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Ethics Commission Inserts Itself in Superintendent Selection, As Do Others

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Selecting the next State Superintendent of the Department of Education is playing out with Machiavellian intrigue, as an ethics complaint filed against Dr. Craig Pouncey, a candidate for superintendent, emerged to cloud the proceedings.

Allegations made anonymously include falsifying authorship of his Doctoral Dissertation and a wide-range of conspiracies.

In a letter sent July 15, via email from Hugh Evans, III, General Counsel for the State Ethics Commission to the Alabama State Department of Education, Evans writes, “we have received a complaint alleging certain possible violations of the Ethics Law on the part of Warren Craig Pouncey.”

SEE LETTER

Several Board of Education members speaking on background believe this eleventh-hour allegation leveled at Pouncey is a blatant smear to knock him out of the superintendent’s race. The letter addressed to Juliana T. Dean, General Counsel for ASDE, states, “As you know, the Ethics Law prohibits the use of one’s public office for their personal benefit, as well as the use of any public resources for that individual’s personal benefit.”

The allegation is that Pouncey used State personnel to prepare his Doctoral Dissertation.

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Evans also urges the board to comply with its “statutory reporting duty” under §36-25-17 of the ethics code which requires reporting any violation and to offer cooperation with any investigation.

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An email sent by Alreporter.com to Evans asking why he sent a letter to Juliana T. Dean, General Counsel for ASDE, informing the board of an ethics complaint against Dr. Craig Pouncey, and why he felt it necessary to remind the Board of its duty under §36-25-17, remains unanswered.

A letter from the General Counsel for ASDE to Pouncey asks him to respond to a request made by a board member; to explain the complaint. He responded to the anonymous complaints writing, “The complaint has apparently been shared with Dr. Shannon Parks, a retired educational administrator who was formerly employed in the Department’s Office of Technology Initiatives, and with Ms. Dean Murray, also retired from the Department and formerly employed in its Office of Finance.” He states that both women have, “direct knowledge regarding the matters that are the subject of the complaint, and both have prepared an unsolicited response to the complaint.” Parks and Murray’s response was attached to his email.

Murray’s letter begins by stating, “Regarding the emails circulating attempting to create a negative impression of Dr. Pouncey, I am compelled to, from my knowledge, clear the inaccurate statements contained in these emails.” The emails accuse Murray at Pouncey’s request, typed his desertion using state equipment while she was on the clock.

“Dr. Pouncey wrote every word of his dissertation on a yellow legal pad. He is a one-finger typist! He would give me his handwritten notes, and I would type them,” wrote Murray. “I typed the draft on my home computer.”

SEE LETTER

Parks recounts her alarm at receiving copies of emails she sent Pouncey in 2008, and an accompanying letter alleging Pouncey did not author his dissertation. “For the record, I would like the board to know that I freely offered to read Dr. Pouncey’s draft and share the process that is commonly followed in writing a dissertation. That is all,” stated Parks. She further reminds the board that “All doctoral candidates have grammar editors.” She further expressed, “I AM concerned that someone would be able to acquire government emails without an affidavit (her emphasis).

SEE LETTER

At the July 15 board meeting, Pouncey received the most votes of any candidate seeking the Superintendent’s slot. He was followed by Dr. Williamson Evers and Dr. Dee Fowler, respectively.

Meddling in the Superintendent’s selection by outsiders is about power and influence, not only over education, but the Superintendent’s vote at the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) as well.

In June, Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) emailed members of the State Board of Education to encourage them to keep interim Superintendent Philip Cleveland, and to extoll the virtue of Jeana Ross, who heads Early Childhood Education.

Of Ross she wrote, “I’ve worked closely with Jeana Ross and Pre-K and she has my utmost respect, her credentials are impressive, but what she has accomplished with her agency is above all expectations… Her willingness to serve our state in this way is a true opportunity for our state.”

Reportedly, Business Council of Alabama (BCA) CEO Billy Canary and Dax Swatek, sought Bentley’s help to make Ross the permanent Superintendent. Mrs. Ross is the mother of John Ross, a partner at Swatek, Howe and Ross, who were part of Hubbard’s kitchen cabinet as revealed at his criminal trial.

Collins, a darling of BCA, has been an advocate for education reform in the mode of former Gov. Bob Riley and continues to push for expansion of charter schools, and more state education dollars going into the coffers of SGOs, like Riley’s Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund, which has siphoned millions from our public schools.

The Ethics Commission has refused to name the complainant, allowing darkness to remain over the process of selecting a State Superintendent of Education. But what is clear, is that there are those who are working to undermine the process for nefarious ends.

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