Local News

Wake Superintendent Responds To Problems At School Transportation Dept.

Posted August 31, 2004

— The Wake County school superintendent is talking about what led to a state investigation at the transportation department.

Four years ago, the Wake Schools Transportation Department paid 12 percent of its supplier budget to Wilson-based Barnes Motor and Parts. That percentage jumped to 41 percent in the next year. After that, it jumped to 71 percent and 66 percent last year.

Questions involving those dealings led to an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation into possible overpayments.

"If there's a vendor and it's proven that there has been some charges that go beyond the norm, we expect that money to be returned," McNeal said.

McNeal said it is a possible betrayal in more ways than one.

"There's a feeling of pain because we're in a position to have the public's trust, and we all take that very seriously," he said.

No one is criminally charged in the case, but Carol Finch, Pam Stewart and Angela Malloy-Sanders resigned last week. Finch received an award in 2000 because she "contained transportation costs." Malloy-Sanders was employee of the month in 2002.

Another school transportation employee, Vern Hatley, was not accused of wrongdoing, but he was demoted. He admitted he did not provide proper supervision.

"Vern Hatley is a professional," McNeal said. "What Vern Hatley asked for is some help with the financial piece, and we have responded."

The investigation into the issue is not complete, but the school system is ready to send a message.

"We don't wait for the conclusion of any investigation," McNeal said. "We take our own internal action and if it's an ongoing investigation, we are going to wait and see what else may come out as a result and then take appropriate action."

The overall budget for supplies and buses has grown substantially the last few years because of student growth, but WRAL has been told that does not factor into the questionable transactions.

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