Judge issues restraining order against longtime director of David School

bestep@herald-leader.comMay 11, 2012 

The longtime director of a Floyd County school celebrated for helping at-risk students has been ordered off the property.

A judge approved a restraining order barring Daniel J. Greene from interfering in the business affairs of The David School, and from being on the grounds or having any contact with the school.

Circuit Judge Johnny Ray Harris granted the restraining order Friday at the request of the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General, according to the office and Ned Pillersdorf, a Prestonsburg attorney.

The school is in a financial crunch. The attorney general's office is investigating its finances and concerns of possible improprieties in how Greene has handled the money.

The concern, Pillersdorf said: "Danny has turned the school into his personal piggybank."

Greene was not immediately available for comment on Friday. He has previously told the Herald-Leader that he never misappropriated money from the school.

State attorneys also have expressed concerns that there has been no functioning board to oversee Greene, who is on the board and controls spending from school accounts.

Two of the four people that Greene listed as board members in an August 2011 report have told the attorney general's office that they were not on the board then, and in fact hadn't attended a meeting since February 2009, according to a court document.

The attorney general's office this week asked Harris to remove whoever is on the board, including Greene, and appoint a new board.

Pillersdorf, who said he and others asked state attorneys to investigate their concerns about the school, would be a member of that new board, he said Friday. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for next week.

Such a move is often a prelude to liquidating a non-profit organization, Pillersdorf said.

However, he said supporters of the school, and the attorney general's office, want to revive it.

Pillersdorf said he thinks ending Greene's longtime association with the school will aid in that effort. Many past supporters would not contribute to the school as long as Greene was running it because of the concerns over his handling of the money, Pillersdorf said.

A new board will have to get a handle on the school's finances, but there is a great deal of optimism that with new oversight the school can make a comeback, he said.

"I think we can save the school and make it even better," he said.

Greene, a Brooklyn native who said he was struck by Appalachia's poverty and wanted to help young people, helped found The David School in 1973.

The school is named for the old coal town where it is located. For years, classes met in an old coal-company commissary.

The school is an alternative for students who had dropped out of public high schools — or were at risk of doing so — because they weren't comfortable or had fallen behind, or for other reasons. Many of its students have been poor.

Teachers at the school, who are largely volunteer, work closely with students on academics and life skills. Students also help with jobs at the school.

The program allows teachers to give students a level of attention and support that there would not be time to give them in public schools, said the principal, Diantha Daniels.

Enrollment has dwindled to about 30 students this year, but over the past four decades, hundreds of students who likely wouldn't have finished high school have gotten diplomas at the school, according to supporters.

The school, and Greene, have been recognized nationally for their efforts.

Greene moved in 2005 from Floyd County to Texas but kept the job of raising money for the school, as well as control of its checkbook.

Fund-raising has dropped off in recent years, and the attorney general's office said in court documents that Greene may have illegally diverted or misappropriated school assets.

The documents cite a 2005 deal in which the school bought Greene's house. The house was assessed for tax purposes at $78,000, but the board paid Greene $157,000.

The attorney general's office said Greene took part in a land transaction in which he had a conflict of interest, and which was "grossly unfair" to the school.

The school also paid Greene $104,647 in deferred compensation in the 2006-07 fiscal year, in which expenses outstripped the school's revenues by more than $300,000.

Greene canceled health insurance plans for employees without their knowledge earlier this year, and there is a concern that The David School might not be able to pay its bills, according to a court document.

The attorney general's office believes the school's financial problems result from Greene's "self-dealing actions," the office said in a court document.

Greene told the Herald-Leader recently that the board approved the measures to help him financially after he spent most of his adult life running the school for little pay.

In fact, the board approved more retirement compensation for him, but he didn't take it because money was tight at the school, he said.

Daniels, the school principal, said she has become more optimistic that the school will make it through the current rough patch.

Teachers and students have continued working amid the uncertainty, and there are several volunteer work groups scheduled to come this summer, Daniels said.

The school faces a tough road, she said, but "I do think we're going to make it."

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1

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