County looks for lies in schools’ funding lawsuit

Published 6:16 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2007

By Staff
Study to probe for basis for perjury claim
News Editor
Beaufort County commissioners voted 5-2 Monday to have a study group determine whether school leaders committed perjury during the funding lawsuit that pitted the county against the schools last summer.
In July 2006, a jury ordered the county to give Beaufort County Schools an additional $765,783, making the county’s contribution to the school system $10.2 million for the 2006-2007 school year. Since then, commissioners have sought an independent audit of the school system and could use those findings as the basis of a perjury probe.
A Florida consulting firm found $1 million in a nutrition account that has been accumulating money for several years, according to a draft audit that was released about a month ago. The school system should be reimbursing its general fund with a portion of that money, according to the draft audit.
But that information has no bearing on potential perjury proceedings, the school system’s leader said.
As an enterprise program, child-nutrition funding is accounted for separately and is governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Moss said. It’s not part of the current-expense formula, he said.
Still, a study group to include at least County Manager Paul Spruill and Neil Yarborough, the county’s special counsel in the funding fray, will review lawsuit testimony. That group will “find out specific facts, find out if there was perjury and how to proceed,” according to Deatherage’s motion on the matter.
Commissioners Al Klemm, Hood Richardson, Jerry Langley and commissioners’ Chairman Jay McRoy all supported Deatherage’s motion. Commissioners Robert Cayton and Ed Booth voted against it.
County Attorney Billy Mayo said perjury charges would go before a grand jury and would be “difficult to prove.”
Richardson responded: “Either (Moss) perjured himself or he’s incompetent.”
Mayo said getting a perjury charge to stick requires “good, hard evidence.”
Deatherage said he thought a probe was necessary because the lawsuit “set the county back $900,000,” which includes at least some attorneys’ fees.
The county is appealing the July verdict.