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AG investigating if school board member's family business made thousands on school construction

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Posted at 6:45 PM, Sep 14, 2021

WINCHESTER, Ky. (LEX 18) — A recently built multi-million dollar sports complex at Clark County’s George Rogers Clark High School has drawn praise from parents and community members, but it's also led to an investigation of allegations that a school board member's family business got thousands of dollars out of the project.

The Kentucky Attorney General's office is investigating a report that Howard's Overhead Doors, a business listed by the Kentucky Secretary of State and the Better Business Bureau as being owned and operated by the family of Clark County Board of Education member Sherry Richardson, received more than $85,000 for work on the district-funded project.

An invoice history report obtained by LEX 18 indicates that Howard's Overhead Doors billed contractor Rising Sun Developing $90,988 on work and supplies for the George Rogers Clark High school Gym and Fieldhouse construction projects. Howard's Overhead Doors has been paid $85,335 of that balance, according to the invoice documentation.

Richardson's attorney, Timothy Crawford, confirmed that he is representing her in a matter that's being investigated by the Kentucky Attorney General.

"We don't believe she's violated any of the legal requirements to be on a public school board in the state of Kentucky," Crawford said.

When approached by LEX 18, Richardson said she couldn’t comment on the situation. She said that the attorney general’s investigation was ongoing and that they would "dig deeper" than a news interview would.

Kentucky law states that no person who has direct or indirect interest in sale of supplies or services paid for with school funds should be eligible for membership of a board of education. The Kentucky Attorney General's investigation into whether or not Richardson violated any rules is ongoing.

Documented payments

LEX 18 combed through hundreds of pages of pay applications and contracts that the Clark County Board of Education would have had access to during the completion of the projects and found no mention of Howard's Overhead Doors.

The school district provided all of the documents they had on the project, but when we then specifically requested any public documents pertaining to Howard's Overhead Doors' work done on the school district's projects, the school district said it did not have them in its possession.

The payments allegedly made to Howard's Overhead Doors for work done on the school athletic complex construction would've come from Rising Sun Developing, a company that was contracted and paid by the school district. As is common, the company then paid other businesses for some of the work and supplies used in the board-funded construction project.

LEX 18 asked the school district to obtain the additional documents concerning the publicly-funded project from contractor Rising Sun Developing and share them, but the district denied the request on the grounds that they were not legally required to comply.

We then obtained the invoice report history independently, and the documentation indicated that Howard’s Overhead Doors had been paid seven checks by Rising Sun Developing for work on the school projects between June 2019 and November 2020. Richardson has been on the school board since January 2019.

Motion for legal services

LEX 18 learned the allegation against Richardson was first reported earlier this year by former Clark County superintendent Paul Christy to the school board's attorney, who after looking into the matter reported it to the Kentucky Attorney General's office.

Then, on Aug. 16, Richardson made a motion at a school board meeting to advertise for legal services, which would open up that school board attorney's job to other applicants. While the motion would leave the opportunity for the current school board attorney to re-apply, his current position as legal counsel for the board would have to be terminated, he said at the meeting where the motion was made.

The motion passed 3 to 2, but the two board members who voted no voiced their confusion about the need for the motion.

"I'm a no — this caught me completely off guard," board chair Ashley Ritchie said during the meeting. "I think that's very tacky on our part, we'll be giving him a notice tonight."

When the board attorney was asked by a board member at the meeting if he would re-apply, he said that he didn't know, but that if he wasn't "wanted," he probably wouldn't.

"I just think there's personal agendas being played here instead of what's right for the district," board vice-chair William Taulbee said during the board's discussion of the motion. "It's a shame for the district and Dr. McComas' first meeting."

Richardson quickly spoke up.

"Bill, you don't need to bring that up, you just don't need to go there," Richardson said. "This is not the place for that."