Based on information about potential misconduct related to the misuse of funds at Chiles High School, Leon County School Superintendent Hanna requested an independent investigation in June.
The findings of the investigation, completed by the Coppins Monroe law firm, were detailed in a 20 page report.
The report found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the Chiles High School principal, Joe Burgess, violated any law, policy, or rule.
However, the report did find that Mr. Burgess should have known that documents that were approved for payment were inaccurate.
The investigation ultimately recommended that Mr. Burgess be disciplined in accordance with the district’s policies. Superintendent Hanna suspended Burgess, but the Chiles principal decided to appeal the decision and the matter has been forwarded to the Department of Administrative Hearings by the Leon County School Board.
As a result of the findings, Leon County Schools is in the process of conducting a district wide audit of hourly pay procedures at all schools.
The monies at questions are labeled Advanced Placement (AP) funds. AP funds are awarded to high schools for each student in each advanced placement course who receives a score of 3 or higher on the College Board Advanced Placement Examination.
The policies in place require each school district to allocate at least 80 percent of the funds for advanced placement instruction. The report repeatedly noted that school officials have broad discretion how to use the funds.
Chiles High School received $449,238 in AP funds in 2020-21 and evidence shows that approximately $107,777 of this money was used to fund extra duty hourly positions unrelated to AP activities.
The investigation found:
- There was insufficient evidence to conclude that Burgess violated any law, policy, rule, or directive regarding the use of AP project funds.
- That for nearly all employees authorized to engage in hourly work utilizing AP project funds, [Principal] Burgess falsified District records by approving, signing, and submitting payroll documents he knew (or should have known) were inaccurate.
- There was in most cases no expectation that employees would track or submit their hourly time. Instead, the hours Burgess approved and submitted for payment resulted from mathematical calculations that merely divided a pre-determined dollar amount by the employees’ hourly rate and then divided the result again over eight to ten months.
- The hours submitted often likely had no relation to the hours actually worked in the claimed pay period.
- Because hours were not tracked, it is impossible at this time to confirm that even the minimum number of hours needed were actually worked.
- Substantial concerns about Burgess’s conduct with regard to a $10,000 payment to the Chiles High School football coach, Kevin Pettis.
The report concluded that although Mr. Burgess could have properly paid employees for extra duty work, he did so in a manner that was grossly improper.