Vigo County School Board elects new officers, FBI investigation discussed

(WTHI Photo)
(WTHI Photo)

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – The first meeting of 2017 for the Vigo County School Corporation Board of Trustees begins with new seating assignments.

Tammy Pearson now serves as board president, along with Jackie Lower as vice-president, Alpa Patel as secretary and Dave Lotter as deputy secretary.

“I just feel like this is my job and my duty,” Pearson said, “So I just hope that it’s a good year and just doing my part.”

Pearson and board members jumped straight into business Monday night. They hope to look further into the FBI investigation, specifically former facilities director, Franklin Fennell’s transactions from January 1, 2014 to November 2, 2016.

“It’s been the focus of indictment in the criminal complaint,” said Jonathan Mayes, Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, “and so what we’ve done is made recommendations to the board on an accounting firm to work with and look at those transactions.”

Mayes presented the recommendation at Monday night’s board meeting. The firm recommended was Hartman & Williams. Hayes says both men have experience in working with the State Board of Accounts.

“Mr. Hartman was the State Examiner, which is the top office in the State Board of Accounts, from 2005 I think until he retired in 2013,” he said, “Mr. Williams was the Deputy State Examiner under Governor Bayh, and he also oversaw hundreds, or over a hundred, investigations of financial wrongdoing by public employees here and Indiana while at the State Board of Accounts and has assisted governmental entities since his time at the State Board of Accounts.”

Ideally, Mayes says, they would work in hand with the accounting firm, going over Fennell’s transactions, as well as documents taken by authorities. Once finished, they would report their findings back to the board.

“There were records seized by officers this summer,” Mayes said, “They have copies, we would like to get some of those back. They said that they would be able to cooperate with us in that regard, and then we’ll use those in terms of our own deeper dive.”

The board voted in favor of the recommendation. Mayes says what this means is he will proceed with negotiating engagement with Hartman & Williams. After that, he says the next step would be approving a final agreement and cost.

Mayes says there’s no definite timeline as to when the work could begin, he says they are still in the process of working with federal authorities.

As for the board, Pearson says with the new year, they’ll hope for the best and continue with transparency.

“We’re just going to leave everything to our attorneys,” she said, “We don’t know anything right now and we’re just going to have a positive outlook and just take everything one day at a time.”

The board also announced the date of their first work session, which will be February 13th.

The board says the meetings are open to the public and are meant to show dialogue between the board and administration, as well as transparency.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. at the administration building.

The board will meet again for a regular meeting on Monday, January 23rd at 6 p.m.