The Montgomery County Board of Education is asking Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday to approve the board's decision to remove Joshua Powell as superintendent.
Under state law, a superintendent may be removed for cause by a vote of four-fifths of the members of the board of education and upon approval of the state education commissioner.
The board voted unanimously April 9 to remove Powell for cause based on findings in an independent investigation by a Lexington law firm hired by the board, according to a letter to Holliday from Montgomery school board attorney Michelle Williams.
According to a report by lawyers at Sturgill, Turner, Barker and Moloney, the investigation found several issues, including that the hiring of Powell's wife as the district's director of special projects violated state law.
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It also found that Powell sought to assert improper influence on site-based decision-making councils.
The investigation found that Powell exhibited poor management in his dealings with district personnel, resulting in morale problems. It also found that he failed to manage personnel matters effectively to reduce the potential for legal action.
The report also stated that Powell failed to disclose on his application for employment a minor misdemeanor conviction in Ohio in 1997.
Powell's attorney, C. Ed Massey, provided the Herald-Leader with the investigative report and the school board attorney's letter to Holliday.
He said Powell vehemently denied the allegations in the investigative report.
Powell's contract as superintendent expires June 30.
Given that, Massey said, he questioned why the school board used taxpayer money to launch a third-party investigation.
"It just does not make any sense," Massey told the Herald-Leader.
Under state law, the commissioner of education shall investigate the accuracy of the charges, evaluate the superintendent's overall performance and consider the educational performance of students in the district.
Massey said the Montgomery County district is more fiscally sound now than when Powell became superintendent in 2011, and academic performance had improved under Powell.
"The board's purpose is to hire the superintendent, create policy and conduct oversight to ensure that all students are provided a quality education. Somewhere, that role has been lost in the desire of the board to punish Dr. Powell on the backs of the Montgomery County taxpayers," Massey said.
The school board suspended Powell with pay in January. Massey said in an email to the Herald-Leader that the board's actions were "unusual and questionably unlawful" and could affect superintendents statewide.
"If a board is permitted to suspend a superintendent for personal or political reasons, the process is broken. That is precisely why there is not statutory provision for suspension," Massey said.
Powell is suing the school board over his suspension.
The letter to Holliday from the school board's attorney also said the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board has been holding a hearing about charges against Powell.
Williams, the school board's attorney, did not respond to the Herald-Leader's request for comment Friday.
Under state law, Holliday has 30 days from the April 10 letter to investigate and approve or reject the school board's recommendation to fire Powell.
Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, confirmed that Holliday had received the letter.