ALBANY -- During the past few weeks, Dougherty County School System Federal Programs Director Betty Graper has avoided comment and media requests for interviews as the system deals with a Georgia Department of Education probe into questionable Title I expenditures.
The DOE last week delayed nearly $12 million in Title I and Title II funding until the system responds satisfactorily to two requests:
n Verify the accuracy of free and reduced-cost lunch (FRM) applications from school system employees with dependents in the system. The state department uses FRM numbers to allocate federal funds.
n Provide supporting documentation to justify 34 questioned Title I expenditures for Fiscal Year 2012, which ended June 30. The expenses, selected randomly, ranged from $22 for emergency cards to $91,000 paid to consultant Darrell Sabbs and Associates. The expenses in question totaled more than $142,000
Graper broke her silence Monday in a lengthy email sent to Superintendent Joshua Murfree, the School Board and the state Department of Education, among others. The Herald obtained a copy of the email Thursday.
In the email, Graper said she had provided the requested documentation to the DOE, which later said it would delay disbursement of funding because the documentation was incomplete.
"As an employee, I thought I was in compliance with all policies and procedures of the Dougherty County School System until I found myself publicly humiliated in the local media (newspaper and TV stations)," Graper wrote. "This incident was originated by a board member. Because it was not brought to my attention prior to it going to the media, I was tried and convicted in the media. As a result, legal counsel was obtained to protect myself from wrongful employer practices based on the DCSS Personnel Handbook (Protection -- GAEA) ... I do not feel safe working in my current environment."
The incident in question is the Sabbs' contract, which was in violation of DCSS contract policy which states: "The Dougherty County Board of Education shall approve the execution of all contracts of any kind and shall authorize their execution by the chairman, or in his absence the vice chairman and superintendent. Provided, however, the superintendent is authorized to enter into contracts with an aggregate amount of $40,000 without prior board approval of such contracts have been provided for in the annual budget ..."
Sabbs contract, which totaled $91,000 for a Saturday reading program, was not in the FY 2012 budget and did not go before the board for approval. The only signatures on the two-page contract were that of Graper and Sabbs.
"As an employee, I was not given the opportunity to speak on this alleged violation prior to my name being displayed by the local media," Graper wrote. "None of my immediate supervisors came to me to address any issues concerning alleged violations. Furthermore I was not afforded an opportunity to defend myself before my immediate supervisors or any board members prior to the May 31, 2012 newspaper article."
The Herald article included details on the Sabbs contract.
"The disgrace and shame that has fallen upon the Dougherty County School System is unfortunate for the DCSS student body, but most importantly a disgrace for the DCSS employees and all stake holders," wrote Graper, "As an employee I truly understand the severity of the CRTC scandal and the CNS alleged (lunch) fraudulence, but as an employee of this system, I had nothing to do with any of these and am seeking guidance on how I was conveniently targeted, humiliated, tried and convicted by my public peers all because I was only doing my job."
Graper closed by asking that the board furnish training and an updated clear and concise policy manual for future purchases and contracts. In addition she asked for a compensation guide for educational programs/consultants.