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Taxpayers footing bill for Granville Co. audit, superintendent buyout

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Adminstrative offices for the Granville County Board of Education, located in Oxford. Adminstrative offices for the Granville County Board of Education, located in Oxford.
OXFORD, N.C. -

Expenses are mounting surrounding the resignation of Granville County's schools superintendent and the audit that led to his ouster -- and those expenses are coming out of taxpayers' wallets.

Last week, the Granville County school board voted to accept superintendent Tim Farley's resignation on the heels of an audit that claimed he and another administrator received large raises seemingly without formal approval of the school board.

The independent audit, conducted by law firm Brooks Pierce, found "the Board of Education did not always take formal action to approve contracts for administrators, to amend existing contracts, and to extend contracts of some administrators."

School board member Rose Lyon said the board requested the audit because "things didn't seem right at the time."

Among its specifics, the audit claims that on May 7, 2012, the school board unanimously entered into a new contract with Farley, but minutes from the meeting show no reference to a vote on his latest contract.

Following the fallout that resulted from that audit, the board voted 5-2 on June 11 to accept Farley's resignation as well as pay him a one-time payment of $318,000.

For comparison, former Wake County superintendent Tony Tata was paid a little more than $250,000 for his buyout compared to Farley's $318,000.

The cost of the audit was $17,575.65 in the form of three sets of bills submitted by Brooks Pierce

The expenses don't end there, though. After the audit was completed, the board hired an interim attorney, Nick Sojka, to attend its meetings. Sojka travels nearly 3 hours from Laurinburg to Oxford and bills the school system for travel expenses as well as his per-meeting fees.

And should the board decide interim superintendent Dorwin Howard doesn't fit its needs, there will be the cost of a search for his replacement.

Not counting the money paid to Sojka or the potential cost of a superintendent search, Farley's buyout and the expense of the audit cost Granville County taxpayers $335,575.65 -- almost double Farley's annual salary of $193,000, which he said he offered to reduce on two occasions.

"[The board was] a little anxious about the money portrayed in the press," Farley said of a September 2013 board meeting. "We talked and they said, 'Tim, would you consider taking a decrease?' And I said, 'Sure, I don't want to be a divisive force.'"

Then again in April, Farley said he offered to take another pay cut, but he said the board did not respond to his offer.

"I even went to my board in April and said to them, 'I get this, I want to stay in Granville County. I'm happy to talk about a decrease in my salary. Whatever that may look like, we can negotiate that to no end,'" Farley said. "I'm not going to say they refused. I will tell you they did not act on that offer."

School board chairwoman Brenda Dickerson-Daniel said the board would not comment on Farley's offer to take a pay cut in April.

"There is an answer but we're not going to go there," Dickerson-Daniel said.

WNCN has requested copies of Sojka's bills to determine his exact cost. Meanwhile, long-time attorney board attorney Jim Cross remains on the payroll until July 31.

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Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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