Former school board member says advances on paychecks common

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August 31, 2006

Some Richmond County board members say they didn't know anything about loans to employees, but a former school board member disputes that.

He says board members not only know about it, but some of them requested advances as well.

It's the latest controversy surrounding Richmond County school superintendent Dr. Charles Larke.

Current board members question whether Dr. Larke was indeed given authorization to write hundreds of thousands of dollars in advance salary checks to school employees. Board members tell us the board's attorney notified them of the advance checks while putting together a charge list of possible reasons for termination for Dr. Larke.

However, a former Richmond County School Board member tells News 12 the policy was going on long before Larke was even in office.

"If the attorney tells you he knows nothing about it, that's a lie or he's suffering from selective amnesia...because he was there when it was done, and if we were doing something wrong, why he didn't he tell us?" former Richmond County School Board member of 18 years, Y.N. Myers Jr. told News 12.

Myers firmly stands behind Dr. Charles Larke and against the allegations made against him.

He says Dr. Larke was authorized by the board behind closed doors to give payroll advances to employees, and it's been going on for years.

"Case by case, if an individual wanted an advance on their pay it was granted, we allowed the superintendent to do that," Myers said.

But that confidence doesn't seem to resound with current members on the board.

They claim they had no idea $600,000 had been issued to school employees through advanced checks.

"You know, we shouldn't be in the business of making loans," said member Kenneth Echols. "That's what it amounts to. And that's what we're doing. And there's no policy I know of that we do that."

But Dr. Larke says that's not true.

In a statement he made in a September 2005 newsletter, he writes, "An employee will be granted only two payroll advances, per employee, per year."

"And now you're telling me that some board members are not aware of the fact that we honor requests for advance checks? Come on," Larke said.

Myers is even going as far as accusing current board members Echols and A.K. Hasan of accepting advanced loans.

"In the December GSBA meeting in Atlanta, Mr. Echols asked for an advance, and it shocked me," Myers said. "I didn't think a man of this caliber needed an advance. He asked and received one."

"Totally different," Echols told News 12. "We're doing official business as board members, and it's 100% clear the board is liable for those related trips."

Hasan tells us the next step in all of this is to have the school board's attorney present the allegations to the board and go forward with what charges they will hear.

Requests to speak to the district controller regarding the policy of advance payroll have not been granted.