Nearly three months after his conviction on seven felony counts, the Athens City School system is still paying former principal and administrator Rick Carter.
Athens City superintendent Beth Patton told APR on Wednesday that the district moved to non-renew Carter’s principal contract in March, but until that contract expires at the end of June, Alabama law does not allow the district to immediately terminate Carter.
“As you know, Alabama law (Ala. Code §16-23-5) provides for the immediate revocation of certification/employment with respect to certain offenses,” Patton wrote in a response to APR, “but the charges against Dr. Carter are not among those listed in the state statute.”
The inability to immediately fire Carter – who was convicted of participating in a scheme that defrauded the Athens system and the Alabama public school system of millions of tax dollars – has frustrated numerous officials at both the state and local levels, according to two sources who spoke to APR. They said education officials are hoping to push through a change in the law that allows a district to immediately terminate an employee convicted of defrauding a school system. Currently, the law allows immediate termination only for those employees convicted of Class A felonies.
Michael Sibley, the Alabama State Department of Education director of communications, said that while a local district doesn’t need to wait on the state to move forward with initiating the process of terminating an employee, ALSDE also has a process it must work through in order to revoke an employee’s certification.
Sibley also confirmed that Carter’s crimes do not rise to the level that allows automatic revocation. A hearing to revoke Carter’s certification is set for July 11.
Carter was convicted March 21 for his role in a scheme which saw Athens administrators create fake students and use the IDs of private school students to increase enrollment in the Athens Renaissance School. The increased enrollment pushed more state tax dollars into the system, allowing Carter and his co-defendants to route that money through various consulting companies under the guise of paying those companies to recruit students to the school.
Four co-defendants, including Athens superintendent Trey Holladay and Limestone County superintendent Tom Sisk, pleaded guilty in the scheme and provided information to law enforcement. A fifth defendant, Holladay’s wife Deborah, had the charges against her dropped.
Carter was ultimately convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and two counts of identity theft. He has not yet been sentenced but faces up to 20 years in prison.