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Commission clears Jefferson County school board president

April 06, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley said Monday a complaint filed with the West Virginia Ethics Commission alleging she used her public position for private gain has been dismissed.

Stilley said in a prepared statement the Ethics Commission "did not find probable cause" to believe a violation of the law occurred and ordered the complaint to be dismissed.

Stilley said she was happy that the commission acted on the complaint in a timely manner.

Stilley released a copy of a letter from the head of the state Ethics Commission Monday along with her statement.

In the letter, Lewis G. Brewer, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the commission concluded its investigation into "verified complaint No. 2004-02" against Stilley.

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A panel from the Ethics Commission "did not find probable cause to believe that a violation of law occurred and ordered the complaint dismissed. No further action will be taken by the commission on this matter," Brewer's letter states.

Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said he was disappointed to see the issue brought up at a time when the school system is preparing to go to the voters on May 11 to ask them to approve a $19 million bond issue.

"I, as well as the superintendent, did not want a single day to go by that would cast doubt in our taxpayers' minds regarding the commitment this board and administration have to our children and the future success of this school system and our community," Stilley said in her statement.

Stilley called a press conference last Wednesday to defend herself against the complaint, which was filed by John Prohaska, former human resources director for Jefferson County Schools.

The complaint alleged Stilley relied on a county Board of Education employee to transport her children and to run personal errands for her and that the errands were done at county expense.

Stilley said last week that the allegations were "serious, defaming and most importantly, untrue."

Stilley said Janet Harner, Nichols' secretary, had driven her to various meetings such as county commission meetings, city council meetings, speaking engagements and other functions.

Stilley said Harner had to take her to the functions because of a leg fracture she suffered as a result of a Dec. 28, 2002, skiing accident. Stilley said her condition prohibited her from driving.

Stilley said Harner transported her daughter to some activities such as horseback and karate lessons, but Harner did that on her own time.

Harner said last week that Prohaska's allegations were not accurate. She said she never submitted any travel expenses for reimbursement for trips to transport Stilley's child to after-school lessons.

Prohaska, reached last week at his home in Virginia, said subordinates should not be asked to help board members with such activities.

Prohaska, who resigned Feb. 6, said the situation "smacks of a plantation mentality, and the plantation owner is Mrs. Stilley."

Prohaska did not return two phone messages left at his home Monday.

Brewer said he could not comment on whether Prohaska's complaint existed.

Brewer said Ethics Commission officials can't comment on a case, including who it is against or who filed it, unless it reaches a certain stage. He did not elaborate.

"It's just one of those things," Brewer said.

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