CMS Board Attorney Explains How Morrison Investigation Unfolded
More details about the investigation that led to Heath Morrison’s departure as Superintendent of CMS are emerging. The school board’s attorney George Battle says it involved a call from an outside lawyer who does some work for the district.
That lawyer was Kevin Bringewatt. He has a small firm in Davidson and does a lot of legal work for CMS involving real estate. Battle says he received a call from him October 10th.
That was shortly after Battle says he received two anonymous complaints about Morrison’s conduct. But they weren’t specific. One employee who was leaving the district of his or her own accord, did come forward with concerns and said, "I’ll put my name on them."
The discussion with Bringewatt prompted Battle to talk to members of CMS’s executive team. He said he then sat down separately with board chairwoman Mary McCray and Vice Chairman Tim Morgan and told them what he heard.
Battle says he thought it best to investigate Morrison’s conduct in-house and not bring in outside counsel. He says that would have meant suspending Morrison with pay, greatly disrupting the district, and making him appear guilty before the investigation even started.
So he got Bringewatt and another lawyer specializing in personnel matters to help. Battle says he only interviewed people who were willing to attach their names to their statements and go before the board. That turned out to be fourteen people.
Battle would not go into the allegations. But a copy of his report was leaked to the Charlotte Observer last week. It said Morrison belittled staff members and misled the board to think a new magnet school at UNC Charlotte would only cost $35,000, when it ended up costing a couple million.
Battle says he sat down with each school board member individually to go over the findings and discuss the board’s options. Some of those meetings, he said, lasted three hours.
The full board discussed the allegations for the first time in closed session October 28th. Board members asked Battle to put them in writing. He did so and as the Observer reported, recommended the board fire Morrison. Morrison received a synopsis of the allegations from McCray and Morgan the next day, says board member Rhonda Lennon.
But before the board could meet again on Friday October 31st to discuss firing him, Morrison’s attorney told the board he planned to resign.