Finance Director's Lawsuit Centers on $1M 'Promise' Check | Schools
Ron Collier's lawsuit claims that he was removed as Bibb County schools' chief financial officer because he refused to sign off on a $1 million payment to a Macon non-profit.
The lawsuit says Collier delayed the payment while he asked questions about it. When that happened, he alleges, Supt. Romain Dallemand called him at home to say that Collier's questions were making Dallemand "look bad."
He threatened to fire Collier if he didn't issue the check that day, July 21.
School officials have declined to explain the job shift and have not responded to the lawsuit.
By a 5-3 vote, the Bibb County Board of Education on Thursday approved Collier transfer to capital assets and contract director in the capital programs department.
The lawsuit says Collier was concerned that the payment would violate laws or regulations. The suit does not explain why.
The invoice was issued by a group called Central Georgia Partnership for Individual & Community Development.
The group was formed in 2009, and according to 2011 tax forms, it "provides re-education and job training programs to individuals in the community that will encourage adult literacy, business training, and industrial arts and metal shop activities."
Jimmie Samuel, executive director of the Macon-Bibb Economic opportunity council, is also listed as the board president for CGPICD.
He has not returned 13WMAZ requests for an explanation of the invoice, and the EOC staff said he wasn't in the office Friday afternoon.
According to the lawsuit, that $1 million payment was made in October.
Property records show CGPICD purchased the old Ballard-Hudson building for $220,000 in June 2009 and listed 664 Arlington Pl. as their address.
But there's been a new resident at that address since March, and he said he knows nothing about the group.
On the latest filing with the Secretary of State's website, CGPICD's address is listed as 653 2nd St., Suite 200. That's also the address for the offices of the Macon-Bibb EOC, which Samuel heads.
The organization's 990 tax form lists the address as 170 College St., a location that houses two nonprofits dedicated to helping the disabled.
Attempts to reach the officers and agents listed with the organization were not successful.
Board Member Gary Bechtel says it counted as a show of support in the Macon Children's Promise Neighborhood's application. Promise neighborhoods is a program aimed at improving student achievement by boosting the quality of life in the Unionville and Tindall Heights neighborhoods.
Friday, federal officials announced the latest round of funding for the Promise Neighborhoods program. Macon applied for $5 million in additional funding but was not one of the 17 recipients.
Bechtel says the $1 million is supposed to be used to renovate the old Ballard-Hudson middle school on Anthony Road. It's supposed to be converted into a community center.
He says that money is in addition to $575,000 the school district plans to pay each year to lease the building back from the partnership for the next 10 years.
Collier's suit says he was put on special assignment Monday, Dec. 10, three days after Dallemand accepted a new contract extension. Dallemand said school officials were investigating the school finance office.
The lawsuit also describes what Collier has been doing since the 10th.
He was ordered to report to a school district warehouse and required to work there.
The suit says:
"While at work, Mr. Collier has been isolated from everyone. Mr. Collier has not had access to a working computer since he has been assigned to the warehouse. He has only been allowed to work on matters hand delivered to him by the Deputy Superintendent of Operatons. When he completes the work delivered to him, he is required to sit idle, alone and isolated in the room he has been assigned to in the rear of the district's warehouse."
Colliers's lawsuit asks that he be reinstated. It also requests court costs, fees and damages "for his mental anguish, humiation and embarrassment."
The lawsuit echoes one filed by the business director at Dallemand's last job, in Rochester, Minn.
In 2009, Cheryl Coryea filed a lawsuit arguing that she was fired because she "reported several actions by the superintendent that she believed to be illegal."
She says she questioned Dallemand's hiring practices, his spending on meals and a new desk.
The Rochester, Minnesota school district agreed to pay her $320,000 to settle the suit.
Here is the lawsuit in full: