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Wake Schools Make Changes After Transportation Dept. Investigation

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Wake County Public School System announced the reorganization of its transportation department Monday after a recent internal investigation.

Under the new structure, the system's finance department will assume responsibility for all financial transactions for the transportation department.

Last week, the school system had concerns about possible overpayments to a supplier named Barnes Motor and Parts. WRAL obtained documents that show two-thirds of the transportation department's budget to suppliers was paid out to Barnes Motor and Parts.

Last year, the bill came to more than $4.2 million. The 79-year-old company is based in Wilson. The company's president told WRAL the company cooperated fully with the audit. The president also said his Raleigh office did business with Wake County schools.

Three employees resigned in the wake of the investigation. Officials with the State Bureau of Investigation are also looking into the case.

School officials also announced Monday the demotion of Vern Hatley, although their investigation showed no evidence of financial misconduct or wrongdoing on his part. A statement from the school system said Hatley admits he did not adequately supervise a vendor, the employees who interacted with that vendor and the purchasing process.

"He's been supportive of the administration and he's been cooperative. He wants to do the right thing," spokesman Michael Evans said.

Hatley will now serve as Operations Director for Transportation.

School Board Chairman Susan Parry cannot say how large the investigation might become, but she said the school system is taking the right steps to resolve it.

"Anytime, there is the possibility that there has been a breach of ethics, we all take it extremely seriously," she said.

"If there are people who circumvented the purchasing process within the school system, then we'll pursue all avenues as well," Evans said.

Payments to Barnes Motor and Parts were similiar for the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The school system will not say how far back the investigation might extend.


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