Education

Manatee School district's investigator put on paid administrative leave

MANATEE -- A Manatee County School District investigator who threatened to sue the district and a School Board member has been placed on paid administrative leave and is under investigation.

Superintendent Rick Mills placed Troy Pumphrey, the district's Office of Professional Standards investigator, on paid administrative leave Monday. Mills said Pumphrey was suspended based on information the district received last week.

School board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner had been asking the district to investigate Pumphrey and had urged Mills to ask for Pumphrey's resignation, saying Pumphrey made false claims on his resume, including holding licenses he never held.

Last month, an in-house investigation found Pumphrey did not intentionally mislead the district when he included licenses on his resume that he did not hold.

Staff Attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum has said he believed Pumphrey acted in good faith when he listed a Class "C" and a Class "MA" license -- which deal with being a licensed private investigator in the state of Florida -- on his resume when he applied for and was hired to work for the Manatee County School District.

Teitelbaum's 49-page investigative report to district officials was completed in response to a request from Mills in September. Teitelbaum said in his report that Pumphrey should have indicated on his resume the licenses were pending final approval.

"This appears solely to be a lack of wording contained within his resume and not a lack of integrity," Teitelbaum wrote.

Pumphrey was placed on paid leave based upon information the district

received Jan. 7 and an additional inquiry, according to Mills.

Mills also said Monday there will be a formal investigation by an independent investigator into all aspects of Pumphrey's May 2013 employment application and a subsequent August 2014 application for a promotion.

"This investigation will include all prior reviews conducted into the qualifications of Troy Pumphrey for employment within the District," the district stated in a press release.

Pumphrey could not be reached for comment Monday. Last month, he threatened to sue the district, claiming his reputation and ability to work within the district has been damaged. The Bradenton Herald has submitted a public information request for the latest information sent to the district regarding Pumphrey.

In a demand letter, Pumphrey called on the district to pay him $190,400 -- the equivalent of two years wages and benefits -- because if he left the district he'd need a two-year "cooling off" period before he could find another job; to have Mills write a reference letter for Pumphrey; to have the board read a public statement denouncing Miner's actions and confirming Pumphrey's employment with the district is secure; and to have the board cover legal costs Pumphrey has incurred.

Pumphrey's letter did not let Miner off the hook for his comments. Pumphrey claimed recent statements Miner made about him are defamatory, false and misleading. He says Miner damaged his reputation and "hampered his ability to work effectively in the Manatee School District."

Miner said he has not seen the latest information the district received about Pumphrey, but that Mills' move has nothing to do with Pumphrey's threats to sue the district.

"I don't think it enhanced his position or credibility," Miner said.

Miner said Pumphrey also claimed that he was a Florida High School Athletic Association employee when he did contract work for them, but "was never employed by the agency for a day."

Miner has repeatedly tried to add an item to the Manatee County School Board agenda concerning Pumphrey's employment status, but has been rebuffed by the board's attorneys, Mills and his fellow board members.

"I think it reflects that the district should have been doing a better job at vetting his initial application," Miner said. "Others have raised questions about his ability to objectively investigate matters. That was a red flag to me about the quality of his background."

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