MANATEE -- A district principal has filed a complaint against the school district with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, citing a Civil Rights Act violation based on racial discrimination.
According to federal records, Palmetto Elementary Principal Ed Hundley maintains that black principals of Title 1 schools in Manatee County have been told by the district they cannot be paid for duties outside the school day, while white principals have continued to be paid. He also accuses the district of taking money from his paycheck in June and unfairly investigating him for "stealing" Title 1 money, when other administrators had done the same.
The district did investigate Hundley in August to see whether he had violated school board policy and district directives by paying himself roughly $30,000 in Title 1 and other federal grants for work outside the school day when, since 2009, the district has prohibited such payments.
But the district ended the investigation due to insufficient evidence that they had made their own policies on administration compensation clear, and took no disciplinary action against Hundley.
They also found that several administrators, of all races, had also been compensated with these grants, which primarily support after-school and weekend programs. Title 1 federal funds are for schools with high-poverty students.
The August investigation states that Hundley received significantly more than all other administrators that were incorrectly compensated since 2009. The $13,100 Harllee Middle School principal James Hird collected from Title 1 and other funds in three school years is the closest amount to the $30,000 district officials say Hundley has accepted in the same time period.
"We do not pay administrators," said Cathy Langford, junior accountant for Title 1 in district records of the investigation, when asked to clarify the rules for the funding. "Only teachers."
At one time, several administrators and school staff state in the district's investigation report, it was a common practice for administrators to pay themselves using Title 1 or other grants for extra work after school and on weekends. But in 2009 Director of Elementary Schools Joe Stokes announced that administrators could not pay themselves for duties outside the work day because they are considered 24/7 employees and it was a conflict of interest.
Administrators that continued to collect these funds in the 2009-10 year were told to stop, and many complied. But several administrators continued to receive Title 1 money through the 2011-12 year, the district would learn after investigating Hundley.
Records show that Hundley was told to discontinue the practice of logging paid non-contract hours through Title 1 starting in May 2012, and that Hundley contested that he had a right to.
"If my working under the Title 1 grant was a violation, such would have been noted in the audits related to that funding," Hundley wrote in a letter to the district dated Sept. 7. "No such violations have ever been found to my knowledge."
In the summer, the district's payroll office removed about $1,200 from two paychecks after Hundley continued to log paid hours. The district then began the investigation in August.
"I've been subjected to investigations and scrutiny while my white co-workers are not," Hundley wrote in the complaint. "I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my race."
Hundley and school attorney John Bowen were unable to be reached for comment Thursday.
Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.