State Rep. Jamie Boles says he will file legislation in some form Monday to allow for a recall election of the Moore County Board of Education in November.

Boles decided Friday to move ahead — without waiting until the county commissioners meet Wednesday — after obtaining a temporary restraining order from Superior Court Judge James Webb barring the school board from hiring a permanent superintendent "until proper legislation is passed to establish a fair process in which elected officials can be held accountable," he said in a statement to The Pilot.

Friday’s developments came after the Board of Education on Thursday voted 5-3 to fire first-year Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey for undeclared personnel matters. There has been near universal support for Grimesey.

"The integrity of our board has been severely compromised by their arbitrary actions, which have been condemned by our citizens in a most vocal way," he said in the statement. "This is not what the citizens of Moore County envisioned when electing their board members. I intend to re-establish the confidence in the Moore County Board of Education so we can move forward with future competent decisions that affect our students, teachers, parents, community leaders and our community."

Boles’ legislation would allow voters to decide in November whether to recall the entire eight-member board. It would require that 15 percent of the registered voters sign a petition — 9, 260 voters in Moore — requesting a recall election.

If voters approved the recall, the Board of Commissioners would appoint new members to serve until the next election in 2016, Boles said. He added that the commissioners would likely turn around and reappoint the three members who voted against firing Grimesey: Board chair Bruce Cunningham, Ed Dennison and Charles Lambert.

Boles said it is possible that Moore County could be added to a House-approved bill allowing a recall election for the Stanly County Board of Education. That bill is still awaiting Senate action and has been held up in the Rules Committee since the House passed it March 31.

Boles said he has spoken with state Sen. Jerry Tillman, who represents Moore and Randolph counties, about getting the Moore County provision approved in the Senate.

Tillman, reached by phone late Friday afternoon, said he will work with Boles on getting the measure through the Senate. He said he is unsure at this point whether amending the Stanly County bill would be the way to go since there may be a reason why that legislation is being delayed. He said the Moore recall election could be added to another bill.

"We will look for whatever we can get it attached to and get it passed in the Senate," he said.

This development came after the Moore County Board of Commissioners had called for a special meeting Wednesday afternoon at which they will discuss recall legislation for the school board members.

The meeting, scheduled for noon in the commissioners’ meeting room on the second floor of the Historic Courthouse in Carthage, was initially called to discuss the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget. Commissioners are considering a possible reduction in their allocation to the public schools after the Board of Education’s vote to buy out his contract for $165,500.

Board Chairman Nick Picerno said Friday evening that Boles had contacted him about seeking a restraining order and moving ahead with seeking recall legislation. Currently, there is no recall election provision for the school board in Moore County.

"I am good with that," Pierno said of Boles' plans. "If they (five school board members) don't resign by noon Monday, we will formulate a resolution in support of Jamie's legislation so the people of Moore County have a voice. That is our main concern."

Picerno said earlier in the week that he supports the idea of having a recall election provision in place.

“If that is the will of the voters, that is what I am for," he said. “I don’t see anything wrong with it. I think this is fair. What I saw (Thursday) was overwhelming support for Dr. Grimesey and a deaf ear by the school board. They were meeting in our meeting room. The school board might not have been listening, but we were listening to them.”

Picerno said he has no problem with having a recall election provision for the county commissioners.

“The voters put us in office, and they put a certain amount of trust in us,” he said. “If they have a problem with me because of something I did, so be it. I work for the voters.”

Boles said in an earlier interview, before he obtained the temporary restraining order, that there is some sense of urgency to doing something to prevent the current board from doing further damage.

"'Whatever happens needs to happen in this session," he said. "This is something that can’t be put off. This is not political. It is not Democrat or Republican. I don’t think that is an issue in this case.

“I think (the school board) made a big mistake. How can you recruit a new superintendent and recruit and retain good teachers with this happening?”

