More Insight Into Morrison's Exit
It’s been a week since the CMS school board approved Heath Morrison’s separation agreement. Board members have still not publicly addressed allegations against Morrison, but school board attorney George Battle III is giving some insight into what prompted him to launch an investigation. We’re getting a better picture of how the investigation unfolded and how board members reacted to it.
WFAE’s Lisa Worf joins All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey now:
MR: Lisa, what made the board’s attorney George Battle investigate Morrison?
LW:He got a call from lawyer Kevin Bringewatt on October 10. He’s an attorney in Davidson who advises the district on real estate matters. Bringewatt said he told Mr. Battle that he could no longer do this work for the district.
BRINGEWATT: I had concerns about my ability to practice ethically and effectively with the superintendent running things for the school system.
LW: As for Battle, he wouldn’t elaborate, but he says Bringewatt’s concerns coupled with a few anonymous complaints and one from an employee leaving the district of his or her own accord prompted him to start digging. He says Board Chairwoman Mary McCray and Vice Chairman Tim Morgan encouraged him.
BATTLE: If you learn of anything that's likely to cause your client harm, you have a duty to report that and in order to report it you have to know what you're reporting and you have to know what the harm is that's likely to be caused.
Battle ended up recruiting Bringewatt and one other lawyer to help with the investigation. He said they only interviewed people who agreed to put their names on their statements and go before the board.
MR: Why didn’t Battle decide to bring in outside counsel to investigate Morrison?
LW: Board member Eric Davis has said that would’ve been a better way to go. But Battle says that would’ve meant suspending Morrison with pay. And he says that would’ve been really disruptive for the district and, furthermore, cast Morrison as guilty before the investigation even began.
MR: Now, Battle sent out an odd email last night to board members and some reporters. What was that all about?
LW: Yes, it was strange. Battle said one board member, whom he did not name in the email, was telling people he launched the investigation because Morrison disagreed with the way Battle wanted to reorganize the legal department. Morrison actually brought this disagreement up to the Charlotte Observer too yesterday. But it seems weird to call it a disagreement, since minutes of a closed session meeting actually show Morrison supporting Battle’s plan.
MR: Several board members met today for a committee meeting. What were the dynamics like?
LW: Really it was hard to tell anything had happened, except for there being a couple more reporters in the room. Afterwards school board member Tom Tate did talk. He was one of the three who voted against the separation agreement. He said he agreed Morrison needed to leave.
TATE: I think that was appropriate, but I did not think that we were celebrating in some sense, I know this is bizarre language and I apologize for that. but there were good things that happened while he was here and I thought we needed to do something with that.
LW: He says one way to do that was to give Morrison severance.
MR: Thanks, Lisa.
LW: Thank you.