CLEBURNE COUNTY: Transportation chief sues school board over salary
by Laura Camper
Cleburne County Schools’ transportation supervisor is suing the Board of Education and the superintendent, saying he’s being underpaid.

Kevin Brooks, who according to his suit, filed June 28, has served as transportation supervisor since 1998, said in the complaint that he has not been paid in accordance with the state salary recommendations and hasn’t been paid at all for additional duties assigned to him beginning in approximately 2006.

The complaint states Brooks’ salary of $46,863.86 is far below the minimum salary of $54,414 listed in the state guidelines.

However, Alabama Department of Education Financial Administrator Jerry Lassiter said the state doesn’t set salaries for any positions in school systems except teachers and principals. The minimum salary referred to in the complaint is just a guide for school systems, he said. It includes a suggested minimum as well as the maximum salary the state will reimburse, $87,553, Lassiter said. The school systems, though, have the flexibility to set their own salaries, he said.

“Whatever they are paying, we reimburse them,” Lassiter said, up to the maximum.

The position is required by the state, Lassiter added. So, if the position were empty, the school system would be allocated the minimum amount while administrators searched for a transportation supervisor, Lassiter said. But, because the system is reimbursed for the position, if the system were to give the current supervisor a raise, the first year, it would have to front the additional money, he added.

According to the complaint, Brooks was also denied the last two raises the board granted to its employees, one for support staff and one for central office administrators. The reason, according to the complaint, was that he didn’t fit into either category.

“He’s either red meat or fish or fowl,” said Jim Berry, Brooks attorney. “He’s either supervisor or support.”

Berry said he has contacted both the superintendent and the board attorney in the last several months about Brooks’ pay. But his attempts have been ignored, he said. So, Brooks filed the lawsuit and the board was served on July 1, he said.

“They’ve basically left us no alternative,” Berry said.

Board of Education member Donya Beam said she didn’t know anything about the lawsuit.

“All that started before I came on board in November,” Beam said. “So I have pretty much no knowledge of that.”

Board member Hope Lee declined to comment.

Superintendent Claire Dryden said she couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation and referred questions to board attorney Donald Sweeney. Attempts to reach Sweeney for comment were unsuccessful.

The school system did provide records about the most recent raises. All staff including support staff received raises in July 2007. Brooks received that raise, according to Elizabeth McCary, who does payroll for the school system. That was a state-mandated raise, McCary said.

Central office administrators received raises in July 2009. Brooks did not receive a raise at that time, McCary said. David Easley was superintendent at that time, McCary said. There have been no raises since then, she said.

The board members scheduled a meeting for July 22 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss pending litigation.

Staff Writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.
© 2013