UPDATE: AG investigation finds no grounds to oust Clark school board member
Story update from October 4, 2021:
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Office of Kentucky Attorney General found “no sufficient” grounds in its investigation to remove a member from the Clark County Board of Education, according to the Winchester Sun.
Then-school board attorney Brian Thomas raised a conflict of interest question with the attorney general’s office following an internal investigation into board member Sherry Richardson, whose family overhead door business was paid more than $85,000 for a school district-funded construction project. Thomas claimed the move violated state law.
Richardson denied any wrongdoing, remained as a voting member of the board during the attorney general’s investigation and pushed to have Thomas fired. Last Friday, Richardson and two other board members voted 3-0 to terminate the contract with the law firm Thomas represented.
According to the complaint filed with the Office of Attorney General, during 2019 and 2020, the Clark County Board of Education was involved in the construction of two development projects, the GRC High School Gymnasium and football stadium. The bid for the construction was awarded to the contractor, Rising Sun Developing Company. Richardson’s family business, Howard’s Overhead Doors, was chosen by Rising Sun as a subcontractor on the projects, according to documents.
Under Kentucky law (KRS 160.180) it specifies that a person from is disqualified from serving as a school board member if they have have an “interest” in the sale of goods or services to the board.
The newspaper reports in a letter sent to Board Chair Ashley Ritchie, Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Sylvester wrote, “Here, it does not appear that Mrs. Richardson had the requisite knowledge of Howard’s sale of the maintenance shop door and remotes to CCPS to render her ineligible for membership on the Board under KRS 160.180.”
The report says Sylvester wrote that the investigation found no “evidence tending to suggest that Rising Sun and Howard’s had a secret profit sharing arrangement.” During the investigation, the attorney general’s office found that Howard’s provided estimates to the project’s general contractor, Rising Sun, in 2017 and the Board approved the contract and the project soon after that. Rising Sun was under no obligation from the school board to subcontract with Howard’s. This was all done before Richardson began her term of office in 2019.
Furthermore, the investigation found that in her role as treasurer, Richardson “handles accounts payable, payroll, taxes, and financial reports,” according to the report.
In the letter Sylvester wrote that Richardson’s husband, Will, “has primary responsibility for customer service and sales” and “he wrote the work orders and generated the invoices for the maintenance shop doors and remotes and remitted them to CCPS for payment.” He also wrote that Richardson stated she had no knowledge of the business dealings until the compliant about her came forward and she was not aware the Board had approved the invoices, according to the newspaper.
Richardson’s legal counsel, Corbin attorney Timothy Crawford, told the Winchester Sun: “Mrs. Richardson and I are pleased with the thorough investigation conducted by the attorney general’s office and we are also pleased that they agreed with our legal analysis that she had not violated any of her ethical obligations or any of the eligibility requirements to serve as a school board member. She is happy and pleased to continue serving the students and parents of Clark County.”
Original story below from October 1, 2021:
CLARK COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Clark County Board of Education voted to fire the school board attorney who initiated a state attorney general investigation against one of the board members.
The Winchester Sun reports the vote was three-to-zero with two board members absent to terminate the contract with the law firm board attorney Brian Thomas represented.
Thomas raised a conflict of interest question after board member Sherry Richardson’s family overhead door business was paid more than 85-thousand dollars for a school district project. Thomas claimed in violation of state law. No ruling yet from the attorney general’s office.
Richardson has denied any wrongdoing and pushed to have Thomas fired.