PB Superintendent pays back reimbursement under protest

Embattled Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Jerry O. Payne submitted a cashier’s check in the amount of $9,446.97 to Pine Bluff School District Board of Directors President Herman Horace at the body’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Payne noted that he was submitting the funds demanded from him at the end of a special called meeting of the board on Feb. 14, in protest. The cashier’s check was made payable to the Pine Bluff School District.

At the Feb. 14 meeting the board determined that only $553.03 of the original $10,000 remitted to Payne for moving expenses in June was legitimate.

The check was submitted to Horace by Payne toward the end of the board meeting during the time set aside for miscellaneous business.

“I didn’t want to do this out here but the superintendent insisted that we do this out here,” Horace said. “The board ordered that Mr. Payne pay back $9,446.97.”

“The board required of me to provide the board with $9,446.97 in the form of a cashier’s check,” Payne said. “I want to note that this is being paid in protest and that I will be pursuing procedural due process. There is a letter as well and I’d like you to read it, sir.”

“Mr. Payne has issued a cashier’s check payable to the Pine Bluff School District in the amount of $9,446.97,” Horace said as he held up the check.

Horace refused to read the letter from Payne.

Payne provided the Commercial with a copy of the letter submitted to the board as well as a copy of the cashier’s check.

“Please note this money is being paid to the school district in protest,” Payne’s letter addressed to Horace said. “Why? I believe the actions of the board are subjective, callous and without merit. I totally disagree with the unprofessional demeanor, negative politics, and detrimental undermining conduct of the board toward me and my family regarding the relocation funds.

“Furthermore, at no time during the negotiation of my contract and issuing the funds did the Board state restrictions other than bring evidence of receipts for moving,” the letter from Payne continued. “It is further noted, I disagree with the Board’s rationale in approving only $553.03 for relocation expenses from Pine Grove, Louisiana to Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The letter is further noted that I reserve all rights to retrieve all of the $9,446.97 through procedure due process.”

After receiving the check from Payne, Horace said that Payne had asked him in December for permission to travel to a funeral in Georgia.

“When I was in the hospital back in December, Mr. Payne came to see me and asked me if I had a problem with him going to Georgia for [a] funeral,” Horace said. “I told him I had no problem with him going to the funeral but the board did not approve reimbursing him for the trip.”

“I am asking the board to take action to ask Mr. Payne to pay the district back for his reimbursement for the trip to Georgia,” Horace said.

Board secretary Freddie M. Johnson made a motion that the board ask Payne to repay the school district for the Georgia trip.

The motion was seconded by board vice president Donna Barnes.

Board member Chandra Griffin asked Payne how he traveled to Georgia.

“I traveled in a school car,” Payne said. “I asked for reimbursement for lodging and food and I put some gas in.”

The board unanimously approved the motion seeking the repayment from Payne.