2011-05-12 / Editorial

Extended scope

Our Opinion

Houghton Lake Community Schools’ current investigation of allegations against Superintendent Kevin Murphy was expanded Monday night to include allegations made against another school employee, following a complaint by a “contracted” school employee. The nature of the allegations has been kept secret from the public, and from what we are to understand, even the board of education. At least that is what the school district attorney Ray Davis of the Thrun Law Firm, East Lansing, said.

Davis is charged with investigating the allegation against the superintendent, who is currently on paid administrative leave pending resolution of the investigation. Mr. Murphy was put on administrative leave March 28th.

The new investigation is factually related to the Murphy investigation, the attorney said during remarks at Monday’s meeting. He said it would be more efficient to include the new allegations into his current investigation. At an hourly rate of $230 -- as estimated by the Resorter after reviewing invoices from Thrun --we hope so.

But troubling to the public is Mr. Davis’ remark that the board of education will have to accept his word regarding the new allegations against another school district employee because none of board members have seen a copy of the complaint and that the factual matters are related to his pending investigation.

At one point in the meeting, following comments by Mr. Murphy’s attorney Ed Morris, Davis said he has not been “factually” updating the board or Murphy’s attorney on the investigation.

“No one right now knows the facts as I know them because no one in this room has interviewed the number of people that I have interviewed,” Davis said. “I take great pride in my integrity in being factually accurate.”

Davis said that he would not be persuaded by politics or public opinion.

Mr. Davis is charged with investigating the allegations against two administrators of the school district and we understand his objectivity must be strictly maintained, and the integrity of the investigation must be protected so the rights of everyone involved are protected.

What is our concern, and we believe a concern shared by the public, is how action can be taken without the board of education members knowing what they are legitimately authorizing. We are led to believe the board members do not know what the allegations against the administrators are. How can the board members have an informed vote to authorize the expenditures of school funds without knowledge and an understanding of the substance of the matter?

“I am only investigating those matters that I have been authorized by the board to investigate,” Davis said at the meeting. In our view Davis is the fox and the board is the hen house

Our confidence in the consideration of the public’s right to know has been undermined by Mr. Davis’ prior advice to the board of education in regard to adopting the resolution placing Mr. Murphy on administrative leave. It is our contention that the board of education’s action at the March 28th meeting violated the state’s Open Meetings Act. Now, the board is ignorant of allegations for which it has authorized funds for an investigation.

Resolution of this entire affair cannot come quick enough. There are too many valued administrators, teachers, students, parents and community members anguishing over the events of the past seven weeks.

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