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Department of Education asks for $150K to defend former board member

Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter speaks to reporters after a board meeting that saw former state Superintendent Michael Sentance receive low marks on his evaluation. Samuel Mattison/APR)

Alabama State Department of Education is requesting $150,000 from education funding to defend a former board member, as first reported by education writer Larry Lee.

Mary Scott Hunter is being sued personally for her role for allegedly throttling Dr. Craig Pouncey’s appointment as state school board superintendent in 2016.

APR first reported news of a scheme to derail Pouncey’s selection in August 2016.

Ethics Commission Inserts Itself in Superintendent Selection, As Do Others

The plot began when an anonymous package was left for board members that accused Pouncey of cheating on his doctoral dissertation and using state personnel and resources to earn his degree.

The anonymous letter, with emails from 2009 containing thin allegations against Pouncey, was sent to the Ethics Commission by Juliana T. Dean, general counsel for ASDE, at Hunter’s directive as an investigation would later reveal.

Anonymous Accusations Against Superintendent Candidate

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In an extraordinary move, then-general counsel for the State Ethics Commission Hugh Evans, III, wrote a letter to Dean saying, “We have received a complaint alleging certain possible violations of the Ethics Law on the part of Warren Craig Pouncey.”

Why the Ethics Commission acted so quickly and publicly remains a mystery because by law, the commission is not authorized to investigate anonymous complaints or to acknowledge publicly that they are conducting an inquiry.

Pouncey was cleared of all allegations but was denied the position of state superintendent.

According to a report commissioned by ALSDE, the scheme to upend Pouncey’s election was hatched and executed by board members Hunter, then-Interim Superintendent Philip Cleveland, Dean and others.

The internal investigation also found unnamed individuals who may have participated in the plot.

“Most regrettably, these five participants have caused grave and serious harm,” the report states. “And cast a major shadow on the veracity and credibility of the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education (through no fault of the majority) that still lingers to the present day.”

BREAKING: Leaked report connects five individuals scheme to smear Pouncey, whitewash the investigation

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Subsequently, Pouncey filed a lawsuit in which he said the actions taken against him were “willful, malicious and fraudulent.” He also claims efforts by Hunter and others were “so extreme in degree that it goes beyond the bounds of decency and was atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

Pouncey files lawsuit, alleges fraud in superintendent search

Now, the Department of Education is asking for $150,000 in taxpayer funds to defend Hunter.

Hunter has since left the board, most recently mounting an unsuccessful bid for state Senate.

A summary of events surrounding the lawsuit with an accompanying timeline can be found in this report by APR.

Rounding up the Pouncey Scheme

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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