September 5, 2006
The controversy into the advanced paychecks in the Richmond County school system continues to heat up.
News 12 has obtained documents showing the problem was addressed.
Now two school board members say the charges against Dr. Larke should be dropped because the advanced pay practice is commonplace.
Richmond County School Board members say they didn't know superintendent Dr. Charles Larke was issuing pay advances to employees.
But News 12 has obtained documents that show board members should have known, since they receive monthly newsletters...and in every newsletter we obtained, Dr. Larke addresses the pay advance problem as one that is getting out of hand.
News 12 even has amateur video taken two months ago showing Dr. Larke addressing administrators about the problem.
In the July meeting News 12 has on tape, Larke tells Richmond County administrators, "I think it's beginning to be abuse. We're becoming an ATM machine."
Board members 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," board member Ken Echols said when the situation first came to light. "That's what it amounts to. And that's what we're doing."
"This is a common practice that the board has followed for decades prior to me becoming superintendent," Larke told News 12.
News 12 obtained copies of five newsletters from Dr. Larke, called the Colleagues Communiqué. Board members receive these newsletters at every board meeting.
All of the newsletters address pay advances.
"The board members receive the Communiqué just like the 6,000 employees receive the Communiqué," Larke told News 12.
Dr. Larke goes as far in one letter to ask for supporting documents for things like evictions.
Finally, last year, he cut the number of advances per year to two.
"It shows evidence that the practice exists and that it was a practice in public," says board member A.K. Hasan. "It was not something he was doing in secret."
The public meetings and newsletters have Hasan rethinking the allegations.
"With all of the evidence that this practice obviously exists, then it is very important to be fair," he said.
"I tried to get the board to take that power away from me, and they said no, sometimes it is an emergency and you need to be flexible to help people out," Dr. Larke told administrators in the July video.
But some board members have claimed they didn't know anything about pay advances.
Board member Barbara Pulliam agrees with A.K. Hasan that the allegations regarding pay advances be removed from the charges against Dr. Larke.
A vote from the full board could take place at the next board meeting.