Support for a recall election sprang before the school board’s vote was even announced Thursday. Sandhills Community College President John Dempsey initially raised the matter to an overflow crowd in the school board’s meeting room Thursday morning while the school board was meeting behind closed doors.

“No matter how high passions are running now, memories are short,” he said Friday in an interview. “We don’t want to forget. We’re seeing democracy thwarted. That is what bothers me.”

Dempsey said this situation has united residents from all parts of the county that have sometimes been divided. He said the school board “simply failed to acknowledge the presence of all of Moore County” in making its decision to fire Grimesey.

Two of the five who voted to fire Grimesey — Becky Carlson and Sue Black — were elected to four-year terms as at-large members last November. They would not stand for re-election until 2018. Seats held by Kathy Farren (District 2), Laura Lang (District 4) and Ben Cameron (District 1) are up for election in 2016.

Of three who voted against firing Grimesey, Charles Lambert (District 3) and Ed Dennison (at-large) were re-elected last year. Current Chairman Bruce Cunningham (District) 5) would face re-election next year.

Jennifer Garner, a Southern Pines attorney and former school board chairwoman, said a recall may lead to quicker healing.

“I think waiting for the 2016 and 2018 elections is too long,” Garner said. “I don’t think the community will stand for that.”

In addition to the recall election legislation, the commissioners will also discuss the proposed budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. The commissioners are expected to vote on final adoption of the budget June 16.

“Today’s action by the Board of Education has certainly (given) us pause as to how we will proceed,” Picerno said in a post on his personal Facebook page in announcing the special meeting. “Very saddened by today’s course of events. We are better than this.”

Picerno said in a statement to The Pilot on Wednesday, the day before the school board voted to fire Grimesey, that he would support  reducing the county’s appropriation to the school system by the same amount to buy out the superintendent’s contract — $165,000. He said even though the majority of school board members said they would take the money from its fund balance, “that is still taxpayers’ money. It is not their money. They don’t generate any money.”

He said the school board’s action also weakens its case that it needs more money from the county.

“If you’ve got a money issue, why are you buying this man off?” Picerno said. “The taxpayers should not be on the hook for this.”

Picerno said another issue that the commissioners will discuss Wednesday is the fact that the school system maintains a large savings account — $4.75 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2014, according to the school board’s annual audit.

“One of my biggest beefs all along is governments have large fund balances,” he said. “It seems to get used for other purposes. We will be looking at our allocation to the schools. But we don’t want to put school kids at risks. We will not do that.”

All five commissioners have expressed opposition to the school board’s action to fire Grimesey and buy out his contract without giving any reason.

“Our board is unified in its disdain for their board’s action,” said Commissioner Otis Ritter, who attended the school meeting. “I’ve been to two World Fairs and a pig breeding, but I’ve never seen anything like this. It shows that if you push the right buttons, people will turn out for a cause. Their action makes me sick.

“I really have not heard a thing this man has done wrong. I don’t know what the legality is, but they need to say why this was done. To me, they are hiding behind it (personnel law). What they said did not make sense to me. They’ll have to answer to their constituents.”

Picerno, in an interview after the school board meeting ended, said the board scuttled a lot of work and good will built by Grimesey.

“I can say that I have never been more excited about working with another board for what we think is the proper use of funding,” he said. “We had the math, we had the motivation, but this action by the school board kills it. All that work (for nothing).

“If they consider firing Dr. Grimesey to be more important than the budget, then God bless ‘em. But I trust Dr. Grimesey, I think he’s a good man, and I didn’t have that  same relationship with his predecessor Aaron Spence.”

Picerno said in a later interview that he was given an explanation by one of the five school board members who voted to fire Grimesey — which he could not elaborate on — that turned out to be untrue.

“I’ve lost confidence in the communication with them and trusting what they say,” he said.

Commissioner Randy Saunders, who has served as the liaison to the school board, said he has received more than 100 emails and calls all in support of Grimesey. He said he has received none from anyone agreeing with the school board’s action.

