "the board anticipates additional meetings and actions on an expedited basis in order to address matters identified in the report."
Farley says he is not sure what will happen at Wednesday's meeting, but he hopes to still be employed by the school system.
"I want to retire here," he said. "I like what I'm doing."