Second ethics complaint filed

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another ethics complaint against Marshall County School Board employees was filed Tuesday at the County Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square.

The complaint, addressed to County Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Neill because she leads the Ethics Committee, is from school bus driver and mechanic Randy Lowe, whose contract was not renewed for the 2009-2010 school year.

Like the complaint filed by former bus driver Larry Barlar, Lowe's complaint names Schools Director Stan Curtis, the school system's human resources director, Mitchell Byrd, and former transportation supervisor Glenn Ezell.

Lowe alleges: unfair treatment of him personally; and improper conduct at the bus garage.

More specifically, Lowe alleges that:

* Billy Harwell was allowed to drive impaired, and had an accident. Ezell allegedly told Harwell "not to worry about the accident" because Larry Barlar and Lowe, the two who told Ezell that Harwell seemed unfit to drive, "were going to be fired."

* Usable school bus tires were sold to Stoney's Wrecker Service and bus driver Tommy Liggett. Furthermore, Lowe claims to have seen "Ezell and Johnny Flynt Sr. split some money and pocket it" after one such tire sale.

* Lawnmower carburetors were cleaned at the bus garage for Johnny Flynt.

* Mechanic Chris Flynt was allowed to order all parts used at the bus garage from O'Reilly's Auto Parts because Flynt also worked there and received a commission on parts he sold.

* Work was done at the bus garage on the personal vehicles of bus drivers and friends, and maintenance department employees were allowed to borrow valuable tools.

In regard to being unfairly treated, Lowe states that he was employed as a bus driver and mechanic from 2000 to 2009 and had "outstanding performance evaluation reports and excellent work ethics."

When Ezell was absent from work for long periods last year, Lowe "performed the duties of transportation supervisor, along with the duties of mechanic."

Lowe claims that the director of schools told him at a transportation meeting before the school year ended in May that "for the coming school year of 2009-2010 there was only going to be two mechanic positions, and I was going to be retained in the position of lead mechanic."

That's not what happened. Lowe says Ezell gave him a bad performance evaluation, and alleges Ezell recommended to Curtis that he not renew Lowe's contract, because Ezell was moving into the lead mechanic position.

"As early as the spring on 2008 Mr. Ezell was establishing a pattern of a hostile work environment directed toward me in order to unjustly terminate me," Lowe wrote in his complaint.

Barlar, who filed a similar complaint last month, says flatly, "Mr. Lowe was mistreated ... I never saw him do anything dishonest ... I never heard (him) say anything I thought was untruthful about anything. He was doing a great job as a mechanic."

Barlar also says, "Our community is facing severe economic challenges. People value their jobs and healthcare ... A person losing their healthcare benefits is very devastating ... Until the people in charge that make the decisions to hire and fire realize this, there will be more people following options such as Mr. Lowe has with his complaint."