Saunders said the large turnout of parents and other supporters at the meeting Thursday “told me a lot. It is exciting to see the public care. The voice of the people was not heard today.”

He agreed that this has the potential to damage the good relationship between the commissioners and the school board.

“We going to have to see where it goes,” he said. “I hope we can move past this. They’ve got some hurdles to deal with in the months ahead.”

Saunders agreed with Picerno that taxpayer money should not be used to pay for the buyout.

“It is going to be difficult,” he said of figuring out how to reduce the appropriation so that it doesn’t impact the classroom. “I have just got to look at those numbers and spend some time going over all of them. We’ll see what happens.”

Commissioner Jerry Daeke, who was unable to attend the school board meeting, also said he was   “extremely disappointed” with the action.

“I had only worked with him a few months, but he seemed like a fine, outgoing man and seemed to be doing a good job. It is appalling to me that it happened and the way it happened,” he said.

Daeke said all of the calls and emails he received were in support of Grimesey.

“I would like to get some answers,” he said. “It happened so fast. The time, the quickness doesn’t seem appropriate.”

Commissioner Catherine Graham said Thursday was “a sad day” for the county.

“We’re not privy to know what caused them to make this decision,” she said. “It appears to be a bad decision and a costly decision. I am concerned about how it will affect our taxpayers.”

On the issue of the school board budget, Graham said she had concerns about maintaining a large fund balance before any of this happened.

“How much money can they hold, do they need to hold?” she asked. “We don’t want to punish the students for adult decisions. It remains to be seen how we can do that without hurting students.”

Graham said she is also “deeply” concerned about the apparent division on the school board as it moves forward.

“How can they make effective, intelligent decisions being such a divided board?” she asked. “It is just such an unfortunate situation for this county, our schools and the school board. We are all working for the citizens of Moore County, not our buddies on the board. We need to make good decisions for everybody.”

(45) comments

Ce Foote

You can't make this sh*t up! Reality is always stranger than fiction.
I want to know the reason why they felt so strongly he had to go and then to vacate their seats on the boe?! So very weird.
How can anyone make an informed decision without knowing all the facts?
If I were the Superintendent I would have been screaming from the highest mountain the reason they wanted to fire me if I truly felt it was unjustified.
Like I said you can't make this sh*t up and to boot it is the hottest storyline I have ever seen in the Pilot! Hysterically LOL! Sorry Pilot.

Kevin Lewis

Becky Carlson thinks the court system and the DA will protect her.

Stillhope

While thrilled to see three of the perpetrators gone, I'd like to know where are the resignations from the other two? Let us not stand for them remaining on the BOE just because they are no longer able to act in the majority. I suspect the Gang of Five met and decided that they could appease their critics by having only three resign, while leaving two on the Board to continue to monitor what is happening from the inside, protecting their friend and cohort, Kathy Kennedy. I want to see the other two and Kennedy gone before we all start celebrating. This is only one step in the right direction. I do not want to see these three remain in place to cause even more problems in the future. When those resignations are handed in, we can start to truly celebrate. The cancer isn't gone until it's ALL removed!

Walter B Bull

YES YES They are gone-Resigned and the tiller is in the hands of capable Bruce Cunningham.

Good job Moore County---Let the healing begin.
There needs to be appointments to fill the vacancies and I feel certain Dr. Bob will be back shortly.

Joe Mo

Since the BOE did not give proper notice of a venue change, thus in violation of the open meetings law, is the contract with Mr. Upchurch enforcable?

Dwight Kidd

Two of the five have resigned.

Kristin Garner

Now three have resigned!! Heading in the right direction so far!

Joe Mo

We need answers as to why the Chairman of the BOE called Mr. Upchurch on May 26 to ask if he would work as the interim?

Dwight Kidd

Kathy Farren and Ben Cameron just resigned.

Kristin Garner

Awesome - three more to go and Kathy Kennedy too! I really hope they do not try to hang on.

