Education

Whistle blower files suit against former Scott County school superintendent, district

Patricia Putty, former Scott County Schools superintendent.
Patricia Putty, former Scott County Schools superintendent. Photo provided

A former Scott County school employee says she was stripped of her duties and her workspace after questioning whether it was appropriate to put a laptop computer assigned for students onto a surplus property list, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Scott Circuit Court.

Former Scott County Superintendent Patricia Putty, Chief Information Officer Sheila Setser and the school district are named in the suit brought by Ashley Hughes, who worked as a network support engineer for the school system until April 29.

In the lawsuit Hughes claims her problems started when she expressed concerns over the disposal of a laptop.

In March of 2016, the suit alleges, Hughes was asked by Setser, her supervisor, to put a laptop that was functioning properly onto a surplus property list. Hughes raised questions about taking this step with Randall Cutright, director of business and finance and Director of Human Resources Frank Howatt because it would keep the computer from being used by a student.

Within the month, according to the suit, Hughes was removed from her workspace in the district and reassigned to work in a unheated warehouse. The lawsuit claims the “poor working environment” including noise and fumes from a forklift, contributed to a persistent cough and rash and headaches requiring medical treatment.

At the same time, her work responsibilities shifted from resolving IT issues for other employees, creating new employee emails and setting up electronic equipment for board meetings to doing things she was not trained for “such as fitting junction boxes in walls and installing electric cables.”

On April 11, Hughes reported her concerns to Mike Harmon, the state auditor. According to the lawsuit, on April 29 Hughes was given a “surprise evaluation” by Setser and was informed that day via a letter signed by Putty that her contract would not be renewed.

In a letter to current Superintendent Kevin Hub dated July 22, Harmon wrote that a complaint to the auditor’s office over the dispersal of 300 laptops prompted his review. Harmon found no procedures in place for declaring technology equipment surplus. The auditor reviewed a sample of the district’s inventory forms for information technology and found that none of those reviewed were correctly filled out.

As a result, according to the letter, Harmon suggested revamping the policies tracking technology equipment. Michael Goins, spokesman for the auditors office, said the auditor did not take the additional step of tracking the location of each laptops.

All 300 laptops have been accounted for, Hub said Friday, and the district is reviewing the auditor’s recommendations.

As for a response to the allegations by Hughes, Renee Holmes, district spokeswoman, said Friday that the district doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Putty, who left office this summer, could not be reached for comment.

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