On Monday, Johnston County school board member Ronald Johnson released new information on alleged corruption, sexual harassment and unethical conduct he claims has occurred within the Johnston County school system. Johnson is asking the NC SBI to investigate the allegations. He is also requesting a forensic audit of school finances.
Interim School Superintendent Dr. Jim Causby said Monday he did not wish to comment at on Johnson’s allegations. However, Tuesday, Dr. Causby released a statement saying he never stated the school finance officer purposely lied and Johnson had provided no evidence of any misconduct involving any staff member or board member.
Newly elected school board chairman Todd Sutton said Monday he would release a statement later this week. Tuesday afternoon, Sutton sent an email to the media indicating he would hold a press conference Thursday at the Johnston County Courthouse to respond to the allegations.
School board member Traci Zukowski, accused by Johnson of using her position to help sell products for her employer, an education software company, declined to comment.
Board member Teresa Grant released a statement saying, “We need to have a good mechanism for the board to move forward from “having a complaint” to looking at the evidence and dealing with the issues. During the December board meeting, the Policy Committee introduced Policy Code 154 : Role of Board Members in Handling Complaints. Unfortunately, this policy only addressed complaints from a parent. I asked that the committee go back to the drawing board and come up with a policy that addresses complaints from staff, where retaliation is a concern; i.e., complaints about the superintendent, a principal or cabinet member, a board member or the board attorney. If we have something like this in place, I hope employees would feel safe in bringing concerns forward, and we would have an avenue to handle these complaints expeditiously, and not be sitting where we are today with these allegations and employee concerns still looming. As someone who has managed employees for over 30 years, I feel we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that employees feel safe and valued when they come to work.”
School board members Mike Wooten and Dr. Peggy Smith have not responded to our emails.
Board of Education member Terri Sessoms said she would release a statement and be available for questions during the press conference on Thursday at the Johnston County Courthouse.
Dr. Causby recently asked Johnston County Commissioners for an additional $8.8 million in funding, otherwise the school district could run out of funds in April, well before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th. We asked several county officials if Johnson’s allegations that a school financial officer purposely lied about JCS finances would have an impact on the funding request.
Johnston County Manager Rick Hester said Monday, “I don’t think I am in a position to respond at this time.”
However County Commissioner Vice Chairman Chad Stewart reacted. “I am concerned about the allegations that have been made. I look forward to receiving more information. The Board of Commissioners has not made a decision on the school board’s funding request. Our students deserve a high quality education and I am committed to funding the schools at a level we can reasonably afford. I am sure we will be having additional conversations about this in the near future.”
Commissioner Tony Braswell added, “Based on information released by Mr. Johnson yesterday, I believe the public needs clarity and conclusion in regard to the alleged financial issues of the Johnston County Public School System. I would ask that an independent third party investigate the financial issues and determine if the commissioners were misled. The citizens, students, teachers, and administrators deserve this distraction to be over.”
JoCoReport has also reached out to District Attorney Susan Doyle asking if the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office will call for an SBI investigation. We are awaiting her respond and will update this story once we learn more.