UPDATE: School board member’s resignation ends AG investigation

Hammond resigns from Rockcastle School Board effect Jan. 1, 2022

UPDATE POSTED 12:30 P.M. NOV. 1, 2021

ROCKCASTLE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – The pending resignation of a Rockcastle County School Board member makes a state Attorney General’s investigation into a possible conflict of interest moot, according to a letter closing out that investigation.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office began looking into whether Larry Hammond had a conflict late last year after a Mt. Vernon resident wrote questioning Hammond’s service as both a school board member and superintendent of Gallatin County schools posed a conflict. A previous opinion from the attorney general’s office suggested the dual service was a conflict.

The investigation lingered for months but in September, Hammonds turned in a resignation from the school board, effective Jan. 1, 2022.

“The board accepted his resignation on Sept. 20, 2021. In light of Mr. Hammond’s recent resignation, the Office declines to institute an ouster action,” Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Sylvester wrote in an Oct. 27, 2021 letter to Connie Riddle, the Rockcastle County resident who lodged the original concern.

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED JUNE 4, 2021

ROCKCASTLE COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is investigating whether a veteran educator is in violation of conflict of interests or ethics standards by being employed as a school superintendent in one district while being an elected member of a Board of Education in another county.

Daniel Cameron’s office confirmed it is reviewing the situation into the dual service by Larry Hammond, who is superintendent in Gallatin County Schools and a member of the Rockcastle County school board.

“We received a complaint regarding this matter, and we are in the process of reviewing it,” Elizabeth Kuhn, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said in an e-mail response to an inquiry from WTVQ ABC 36 News.

“As the complaint is under review, we have no further information to share at this time,” Kuhn said when asked when the complaint was filed and how long the review might take.

The AG’s office could determine the conflict is serious enough to remove Hammond from one of the positions.

Hammond has not responded to repeated e-mails to his Gallatin County and Rockcastle County e-mail addresses.

Other agencies are aware of the potential conflict.

“Issues of alleged incompatibility of office are to be investigated by the Kentucky Attorney General’s office for possible removal from office. KDE became aware of this allegation in January 2020 and referred the allegation to the Kentucky Attorney General’s office at that time for review and possible action,” the state Department of Education said in a statement in response to a WTVC ABC 36 News inquiry.

Interestingly, the Attorney General’s office previously is issued an opinion addressing the conflict. The Kentucky Schools Boards Association referenced the opinion in its response to WTVQ ABC 36 News.

“In KSBA’s longstanding training of Kentucky’s locally elected school board members on the legal and ethical considerations of board service, we cite OAG 78-413 as one of many examples of possible incompatibility of offices. The example discussed in that opinion pertained to the unique incompatibility of a county board seat and a superintendent position for the independent district in the same county, as well as the office of superintendent more generally,” KSBA Communications Director Josh Shoulta wrote in an email.

“Due to the complexity of the law in this area, KSBA uniformly recommends specific issues of potential conflicts should be fully explored by the board member or candidate with his/her legal counsel. KSBA is not a governmental agency and does not exercise authority over school boards or school board members. KSBA is a nonprofit organization that supports school boards, school board members and other school leaders through training, advocacy and district services,” Shoulta continued.

“Any action taken pertaining to alleged conflicts of interest or incompatibility of office comes at the sole discretion of the Office of the Attorney General.”

Hammond spent much of his career dedicated to Rockcastle County schools.

According to an article in the Kentucky Teacher magazine, Hammond grew up in Rockcastle County and as a child, his mother was his teacher in a school that had one room and just 30 students.

After spending years as an elementary and high school teacher, he served director of transportation and facilities for the district as well as director of Personnel and student services before becoming superintendent.

Hammond was superintendent of Rockcastle County Schools for 17 years and was named the Kentucky School Boards Association Superintendent of the Year before leaving a decade ago. Since then he’s lead Breathitt County schools and now Gallatin County.

He was elected to the Rockcastle County Board of Education in 2020, defeating John Matthew Chaliff for the District 5 seat 677-642.

He joined the board in January 2021, according to school board minutes.

He ran for Circuit Court Clerk in 2012 and finished third in the Republican primary.

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