Jdzumwalt

It is SO good to see people in this county come together for this cause. This has served to bolster my hope for this great nation. I beg you not to lose your enthusiasm for this cause. We owe it to the kids and we owe it to the teachers. I too want to commend The Pilot. I have not been your biggest supporter in the past. Congratulations on getting the word out so quickly and reporting the just the facts. One request - I keep hearing Kathy Kennedy's name come up as the person who instigated this and wanted the job. Did your newspaper confirm any information along those lines? Also - What have you discovered in regards to the other rumor about her consulting company and the School Board decision? One final comment - I am angry. VERY angry about this. BUT - There is no place for physical threats or hurtful attacks on these people When that happens - You lose me. I use my name on these things because I want folks to know exactly where I stand. All of you - Keep up the good work. So good we can come together on something for a change - (A real and lasting change).

Kristin Garner

I agree, physical threats are no good! We are worse than the gang of five if we resort to that level.

Sharon Turner

An aside....do you know that every school in this county was cut two teachers last year and two teachers this year. Schools are running bare bones when it comes to teaching staff. That means more kids per class and kids get short changed. So there is a 4 million dollar savings account? Using that to buy off superintendents that want to hog tie the good ole boys at the expense of the teachers and ultimately the children. No wonder this county has gone to heck in a hand basket the last 8 years.

Citizen1

I think someone needs to investigate the possibility of legal action on the grounds of Betrayal of Public Trust. This has been in place for ages and refers specifically to elected public officials who ignore the public interest.

Citizen1

I think someone should investigate legal charges for Betrayal of public Trust which is directly related to elected public officials

Kevin Lewis

If there was collusion involved in costing Moore County money for the buyout, the new salary of the co-conspirator seeking the appointment, and the legal costs, the five rogue board members plus the co-conspirator should be indicted for racketeering. No different than the World Cup indictments.

Stillhope

Let's hope that the Gang of Five and their puppet master, Kathy Kennedy, do the right thing for once and resign by noon, Monday, as Jamie Boles has called for. They've lost the battle and the war. The courts are going to stop them from making their final move of allowing their chosen one ascending to the superintendent's job. They have caused everyone from the county's state rep, the county commissioners, the President of SCC, the local newspaper, business leaders, teachers, parents and other concerned citizens to turn against them in an unprecedented public outcry. They've been called liars. They will be outcasts in the local area. You cannot tell me that they will be received well at the grocery store, hairdresser, nail salon, fitness club, tennis court, restaurants, golf course, their children's school and sporting events, etc. They will get the cold shoulder and more. Do they honestly want this continue to a recall vote in November. We've learned that they are receiving threats and that the vitriol has spilled over to their children. Imagine what the continued fight will do to their families if it goes on until November. If they don't resign, they are showing complete disdain for their own kids, just like they did the other children of Moore County by their unjust firing of Dr. Bob. It is time to finally step up and do the right thing. RESIGN! No one wants you. You have no support. GAME OVER!! You have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

IronHorse

Well said Citizen1. Speaking of wasting money. The IDI team is loaded with great teachers. Have you seen how many are on this team? Let's move half or more back to the classrooms so we can lower the classroom sizes and give our students a better environment to learn. We need to get Dr. Grimesey back which will in turn rid the County of KK and her 100k plus salary and 2 offices of furniture she maintains.

Citizen1

This is not only sad but horrendous!! This is an example of what is wrong with education. Good people who want what is best for children are thwarted. This is why educators don't speak up about the atrocities in their workplace. When a superintendent holds the wrong person accountable to do the job they were hired to do or lessens the power of an egomaniac central office person, the superintendent then gets punished. How much investigation was done? If there were legitimate complaints, why aren't they public knowledge? Why did it have to be so quick? Was it because someone was being reduced to a one year contract and Dr. G had to be ousted before the person had to sign it? I think an internal investigation of the school board and central office personnel is very much in order. It is time for the citizens of Moore County to take a stand!! Whether you have children in school or not...the commissioners appropriate money from tax revenue to Moore County Schools. The money they get from the commissioners allows them to save money they receive from the state. So whatever money they plan to use to buy out his contract, the bottom line is it was tax money. With schools in need and teachers paying thousands of dollars out of their own pockets for classroom materials, how do they justify wasting 165,000 dollars to buy out a contract when they have yet to provide us with any rationale for dismissal. I am angry! I am embarrased! I am saddened!

