Updated Thursday July 16, 2012
Dougherty County School Board member Carol Tharin claims she was kept out of the loop regarding the communication between Dr. Murfree and USAC.
"Every time there's a communication from an outside entity regardless of who it is, if it's the Georgia Department of Education or any kind of federal office that the board should be aware of it. That's transparency" says Tharin.
However, USAC is not a federal office. Their website explains that they're a nonprofit with authority from the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to service many things including schools. Dr. Murfree says he is being transparent because his secretary Deborah Singleton mailed hard copies of the USAC correspondence to all school board members with the exception of Velvet Riggins because she's suspended. "I try to be as open as I possibly can. Sometimes I think and I can't really interpret what somebody might think about sharing information, but I'm pretty much open, very transparent and I let people know what's actually happening" says Murfree.
Fox 31 contacted all Dougherty County School Board members and asked if they had USAC paperwork and here's the breakdown. At this time Tharin, Ealum, and Maschke say they didn't receive a copy, Griffin says he did, and we haven't heard back from Bush or Williams-Brown yet. Maschke added that he easily received a copy when he requested it today.
However as much as Tharin claims Murfree's not communicating with her, she admits to not communicating with him. When asked if she approached Dr. Murfree herself she said 'no'. When asked if she was planning to she said 'not right now'. Tharin wouldn't explain on camera why she didn't go to Murfree directly, however Murfree says his door is always open. "In terms of any school board member, a part of what I do as superintendent is to be able to have a conversation. School board members know that I can call them, they can call me, they can ask a question, they can email any time of night - there isn't anything wrong with that" says Murfree.
When the remaining two board members respond to Fox 31 regarding if they had USAC paper work we'll update this story.
Fox 31 has recently learned of a discrepancy in communication between a Dougherty County School Board member and the superintendent.
As part of an open records request, Fox 31 has received documentation between an organization that monitors the disbursement of funds for the free and reduced school lunch program, or E-Rate, questioning if the Dougherty County School System has adequate internal controls. News of that correspondence has surprised at least one school board member.
"At our last board meeting, I had asked the question if the system had been contacted by any other agency, other than the Georgia Department of Education, concerning news of Title I funds, any discrepancies there particularly in regards to E-Rate and I was told there had been no other contact," states Carol Tharin.
Dr. Murfree says that the board was aware of the report and continues to say, "As a matter of fact, that report actually went out. We made copies of that report even prior to any inquiries from the news or anybody else, we made copies and it was sent out by my secretary to all school board members."
Fox 31 has contacted every board member to see who has and has not received this report and will continue to provide more details as this story develops.