The booming Bentonville School District doesn’t lack for engaged patrons. Remember the fight over the non-discrimination policy?
The latest: A school district patron raised some questions about the facilities department. She used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a letter in which Superintendent Debbie Jones suspended the department director, Paul Wallace, March 3 without pay for six days because he “misused District funds.” Specifically, district money was used to rent a piece of loading equipment known as a Bobcat. He misused the asset by “moving/keeping/using” it at his personal residence, the Jones letter said.
Wallace, the letter indicated, declined to appeal the suspension to the School Board so it took no action on the case. The Jones letter also indicated Wallace had volunteered to repay $7,456.52. Jones’ letter said that voluntary repayment was a factor in the discipline.
The patron, Connie Fox-Bruno, posted a copy of the letter on her Facebook page, along with criticism of the district’s handling of the matter. She thinks the district moved too slowly and didn’t take sufficient disciplinary action. “…let me remind you of the difference between restitution and punishment,” she wrote.
Wallace has been with the district more than 10 years. The salary schedule posted on-line indicates his job may be paid between $71,861 and $101,450.
The Fox-Bruno Facebook commentary upset school officials. I was copied on a letter Fox-Bruno received from an attorney for the School District, Marshall Ney. Ney said her commentary included “false, defamatory” statements about Jones, Wallace and the School District. He asked that she retract and correct the statements. Otherwise, he wrote, “all options will be considered, including litigation.”
Fox-Bruno asked for clarification of what statements were false. Ney declined to be specific, but said that many statements, beyond the contents of the superintendent’s letter, were inaccurate. I couldn’t draw him out on specifics in an e-mailed question. He provided a copy of the Wallace repayment check and district receipt.
Politically, the controversy erupts at an inopportune time for the district, which is seeking a tax increase to cope with a continuing explosion in enrollment.