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Legislative committee investigates BOE action on anonymous letter

Updated: Nov. 10, 2016 at 6:45 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A Legislative committee continues to investigate whether the State Board of Education broke any laws in the way they handled an anonymous letter that was disseminated about state superintendent finalist, Dr. Craig Pouncey prior to selecting the system's new leader.

The letter was reportedly left in envelopes for board members, prior to a board meeting in July and the selection of a new superintendent.

Board member Mary Scott Hunter confirmed she personally contacted the Ethics Commission regarding the allegations made about Pouncey because
she felt she had a duty to report it as an elected official. The committee was critical of Hunter's decision, as the Ethics Committee generally doesn't
investigate anonymous complaints.

"I didn't know the rules about that. I'm sorry, I should have but I didn't," Hunter apologized to the committee.

Committee Chair Gerald Dial responded, "Wow. That was the dividing line. I've got a complaint, or I've got an anonymous complaint."

Dial accused Hunter of short-circuiting the system by personally calling the Ethics Commission, not allowing the system's general counsel to determine how the anonymous letter should be handled or giving the entire board an opportunity to vote on how to react to the issue.

"I did what I thought I should, that's how I handled it," Hunter said.

Following Hunter's call, The Ethics Commission contacted the board's general counsel who turned the letter over, and a formal complaint was filed.

To add insult to injury for Pouncey, The Ethics Commission followed protocol and confirmed a complaint was filed against Pouncey in a written letter to the Board of Education. That letter was leaked to the media.

"If this ethics complaint turns out to be totally bogus, his reputation is damaged beyond repair," Dial said of Pouncey.

Pouncey's attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, believes the letters were fabricated to damage Pouncey's reputation before the vote. All board members remarked that they still don't know who leaked the letter, and the old emails that allege Pouncey used state resources when working for the State Department of Education to work on his dissertation.

Pouncey denies all allegations.

The department's IT manager says there's no way these emails could have been taken from their server.

"It almost looks like the Unabomber put the letter together," said Dave Pope. "They didn't have access to all those emails, they maybe had printed copies."

General Counsel of The Ethics Commission, Hugh Evans, also went before the committee. He couldn't speak directly to the complaint, as it would be against the law, however he said all agency heads are to report all matters to the commission, both certified and anonymous.

The committee plans to meet again on the issue to make a further determination.

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