Local News

State School Board Gives Durham OK To Begin Wagstaff Investigation

Posted January 9, 2003 11:22 a.m. EST

— A divided State Board of Education voted Thursday to authorize the Durham school board's investigation of a new member who was recently convicted of two misdemeanors.

Board members said Wednesday that Jackie Wagstaff's criminal conduct was serious enough that the Durham board should investigate whether to remove Wagstaff from office. They voted 6-4 on Thursday in favor of an investigation.

Wagstaff pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor larceny charges in November, admitting wrongdoing but avoiding more serious felony charges.

Wagstaff had been charged for falsifying two city check requests in July after the city council froze financing for her nonprofit organization, North East Central Durham Inc.

Wagstaff used the bogus check requests to convince a bus company that the city would pay for two trips her group had arranged for inner-city children.

Phil Kirk, chairman of the state school board, said Wednesday it was the first time in his five years on the board that he believed a complaint about a school board member was serious enough to examine. He read from an anonymous letter he had received that read, "We need to think about the message we are sending the children."

"If what she did was not disreputable conduct, no matter what was in her heart, then we don't have a very high standard in this country," Kirk said.

If the investigation shows that Wagstaff committed "immoral" or "disreputable" behavior, the Durham school board will conduct a hearing, in which Wagstaff could present evidence and testify in her defense, state school board attorney Harry Wilson said. The Durham school board would also hear testimony from the investigator and then decide whether to remove Wagstaff or to let her stay.