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Evil Doings in the Superintendent’s Office

LEXINGTON, Ky. (CN) - A now-jailed school superintendent retaliated against two administrators for helping the FBI investigate his vote-buying scheme, and the school board helped him, the men claim in Federal Court.

The administrators filed separate complaints against the Breathitt County Board of Education and its members and former Superintendent Arch Turner.

Plaintiff Charles Napier is assistant superintendent and director of pupil personnel; plaintiff Steve Banks is transportation director.

Turner, 66, was the last of 11 conspirators to plead guilty or be convicted of federal charges, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. The ring tried to buy votes in several local races, including primaries and judicial races.

Former Breathitt County Sheriff John Turner- no relation to the former superintendent - pleaded guilty in June, according to the Herald-Leader.

Former Superintendent Turner was sentenced in October to 2 years in federal prison and fined $250,000, the Kentucky Attorney General's Office said in a statement.

Napier's complaint states: "On or around March 2, 2012, Breathitt County Superintendent Arch Turner was arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy to buy votes, providing money to buy votes, trying to get a witness not to give information to the authorities, and lying to an FBI agent. Upon his arrest, Turner was placed in jail."

Napier claims that Turner, along with several current and former board members of the Breathitt County Board of Education, "created a hostile and fearful workplace" for employees who were suspected of cooperating with the FBI investigation that led to the superintendent's arrest.

Banks claims that during the 2010 election, Turner repeatedly demanded that he give money to the campaign of defendant George Daniel Strong, an incumbent on School Board.

"When Banks would refuse, he would receive threats concerning his employment," the complaint states.

When Turner found that Banks was cooperating with the FBI, he told several people that "not only would he 'cut Steve's days,' but that 'he would fire him as well,'" according to the complaint.

Banks claims that Turner subsequently cut his contract by 20 days, to reduce his pay.

Napier says in his complaint that Turner was released from jail four days after he was arrested, and was allowed to return to work. The Board of Education did not demand his resignation, but helped him retaliate against employees who had cooperated with the FBI, Napier says.

"Prior to Superintendent Turner being released, in an attempt to make a deal with Superintendent Turner, FBI agents allowed Turner to review information they had collected on his illegal activates," the complaint states.

When Turner returned to work, according to Napier, he repeatedly said, "I have a long memory; Turner don't forget."

Turner said that he would "get to read what everyone had given the FBI and that he would get even," and that "if you mess with the bull, you get the horns," according to Napier's complaint.

"These statements by Turner caused Napier great concern as he was afraid of retaliation for both himself and his family (Napier has a son who is a math teacher at Sebastian Middle School and a daughter who attends Breathitt County High School)." (Parentheses in complaint.)

The complaint continues: "Napier reported his concerns over the statements being made by Superintendent Turner to the FBI agents.

Superintendent Turner, with the cooperation of the Breathitt County Board of Education, began a pattern of retaliation against anyone that was thought to have cooperated with the FBI."

Napier adds: "The Breathitt County Board of Education, upon the recommendation of Superintendent Turner, took the appropriate steps to reduce the pay of three employees who were linked to the FBI investigation: Tim Noble, Dean Smith and Steve Banks.

"The Board of Education, despite Superintendent Turner's arrest, never requested his resignation, but cooperated with him in his pattern of retaliation.

"In fact, after his arrest, Superintendent Turner attended, on an all-expense paid trip, the National School Board Association meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. This meeting occurred in early April 2012. Accompanying him to the meeting were Breathitt County Board Members Ina Southwood and Shirley Hudson."

Southwood and Hudson are both named as defendants.

Napier says Turner was subsequently re-arrested, and resigned on May 11, 2012. Two business days later, the complaint states, the board hired defendant Melanie Stevens as interim superintendent, though she had served in the position before, in 2002, was removed from the job six weeks later, terminated for cause a year later, and "was banned from re-applying for any positions in the Breathitt County School System for a period of five years."

Napier claims the board did not accept applications or interview anyone for the interim superintendent job. He says the "failure to be considered for this position is evidence of the pattern of retaliation that Superintendent Turner and the Board of Education had already set in motion."

Napier adds: "Since Melanie Stevens has become interim superintendent, she has continued the retaliation against Napier which had been previously started by Superintendent Turner."

Among other things, Napier claims, Stevens told him that "she planned on 'quadrupling' his work load," falsely claimed that his daughter had received a "tutoring job inappropriately," and sent him written reprimands with bogus allegations.

"On July 23, 2012, Napier filed a written grievance to the two reprimands he had received from Stevens, stating that Stevens was creating or attempting to create a slanderous, insulting image of his 'character and integrity' and was attempting to suggest to others that he was 'corrupt' and had 'abuse(d) his position," the complaint states.

Then, Napier says: "Stevens, after receiving the grievances, made a statement to a Breathitt County Board of Education employee, to the following effect: 'don't you love it when a plan comes together.'"

Napier says he filed another grievance with the board but still has not received a response.

"Given all of the events which have transpired, Napier has been placed on extended medical leave due to anxiety and depression," the complaint states.

Napier says Turner "pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to buy votes," and that Stevens "has been suspended, with pay, pending an investigation."

He adds: "The State of Kentucky has now taken over the Breathitt County School System."

Napier and Banks both seek punitive damages for constitutional violations, discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Napier also seeks damages for defamation.

Both men are represented by Cheryl U. Lewis, of Hyden, Ky.

Breathitt County is in central Kentucky. Its county seat is Jackson.

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