ricksarno

I think it would take about an hour to get the necessary number of signatures. The integrity of the school board cannot be restored as it is currently constituted.

clammers 604

Here is a link to the petition concerning the resignation of five members of the BoE and Kathy Kennedy, Asst Sup.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/164542727054916/permalink/472395949602924/

Carol Wright

Just be aware that Moore County District Attorney is a personal friend of Becky Carlson. They serve or have served on numerous committees in common which may be a conflict if the local District Attorney is necessary to follow up on this matter. Just sayin.

SandPiper

Kathy Kennedy has to go too!

Louis Gregory

Why? A question everyone I come in contact is asking. Just five have created so many problems for the education of our children – not only for the present, but for many years to come. Our leaders are coming together to speak of what we need to do next and I will do all I can to support their efforts - I ask you to do the same. At this critical time, we must come together for one common goal, to restore the integrity of our school board. We are a community that deserves better and with the work that needs to be accomplished for the education of our students, we cannot wait for the 2016 – 2018 elections.

Len Taylor

It is "We The People" not "We The Five". All that Support Mr. Bob should be at meeting on Weds. We should all have signs that say We want Bob and on other side The five must go! Kids done with tests, not worried about perfect attendance, take them too. Can't get near meeting place, stand peacefully somewhere nearby. Can't be there, put up a sign in front of your house, on car, shirt etc. On Weds all that disagree with the BOE need to let everyone know what we want for our schools, teachers and kids. Our schools and teachers are some of the best. The power that the board has without checks and balances is a problem that needs to be addressed. Also I wonder how parents, kids and even teachers will react if any of these board members show up for graduations. Let our voices be heard peacefully!

Michael Johnson

Where do we find the written duties of the Board of Education? Do they state an oath when taking office? If so, what are the words of that oath? If any of these words include "will of the people", we might possibly have a breach of contract or oath. I would dive deep into these requirements, marry them to all actions leading up to Dr. Bob's termination, and act accordingly.

Additionally, if any senior staff members had input into this decision, I would follow the same procedure for them. Insubordination comes to mind, which is ALWAYS grounds for termination.

Kevin Lewis

Follow the money. Find out who on the board was offered a job or money to make this decision. Otherwise, this makes no sense.

Bonnie Smith

Appreciate all the information provided at THE PILOT and on this site. Dr. Grimesey was a strong leader and for whatever reason a select few on the BOE didn't agree with him.

Kevin Lewis

Will the County Commissioners investigate if one or more of the board members was offered money or a job by an interested group? If that can be traced, then the bribed parties could be indicted on racketeering charges. This makes no sense otherwise. Why should the five subject themselves to public ridicule and investigation unless there is a profit motive? It is interesting that the majority of the women involved live in Pinehurst.

Conrad Meyer

Where do my wife and I sign? Time to flush the fetid five.

Brandon Shriver

§ 14-230. Willfully failing to discharge duties.
If any clerk of any court of record, sheriff, magistrate, school board member, county commissioner, county surveyor, coroner, treasurer, or official of any of the State institutions, or of any county, city or town, shall willfully omit, neglect or refuse to discharge any of the duties of his office, for default whereof it is not elsewhere provided that he shall be indicted, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. If it shall be proved that such officer, after his qualification, willfully and corruptly omitted, neglected or refused to discharge any of the duties of his office, or willfully and corruptly violated his oath of office according to the true intent and meaning thereof, such officer shall be guilty of misbehavior in office, and shall be punished by removal therefrom under the sentence of the court as a part of the punishment for the offense.

