Fayette school board chairman addresses district attorney general

The following is a letter from Fayette County Board of Education Chairman Bob Doll to District Attorney General Michael Dunavant dated March 17. The letter was also submitted to the Oakland News after a story was published in last week’s edition detailing Dunavant’s decision to deny a request to remove School Board member Dana Pittman from office on the grounds of a conflict of interest statute violation.

Mr. Dunavant:
I received your letter concerning the conflict of interest audit finding by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury relative to the contracting of technical services in 2013 with Ms. Dana Pittman who was, and still is, a current member of the Fayette County Board of Education. Your decision to take no action for the violation of TCA 12-4-101(a) 1, as noted by the Comptroller, comes as no surprise based upon what you said in your telephone call to me on December 17.
I first became aware of this audit finding on December 15 via email along with 30 other public officials, including you. On December 17, I went to your office to ask for a meeting with you to discuss the finding and work with you to help resolve it. You called me later that day, not to arrange a meeting, but to inform me of the priorities within your office. You stated that your top priority is handling law violations that can result in the defendant being incarcerated. You then noted that this violation did not carry that type of penalty and thus would not be something your office in all likelihood would handle. However, you did say you had a duty and responsibility to review and investigate a finding like this one and welcomed any information I or anyone else might have. I thanked you for calling me and the call ended. As school board chairman, I was never given the opportunity to meet with you nor did any other telephone conversation take place. When you called me on December 17, I had not asked for any documents from the board office or reviewed anything else related to this very serious finding. Accordingly, I was in no position to make any oral request for you to take action against Ms. Pittman nor did I make one. You have me mixed up with someone else.
Not being on the board when all this took place, I recalled, from reading the local newspaper, the controversy both within the board and the general public concerning the validity of what was done. With that in mind and as the current chairman of the Board of Education, I had a responsibility to resolve this finding one way or the other. As a Certified Public Accountant and auditor, I have had a long, good working relationship with the Comptroller’s office. Over the years, I have worked with them on numerous investigative audits and knew what they would be looking for in this situation. I shared with you what was found as it was provided to me. I believe that is why you encouraged other parties, including the citizens of Fayette County, to pursue civil action against Ms. Pittman. The Board of Education and the citizens of Fayette County have already started such action. I made you aware of that.
The most disappointing thing about your letter was the closing paragraph. Attorneys, public officials and, most importantly, citizens of Fayette County have expressed extreme disappointment in the personal comments you made. You noted “your complaint was suspicious; appear to be frivolous and hyper technical.” Although, I do not know for sure whether it was directed to me as chairman or the Board of Education, the statement was not appropriate since the complaint, if that’s what you call it rather than a finding, came from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. You acknowledged your legal duty and responsibility to review and investigate this audit finding from the Comptroller’s Office, and welcomed any information I or anyone else had to offer. Then you referred to the performance of that duty as a waste of valuable state resources that was not appreciated. Your comment “smacks of politically motivated retaliation and harassment” had nothing to do with the legal duty and responsibility you had to review the audit finding from the Comptroller’s office.
Had you granted me the meeting I requested as school board chairman, we could have worked together to resolve this issue and properly serve the citizens and taxpayers of Fayette County who elected both of us last September.
Bob Doll