FCPS seeks AG opinion on board chair’s potential conflict of interest

Tyler Murphy/Photo courtesy of Mark Mahan

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) is seeking an opinion from the Kentucky Attorney General on whether board of education chair Tyler Murphy has a conflict of interest following his election to a national teachers group board of directors.

During a board of education work session Thursday, former board chairwoman and current board member Stephanie Spires brought up the potential conflict of interest.

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She suggested Murphy resign immediately if he’s unwilling to leave the National Education Association’s board.  She feels it’s a conflict because Murphy’s role leading the county’s board of education could conflict with positions taken by the NEA.

Spires says the move appears to be a violation of the National School Board Associations’ Code of Ethics and the Kentucky School Board Associations’s Code of Ethics.

Spires also questioned Murphy’s honesty.

“This may be an honest mistake and oversight on your part, but Mr. Murphy, over the past two years, you have lied to and misled your board colleagues on multiple occasions. In an email I sent to you on March 4th, I stated, ‘Your dishonesty and manipulation continue to be a distraction and a challenge to the work of this Board and Fayette County,'” Spires said.

Murphy responded.

“I do not serve on any type of entity or a government committee or organization or politically appointed role or position. And again, I’m open to any discussion from anybody on the role and how we appropriately balance that and make sure there is transparency and accountability. All I can do today is give my assurance one, to our board team and two, to our community, that my number one commitment is serving the children and families of Fayette County Public Schools,” said Murphy.

Spires also raised concerns that Murphy campaigned for the NEA spot on his position as chair of the board of education and accepted financial donations.  Spires wondered if Murphy accepted any donations from potential candidates for the vacant superintendent’s position in Fayette County, their families, or family members of FCPS employees or contractors looking to do business with the district.  Murphy didn’t list any of his donors on his NEA campaign website, which he took down during the work session.

Murphy says he will share the donor information on the website and with fellow board of education members.

Spires says she’s concerned potential superintendent candidates won’t consider Fayette County because of the influence the teacher’s associations have on the school district.  Murphy is a teacher in Boyle County who is a strong supporter of the Fayette County Education Association and the Kentucky Education Association.

Spires says she supports the Fayette County Education Association and the district’s teachers, but the board of education members are elected to represent the people in the county, not just the teachers.

She also asked for clarification on the role of the Fayette County Education Association, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Kentucky Education Support Professionals Association’s in his campaign for the NEA position.

Lisa Deffendall, spokesperson for Fayette County Public Schools, says the district’s legal counsel, Shelley Chatfield, will take the conflict of interest question to the attorney general immediately.

To view the Fayette County Board of Education’s work session, click here.



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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.