Mike Miller

Under the Stanly bill, a voter could file an affidavit with the elections board with the name of the member he or she wanted removed and the reasons. It requires that 15 percent of the registered voters must sign a petition favoring the recall election, which would then be filed with the superintendent of the school system.

For Moore County, that would mean 9,260 of the county's 61,739 registered voters would have to sign a petition for a recall election.

Brandon Shriver

I wrote to Dr Atkinson (state Superintendent) regarding the issue, below is her response (also, she noted she has received several such e-mails)

"In consultation with the special deputy attorney general in the Education Section of the N.C. Attorney General’s office to provide you with the following information concerning the issues raised:

1) A superintendent's contract is with the local board of education, therefore it is a local matter.
2) The superintendent can sue the board if the board breaches the contract; the public can contribute to the superintendent's attorney fees.
3) The only way to remove a board member during a term of office is for the local DA to prove willful failure to discharge duties under G. S. 14-230.
4) Voters may run against or vote against board members with whom they disagree.
5) The state has no role in the contract dispute between the superintendent and board.

Support for Dr. Robert Grimesey must be exerted, at the local level where superintendent employment decisions are made.

Best wishes,
June St. Clair Atkinson"

Hopefully the local DA is already on the case, and people who know Dr. Bob should encourage him to pursue legal options.

Mike Miller

This has become confusing...is this a state legislature issue, or does the county District Attorney have to file charges? How do the Moore County Commissioners play a role in this?

David craft

Thank you.. This pretty much says everything..

Tessie Taylor

Please make the petition available to the West Southern Pines Community. We have people who will take the petition door to door. We are ready. Citizens for Change and the Civic Club are ready for the work to be done. Let's get them recalled. If some ot the info received is true, and they are recalled for misuse f power by an elected official, it should overturn the actions that took place yesterday. Let's get crackin' as they say.

clammers 604

Here's a link to the petition: https://www.facebook.com/groups/164542727054916/permalink/472395949602924/

Pat Bryan

This is not a petition for a recall vote - this is a petition asking them to resign, as well as asking an assistant superintendent to do the same. It will be a different petition for the recall, probably one that has to be circulated and signed by hand.

Mike Miller


Hear, hear!!! All at the Pilot are doing a fabulous job at keeping the public abreast of this tumultuous situation. Let us know when and where this petition is to be signed. Keep up the great work![thumbup]

Julianne Clodfelter

Kudos to our County Commissioners and Rep. Jamie Boles for stepping up and looking further into this travesty that happened to Moore Co. Schools on Thursday. It's great to know that parents, teachers, prominent leaders within our community, and even students have all been heard by you! Please make this bad decision to fire Dr. Grimesey right by reinstating his contract. And I believe you should re-evaluate the decisions on the BOE members who voted him out to be examined again on a subjective decision or objective real facts to release Dr. Grimesey of his position. If their decision to fire him was personal based on his management style, these board members need to go. That's no reason to fire someone unless what he was doing was unethical and working against Moore County Schools Vision and Mission statements.
Thanks Again!

Beentheredonethat

Can you tell us what the actual number of signatures are required?
What is 15% of Moore County registered voters?
Can the signatures be from newly registered or do they have to be on the books as of today?
You can count on 5 signatures from this house!
Who will be circulating the petition? Do you need volunteers?
What are the specific rules of a petition? Please if you can please tell us so we do not have any signatures that invalidate the petition.

Mike Miller

Under the Stanly bill, a voter could file an affidavit with the elections board with the name of the member he or she wanted removed and the reasons. It requires that 15 percent of the registered voters must sign a petition favoring the recall election, which would then be filed with the superintendent of the school system.

For Moore County, that would mean 9,260 of the county's 61,739 registered voters would have to sign a petition for a recall election.

David Lambert

[thumbup]

Shelby Martindale

Pilot, if such petition does become available, please let the public know. I will make a special trip to sign and it sounds like many others will as well...

clammers 604

Link to petition.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/164542727054916/permalink/472395949602924/

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