Despite his lawyer’s claims to the contrary, former Liberty County School System Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese is still receiving benefits, according to LCSS Interim Director of Finance Janine Graham
“The Liberty County School System has not sent any paperwork to Mr. Reese terminating his benefits,” Graham said in an email received by the Courier from Liberty County School Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee.
The email went on to say, “We have continued to pay all benefits. Mr. Reese is currently active in the American Fidelity system and has not been submitted for COBRA benefits.”
The email from Lee is in response to the Courier’s reporting that Reese’s attorney, Matthew Billips, said Reese has not been paid since January and, according to Billips, has received notice that his benefits have been terminated.
Lee claims the reports are “riddled with inaccuracies.”
The Courier sent an open records request Feb. 15 to Lee for information to rebut all allegations made by Billips.
But the school board’s attorney, Phillip Hartley, responded in an email that “The school district has no records related to your next request that would not be subject to the confidentiality exclusion of O.C.G.A. 20-2-210.”
Hartley did provide Reese’s salary. For his first full year of employment, 2014-15, Reese was paid $119,634. His current pay was $141,168. Reese has claimed he was underpaid.
The dispute between Reese, Lee and the BoE became public after Reese’s attorney sent a letter to Lee and the BoE threatening a lawsuit for violations of board policy regarding sealed bids for banking services.
In documents obtained by the Courier, it appears Lee expressed concerns about Reese and his job performance. In a Dec. 9 letter from Lee to Reese, Lee brought up several issues,
including the request for proposals for banking services.
“Although I reminded you in April 2016 (we had initially discussed it as far back as September 2015) of the need to let a Financial Services RFQ (request for quote), it was not until late September or early October that you did so,” Lee states in the letter. “During the interim, you had several conversations with entities interested in sharing what they had to offer whereby you gave dates and commitments that you failed to keep. When I pointed this out to you and discussed how it reflected on the district, you assured me that you would be bringing closure to the matter soon.”
The bank bids submitted by Heritage Bank and Ameris Bank were turned in Oct. 7. The letter from Lee to Reese goes on to say that Reese informed her that only two banks were interested and one bank’s offer far exceeded the other.
She said Reese initially recommended Ameris Bank.
“And that the said bank should be my recommendation to the board,” Lee wrote. “Days later, without explanation, you informed me that the other bank should be my recommendation followed by a suggestion that I recommend both banks. When I probed you further as to ‘why,’ you gave me information that was later refuted by the banking entity in question.”
The BoE voted 6-1 in favor of Ameris Bank after listening to both banks’ proposals in a Dec. 13 meeting.
Lee’s letter to Reece also said he mishandled advertisements of meetings, failed to respond to requests by several agencies and contractors, overpaid a school employee and failed to perform many of his job functions.
“Mr. Reese, needless to say these inadequate and unacceptable performance issues cannot continue,” Lee wrote at the close of the letter.
Lee’s tenure as superintendent ends at the end of the 2016-17 school year. She is being paid $190,000 in severance pay.