It was nearly two weeks ago that former Marshall County High School football coach Tom Turchetta was released from his employment by Marshall County Schools Director Jackie Abernathy and what followed was silence, rumors, innuendos, anger, and uncertainty.
On Monday, Turchetta appeared on WAXO radio to clear the air and tell his side of the story on the events leading up to what's perceived as a dismissal, but is described by the schools' director as non-renewal of his work agreement. In effect, his contract was not renewed.
"People are going to form their own opinions and no matter what happens, no matter what I say they are going to turn it the way they want to turn it and what I am prepared to talk about is the truth," said Turchetta before he read a prepared statement.
Turchetta then read his prepared statement and some of the highlights were as follows.
"For those players and the many folks who have supported us, I know you will continue to believe in what I have to say, it is the truth," said Turchetta.
Turchetta went on to explain that he and his coaching staff were paid by a field maintenance agreement that was offered to him as part of his employment and that offer was confirmed by former school Board Director Roy Dukes on at least two occasions and the payroll clerk at the time.
Turchetta was under the impression that the agreement allowed his coaching staff to get paid $15 an hour for work related to football after school hours that included meeting time, film study, film breakdown, meetings with the kids, and Quarterback Club meetings.
Turchetta did say that the coaching staff was paid the supplement during games.
"We did and that is probably my fault because the way it was explained to me was anything after three o'clock, so games and everything we did after three o'clock was put on the time sheets," Turchetta said.
"I want to emphasize that this money was not part of a slush fund payment or an under the table payment, but was in fact on our payroll stubs each month, taxes paid on it and was distributed by the Marshall County School District payroll clerk on a monthly basis," said Turchetta. "Actually, when you really look into it, the money came from an approved budget by the Marshall County School Board and signed off on by the Marshall County Commission."
"Why should we have not have trusted the highest authority in the school system?" Turchetta asked. "Plus, school auditors checked the books every year."
Turchetta went on to explain that when Abernathy reviewed the existing budget she found these payments in it were not approved by the school board and asked for a meeting with Turchetta, MCHS Principal Keith Stacey, and assistant football coaches Alex Melton and Steven McClanahan.
At that time, Turchetta and his coaches agreed to stop turning in time sheets and discontinued the Field Maintenance Agreement.
About two weeks later, Turchetta and his staff were called back to the central office and were instructed by Abernathy to meet with state auditors to give written and verbal statements.
"We were also told to tell the truth, as if we were lying to begin with," said Turchetta. "We not only cooperated with the auditors, we gave written and verbal statements, and the auditors mentioned that rarely does anyone cooperate with them as we all did."
Turchetta went on to say that the audit has revealed the agreement has been in existence since 2007 and has involved four school directors, four principals, two head coaches, three assistant coaches, two district payroll clerks and two different directors of finance.
"None of us, I repeat none of us, had any knowledge that this agreement was supposedly not approved by the school board," said Turchetta.
Turchetta also stated that Lance Evans had nothing to do with this agreement, volunteered his time, and did not take a stipend of any kind because of his administrative position and any mention of the Quarterback Club's involvement of any kind is totally untrue.
"I want people in town to know this, we turned the corner, we were going to be a really good football team," Turchetta said. "And the excitement from the bunch of the middle school kids that were coming over, we were going to be a good football program for several years to come."
Near the end of his prepared statement, Turchetta said, "I can sleep very well at night because I know we did nothing wrong," Turchetta said. "I wonder if the current school board and director can say that."
"If the 2012 MCHS football team experiences problems, and I pray that they won't," Turchetta added, then, "don't blame the coaches, point the finger directly at the director of schools and the school board."
"Finally to the players," Turchetta said; "to not have your questions answered is abysmal and egregious, you deserve better. At our last meeting together I told you all that I would tell the truth. I have never lied to our team and I will not start now. This statement of facts is the truth, you are terrific young men and good athletes, I wish you all the very best, I will root for you to experience great success, and I want you to know I love each of you and will always be there for you. God bless you."
Turchetta has interviewed for two assistant coaching positions since his dismissal and is close to accepting an undisclosed spot.