Wake County Schools

Reports of scandal swirling, Wake school board buckles down on assignment

Posted October 30, 2012 8:51 p.m. EDT
Updated October 31, 2012 12:11 a.m. EDT

— The Wake County Board of Education met Tuesday for the first time since allegations made by school board member Debra Goldman against two of her colleagues were made public last week.

According to Cary police documents, Goldman implicated fellow board member Chris Malone in a burglary at her home more than two years ago and accused board Vice Chair Keith Sutton of threatening her during a heated meeting last month.

In both cases, police determined that Goldman's accusations were unfounded.

Tuesday's work session and board meeting were markedly calm, however, noticeably lacking in the political and emotional fireworks that have defined the politically divided board in recent months.

Board members approved a timeline to present their latest 2013-14 base assignment plan proposal on Nov. 13. They had previously agreed to return to an address-based model, using the assignment maps from the 2011-12 school year.

"I was very pleased with the tone of the meeting today," said board Chair Kevin Hill.

Goldman said that's because the board's job is to focus on education, not to get sucked into scandal.

"The bottom line for the Board of Education is to do what's best for the children all the time," she said. "It has been the focus since the day I got here ... and it will remain the focus."

She added that a "very vengeful person" is behind the media reports. She did not elaborate on who she believes that person is.

Her attorney, John Austin, said last week that Goldman's estranged husband is trying to "punish her." The two are involved in acrimonious divorce proceedings, he said.

Goldman has previously said the leaked documents are politically motivated and an attempt to derail her campaign for North Carolina state auditor. Malone is also running for a seat in the state House of Representatives.

"Why would someone bring up what (happened) from almost three years ago today?" she said Tuesday. "Look at the motives of why the accusations were brought forward and why now."

Board member Susan Evans said she expects that she and her colleagues "will conduct business as usual" in spite of what's happening in media reports or outside political campaigns.

Sutton said the board is moving forward with important work on an upcoming bond request and assignment plan revisions. He said he has never threatened anyone on the board.

"There were not any comments (that) I thought were threatening or intimidating," he said.

Goldman said she never intended for a report to be written.

According to that report, however, which was filed last month at a closed-door school board meeting in Cary, Goldman said Sutton threatened her on Sept. 25, the same day the board voted 5-4 to fire then-Superintendent Tony Tata. The move came after two days of contentious talks. Republicans, including Goldman, voted not to fire Tata. Sutton and four other Democrats voted to dismiss him.

The police report, obtained last week by WRAL News, claims simple assault and communicating threats, but Cary police closed the case, indicating the accusations were unfounded.

In a separate case dating back to June 2010, Goldman accused Malone of stealing about $100,000 worth of jewelry, $20,000 in cash and $10,000 in coins from her Cary home.

Investigative reports not released to the public were leaked to WRAL News and at least one other media outlet in that case. Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore has confirmed the authenticity of the documents and said she has launched an investigation into how the notes were leaked.

The documents also detail an alleged romantic relationship in 2009 and 2010 between Goldman and Malone. According to the police notes, Malone told investigators that he and Goldman had a relationship similar to "high school kids dating."

She said that Malone wanted a romantic relationship and would frequently send her text messages but she rebuffed his advances.