Ridgeland Police Investigating Jasper County School District

UPDATE: A Jasper County School Board member has filed a complaint on the School District with Ridgeland Police, launching a criminal investigation.

Did former Superintendent Vashti Washington misuse public money? Randy Horton alleges she did, when she paid employees Christmas bonuses. However, the District says Washington was authorized to do so.

Horton has requested documentation to show how the $54,000 was disbursed. He wants to see each employee’s name and how much they were paid. He cites a statute, 8-11-30, he believes makes it illegal for the Superintendent to pay employees bonuses. This is the reason behind his filing the police report.

“Well, by the State Law, it just states that you cannot pay someone a bonus and it’s clear that there’s a criminal penalty for doing that,” Horton says.

“There’s a lot of red flags that came up when I asked, or the Board asked for the employees, their names and the amount each one received,” he says.

The District calls them ‘teacher incentives’ and says the Board had approved them. School Board Chairman Tedd Moyd will not say the checks were criminal; he calls it “questionable.”

In a statement, Moyd says, in part: “Mr. Horton has his rights as a citizen, but I want to be clear that this isn’t the way the Board agreed to handle the matter.”

Moyd says the Board as a whole is not represented in the criminal complaint, but that the Board had voted to resolve the matter in a different way in a meeting the night before Horton filed it.

The Board voted in December to terminate Washington’s contract as Superintendent. They have been in search of a replacement ever since. Horton says the information he has not yet received on the $54,000 hinders the process of finding a replacement.

“You need to have all the information so you can make an informed decision. Not only that, I mean this is tax payers’ money. This money is supposed to go to our teachers and probably into the classrooms and it’s just, someone needs to be held accountable for it,” he says.

The District says they are cooperating with the investigation and will send all the information to police that Horton has requested.

NEWS 3 has also filed a ‘Freedom of Information Act’ request for documentation of employees who were paid and by how much.

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BACKGROUND: In a press release sent to WSAV, the Jasper County School District say they are being investigated by the Ridgeland Police Department.

This comes after board member Randy Horton filed a criminal complaint against Jasper Superintendent Dr. Vashti Washington for misappropriating $54,000 of school money.

The decision to file the complaint was not a board decision according to School Board Chairman Tedd Moyd.

“This was absolutely not a board decision. The board decided that was not the way we wanted to go, and we have spent a lot of time discussing this,” Moyd said. “This was strictly Mr. Horton acting on his own.”

The $54,000 relates to December 2015 payments paid to Jasper School District employees under Washington’s authority. The payments came just before she left the district after negotiating her resignation effective Dec. 31. Washington herself didn’t receive any of the payments.

A Ridgeland detective met early Tuesday morning with Gary West, chief finance officer for the Jasper County School District, to present the complaint and ask for various documents related to the investigation.

The school district is cooperating fully.  News 3 will continue to follow this story and bring you the very latest.

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