According to the recent article in the Coastal Courier the following statements were made concerning the Liberty County School Board’s decision to pay Superintendent V. Lee an additional year’s salary after their “mutual” decision to not renew her employment contract:
“Following the advice of our attorney we, the board and Dr. Lee, agreed to a one year salary,” LCSS BoE Chairwoman Lily Baker said.
And, quoting Attorney Carl Varnedoe, “Notwithstanding, I can unequivocally state that the Board’s decision regarding Dr. Lee’s compensation was the product of a comprehensive discussion weighing fiscal, legal and other district resource factors,” the attorney wrote in an email. “The Liberty County school district’s mission of providing all students an education which promotes excellence, good citizenship, and a love of learning was at the forefront of all discussions and ultimately informed the board’s decision.”
Many have questioned the Board’s reasoning for their decision in this matter and these statements are apparently the best they and their attorney can come up with to justify their actions. Really? What exactly did they say by way of justifying their decision? Nothing.
Chairwoman Baker dodged the question by putting the decision off on “the advice of our attorney.” I suppose Mr. Varnedoe, as a paid advisor, is OK with being blamed for this, but it is unworthy of an elected official to avoid explaining an elected board’s decisions to the citizens who elected them. Ms. Baker and the board, collectively and individually, owe an explanation to the citizens of Liberty County.
Mr. Varnedoe’s statement was equally devoid of justification or facts. We can infer certain things from his statement: the board discussed whether they had the money to pay this extra salary and whether there are staff who can manage the school system until a replacement superintendent can be hired. More ominously, we can infer that they discussed whether their decision could be legally defended against allegations of malfeasance or they discussed whether the board was subject to some claim of civil liability, by Dr. Lee, for some real or alleged allegation of mistreatment. Or, perhaps the board simply decided to give Dr. Lee a “gift” for all of her “valuable” service?
I understand that it is dangerous to make inferences or assumptions about someone’s motives or justifications for their actions; that is exactly why a forthright statement of reasoning is necessary in this situation. What is clear at this point is that the needs and rights of the citizens of Liberty County for such a clear statement of reasoning have been, at best, ignored by the Board of Education.
Perhaps this debacle, along with the ridiculous infighting among board members and the chairwoman, will result in a wholesale turning out of those currently on the board. Who knows?
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