The legislative Joint Auditing Committee is meeting this week and the agenda today included release of the audit of the Lee County School District in Marianna, a district put in state control in 2014 because of academic and financial problems, but approved for a return to local control in March.
The excess payments of $23,331 (or almost $800 a month) for health insurance were for Superintendent Willie Murdock, who was left in place after the takeover vote, though the school board was dissolved. Murdoch is the wife of state Rep. Reginald Murdock of Marianna. He, by the way, was author of legislation that permitted conventional school districts to seek all the same waivers from state regulation that apply to charter schools.
The audit also listed, among other problems, some overpayments and underpayments for employees, including a bonus of more than $3,000 to an unnamed employee not on the list of employees approved for bonuses.
I’ve left a message seeking comment on Murdock’s mobile phone. A district employee said she was in Little Rock today.
UPDATE: Murdock sent the following letter and I’ve called to follow up. If I interpret correctly, she took an insurance payment rather than a higher pay. Perhaps so. But I don’t see how that resolves the fact that insurance payments were made in excess of what was allowed by law.
Murdock said Friday, June 10, that there was still a dispute about repayment of the money (which she said resulted from ignorance of the law on her part and that of the board.) She said she was paid according to contract, which provided for insurance payment rather than a higher salary. This was a benefit to her because the insurance payment was not taxable. To pay her enough in salary to cover insurance would have cost a good deal more. She said the School Board had directed repayment of the money, but discussions were still continuing on that. She was not immediately preparing to pay the money back herself. “It’s a question of who owes the money? Do I or do they?”