SMITHFIELD – A Johnston County commissioner says the Johnston County Board of Education needs new leadership and a new direction. Commissioner Fred Smith made the comments following a news report Monday that revealed school board members and the chief financial officer allegedly discussed how to conceal $8 million from Johnston County Commissioners. The audio recording was made during an informal March 2022 budget workshop attended by school board members Ronald Johnson, Kay Carroll, and Lyn Andrews. Mr. Johnson made the audio recording.
Reacting to the story, Commissioner Smith said, “I think it shows the things that I said as a county commissioner in public meetings about we cannot trust the financial figures the school board gave us. They’re still continuing to want more money. The figures are not reliable with the money they have. Their figures on needs for schools and potential students are not accurate. I brought that to the attention and stood up for that in our county commissioner meetings. I was the lone voice.”
“We as commissioners have to be good stewards of taxpayers money and also the school board, to accumulate that money without holding them accountable, allowing the school board to build a high school when our present high schools are not being efficiently utilized. Their projections on students is not accurate because statistics show between home schooling and private schools, all of the new residents don’t go to public schools.”
“We’ve got to do a better job of being good stewards of taxpayers money. Our citizens work hard for their money. During these inflationary times we should have cut taxes but when you believe the school board – who does these shenanigans with taxpayers money – you can’t do a good job of taking care of the taxpayers money.”
Asked if the NC State Auditor should step in and conduct a forensic audit of JCPS financial records, Commissioner Smith responded, “I think that would be fine. The voters in this county need to change the educational structure of this county. That’s more important that an audit. An audit is fine but at the end of the day we need new leadership and a new direction in our school system.”
Smith voted against a request by the Johnston County School Board to place a $177 million construction bond referendum before voters this November. During the May 2022 county commission meeting, Smith said in the last 3 years JCPS has been funded $36 million more than they needed to operate. He believes the school board has between $100-103 million on hand, according to statements he made at the May meeting.
County Commission Chairman Butch Lawter released a statement about the audio recording made public Monday. “The Commissioners are aware of the article published in the Johnston County Report and take all of the information very seriously. We will work to gather the facts surrounding the claims in the article.”
Lane Rosen, a Communications Specialist with the Office of State Auditor, said “It is the policy of the Office of the State Auditor that we will neither confirm nor deny that an audit or investigation is in progress or has been requested. Audit reports become public record when they are released, but are considered confidential prior to release.”
Johnston County Schools, school board member Kay Carroll, and Chief Financial Officer Stephen Britt have not responded to our request for a comment.