DeSoto County school superintendent could face criminal charges

Author: kristin sanchez & DAVE CULBRETH
Published: Updated:

ARCADIA, Fla.- Violations that include appointing two employees to a non-existent position and approving a two-year contract with a forged signature could lead to criminal charges against DeSoto County school Superintendent Dr. Karyn Gary.

School board members voted unanimously on Tuesday to ask Gov. Rick Scott to remove Gary from her position while the state Attorney’s Office conducts an investigation.

The accusations, detailed in a 23-page report released Tuesday, include Gary appointing two men to the district’s assistant director of information technology position after Keith Markey, the department director, retired. The two men, James Backer and Jeffery Wood, were to lead the department instead of hiring a new director, Gary said in the report.

School board members denied approving either position, but both men began receiving district paychecks on July 1, according to the report. Gary authorized the payments prior to school board approval, which is against district policy, the report said.

The report also states that DeSoto High School Principal Darrell Milstead was approved for a one year contract for the 2015-16 school year, but a two year contract with a 4 percent pay increase was prepared instead. The contact included the signature of school board chairwoman Karen Chancey, who denied signing the document, the report said.

Gary told Chancey she had the authority to grant the contract and stated she needed “to insure Mr. Milstead continuing contract beyond her term as superintendent in order to induce him to take the position,” the report said.

Gary is also accused of placing Marcia Saulo, the district’s finance director, on administrative leave with full benefits without explanation or school board approval.

Saulo said she was terminated because “she objected to what she believed to be the Superintendent’s unlawful tax treatment of her District-provided automobile,” the report said.

Gary disagreed with the report’s findings during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“The information contained in the report was grossly misrepresented, biased, one-sided and contains no documentation that could possibly contradict the reports,” she said. “I’ve come to realize that I am a target of this school board.”

School board members stood by their investigation.

“The falsified contract. Failure to report the budget in a timely manner. Reporting inaccurate figures. Numerous other issues, ” board member Deborah Snyder said.

Board member Bucky Waldron wanted the district to do something before any further trouble was alleged.

“I think we have to report that to the appropriate authorities or we might be guilty of something ourselves,” he said.

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