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My story, part 3


Many of you have told me how interested you were in my first two articles and that you wanted to know more about my arrests and the charges against me. Please understand I’m not writing this for any notoriety I might receive. I’ve had enough notoriety to last me the rest of my life.
In this article, I’m going to start a timeline. I won’t have enough space to run all of it here but will continue it.

September 28
District Attorney Steve Billy sent a letter to School Board President Danny Benjamin, who in turn had board attorney Kirk Garrett email the letter to all the board members. Since Steve later attended a school board meeting and waved a copy of the letter as he was speaking, I feel I can share the letter here since it became public at that meeting.
Dear Board Members:
I am writing to express my concerns about the recent audit of the Escambia Board of Education conducted by the Alabama Department of Public Examiners. My specific concerns are the statements which are being made in the community by school board members. They stated that money was misspent or misappropriated and that the matter would be presented to a Grand Jury and that the School Board Superintendent, Michele McClung could be indicted and arrested. Even if this were the case, that would be protected Grand Jury information and a Class C felony if divulged by a Board Member. I have seen a component of the actual audit and I have been in touch with the auditors who started the audit and the auditors who finalized it and both stated that there was no money missing or misappropriated and that there was nothing that should be presented to a Grand Jury. I do have complete control of the Grand Jury in Escambia County, Alabama and I represent to you that I have no plans to present this audit to a Grand Jury simply due to a lack of findings by the Examiners. There may be other issues which I am not at liberty [to] discuss, to be presented, but they do not involve your Superintendent.
Based on my information, the statements spread in the community have no basis whatsoever and are motivated by a personal agenda or some type of personal gain. Personal agendas have no place when dealing with children. The fact is that Ms. McClung has the best interest of the children at heart and she has accomplished more in her short term than others have in years. The grades are up, buildings have been repaired, classrooms remodeled, safety components are in place, a pre-k school established and numerous other teaching resources have been added to help teach our children. These are things that our community is proud of. The Board should be proud of these accomplishments as well and should strive to keep the positive momentum going rather than spreading lies and rumors. All that does is create a feeling of negativity towards the school system in our community.
I have worked with Ms. McClung on several issues and found her to be extremely professional, ethical and very transparent when dealing with issues. I have not always had that level of cooperation with previous superintendents. In my professional opinion, a failure to renew her contract would not be in the best interest of the children or the school system. Each Board Member was elected and took an oath to make sound decisions for the betterment of our education system, not to play politics to receive a benefit for themself or a family member. It is time to carry yourself as a professional and live up to your oath of office and keep this progress in motion.
Please call me if you have any questions and I will be happy to speak with you.
Stephen M. Billy
District Attorney

The letter contained some statements that were disturbing to me.

  • “I do have complete control of the Grand Jury in Escambia County, Alabama …” Why do we even have a grand jury if one man has complete control of it? What about the people serving on the grand jury? Do they listen to “testimony,” then return the verdict the DA instructs them to return?
  • I thought it was odd that Steve said he had seen the audit. The Board had not seen the audit – I’m not even sure if we knew the audit had been completed. I learned later audit results go to the DA first in case there is any indication of wrongdoing. Steve went on to say that the superintendent had done nothing wrong, and she would not be turned over to the grand jury.
    I had no reason to think she would be.
  • “Each Board Member was elected and took an oath to make sound decisions for the betterment of our education system, not to play politics to receive a benefit for themself or a family member. It is time to carry yourself as a professional and live up to your oath of office and keep this progress in motion.”
    Steve did make one valid point here – we all did take an oath. But that oath was NOT to vote to make sure one person kept her position in the school system.
    This is the oath I took:
    I, Sherry Digmon, do solemnly swear (or affirm as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Alabama, so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully and honestly discharge the duties of the office as School Board Member – District 6, Escambia County Board of Education upon which I am about to enter, to the best of my ability. So help me God.
    And I have upheld that oath.

October 12
Steve Billy spoke at the BOE meeting. He began his comments by saying, “I would normally not get involved with things of this nature, far as an employment situation …”
So why was he getting involved in an employment situation? Does his involvement then mean that he could be involved in other employment situations? Hypothetical situation – If an Atmore (or Brewton) City Council member votes to discontinue someone’s employment, could the DA challenge that council member? Can he tell them how they should vote? And what gives him the right to do that?
Steve said in the meeting, “I control the grand jury.” He referred to a grand jury investigation. He reiterated that the superintendent had done nothing wrong, but that certain board members were saying in the community that she was going to be arrested apparently due to misappropriation of funds. That’s my guess as to the reason. The problem here is that no one on the Board said she was going to be arrested, as far as I know. I think I would have heard that. Apparently, the then-superintendent was telling people in the community (and some school personnel) that Board members were saying she was going to be arrested, but it wasn’t true – at least to my knowledge. Personally, I think some Board members may have been helping her spread that word to garner sympathy for her.
Steve said she would not be going to the grand jury but that some in the room would be.
Still, I had no idea what he was talking about.
I had no reason to take this as a threat – but I should have.

Some closing comments about this article:

  • If you haven’t done anything wrong, you’re puzzled by threatening remarks – even when they’re directed at you.
  • If anyone had told me what was coming, I wouldn’t have believed them.
    After all, our legal system works … until it doesn’t.
    We have laws that protect us … until we don’t.
    We have elected officials who are just and fair … until they aren’t.
  • God is faithful.

To be continued …