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Rounding up the Pouncey Scheme

Sam Mattison

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By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

For the past year, the Alabama State Department of Education has been embroiled in a scandal involving the selection process of state superintendent last year. Since then, there have been board meetings, Legislature Committee meetings, reports, and lawsuits related to the selection process.

The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive report of everything that has happened to this point. Keep in mind that this is still a developing story that will have many developments soon.

Players in the Pouncey Matter

Dr. Craig Pouncey
A State Superintendent Candidate who was not considered after an anonymous ethics complaint was sent to Ethics Commission. He serves as the Superintendent for the Jefferson County school system since 2014. He filed a lawsuit against five ALSDE officials, including Juliana Dean, Mary Scott Hunter and Interim State Superintendent Phillip Cleveland.

Mary Scott Hunter
A board member representing the 8th district of the State Board of Education. She is the only board member implicated in the Meyer report. She was the sole board member to pursue the anonymous ethics complaint against Pouncey. She is also a Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

She has called the report a “coordinated scheme” and dismisses that she conspired against Pouncey. She has said at multiple meetings, including Dial’s Joint Legislative Committee, that she respects Pouncey.

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Juliana Dean
The General Counsel of the Alabama State Department of Education. She is implicated in expediting the complaint to the Ethics Commission. She has dismissed the report and said Sen. Dial is being misled by Meyer’s report. She said the report is “slanderous.”

Michael Meyer
A Staff Attorney within the Alabama State Department of Education. He was asked by Michael Sentance to write the internal report regarding how confidential information was included in the anonymous ethics complaint against Pouncey.

Michael Sentance
The current State Superintendent of the Alabama State Department of Education. He was hired to the position in August 2016 after an anonymous ethics complaint derailed Pouncey’s bid for the position. He had previously withdrawn from consideration but after receiving a call from Hunter he reapplied for the position.

Senator Dial and Senator Ross
Two senators who head the Joint Legislative Committee on possible misconduct during the State Superintendent selection process last year. They have met three times since forming the committee. Recently, they sent the Meyer report to the Alabama State Bar Association for their consideration.

David Pope
The Chief Security Information Officer for the Alabama State Department of Education. He investigated how the emails included within the Pouncey allegation were obtained. He testified that the emails could only have been obtained by someone within the ASLDE

Timeline of Events

March 1, 2016
State Superintendent Tommy Bice announces he will retire after serving four years in the position.

April 14, 2016
The State Board of Education names Phillip Cleveland, a deputy state superintendent within the ALSDE, as interim state superintendent while they search for a new permanent replacement for Bice.

July 12, 2016
The State Board of Education members each receive an anonymous ethics complaint against Dr. Craig Pouncey at a meeting to consider the new state superintendent. The letter has cut and pasted emails from 2009 from Pouncey.
The anonymous complaint alleges that Pouncey plagiarized his doctoral dissertation. Pouncey would be cleared of the allegation later.

July 20, 2016
Pouncey sends an email to David Pope, Chief Security Information Officer at the ALSDE, asking him to investigate why confidential information was included in the anonymous ethics complaint against him. He called the claims “baseless.”

Pope informs him that Cleveland asked him to look into the matter.

Pope also testified approximately on this date that Mary Scott Hunter talked negatively about Mr. Pouncey in a telephone conference in the General Counsel’s office.

July 22, 2016

James Ward, an attorney within the ASLDE, sends an email to Juliana dean laying out the options they can take for dealing with the Pouncey allegations.

July 26, 2016
Dean Murray, the typist for Pouncey’s dissertation, said that the allegations against Pouncey were not true. He said this in a message to the board of education.

August 9, 2016
APR publishes the first article reporting on the internal investigation within the Alabama State Department of Education regarding the Pouncey matter.

August 11, 2016
Michael Sentance becomes the State Superintendent of the Alabama State Department of Education with a 5-4 vote from the State Board of Education.

August 15, 2016
Senator Dial and Ross call for a joint legislative committee to investigate the hiring process of the state superintendent.

August 16, 2016
Pouncey sends a letter to Cleveland asking him to consider the dissemination of information within the Pouncey complaint. He also asks why an individual board member, Mary Scott Hunter, pursued an anonymous ethics complaint alone.

October 13, 2016
The State Board of Education passes a resolution to investigate the “unauthorized and potentially illegal dissemination of confidential information” relative to the emails attached to the anonymous Ethics Complaint against Pouncey.

January 14, 2017
Sentance calls Michael Meyer to investigate the possible leaking of information within the Alabama State Department of Education.

January 27, 2017
Juliana Dean tries to get Meyer’s transferred for insubordination according to Meyer.

February 23, 2017
Dr. Pouncey files a lawsuit against Hunter, Juliana Dean, Cleveland and two other staff attorneys within the State Department of Education.

May 26, 2017
Pope says in a testimony for the Meyer report that the ethics complaint against Pouncey was being pursued solely by Mary Scott Hunter and was not endorsed by any other board member or the state superintendent.

June 6, 2017
Meyer presents his report to Sentance. Sentance reportedly said he couldn’t release the report because it would harm a board member’s political career according to Meyer. Sentance said he didn’t make the comment at a later board meeting.

June 21, 2017
APR publishes the leaked report made by Meyer a few hours before the State Board of Education meeting at 10:00 a.m.

The Board of Education meets to discuss the report. Originally, they were supposed to meet in an executive session but decided to keep it public after the report was published by APR. They accept the report with a 6-1 vote. They also decide to hire their own outside legal counsel to deal with the Meyer report.

June 23, 2017
The Board of education, in a special meeting, hire Lewis Gillis and his law firm to represent it. The board voted unanimously to accept them. Gillis also represented former Governor Robert Bentley.

July 25, 2017
Senator Gerald Dial’s Joint Legislative Committee meets to collect additional information in the Meyer report. Several ALSDE officials and Ethics Commission staff members testify before Dial’s committee. They send the report to the State Bar Association asking them to investigate all the claims made in the report.

This same day the State Board of Education meets to evaluate Sentance’s job performance. APR reported earlier that they are planning to fire Sentance.

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