Back in late 2016, MetroNews and the Logan Banner newspaper ran several stories about questionable purchases by the Logan County Board of Education. Documents obtained by MetroNews through a Freedom of Information request showed a school system purchasing card was used to buy $4,800 worth of wedding supplies.
The items included bread baskets, beverage dispensers, two iron easels, a mahogany-framed easel chalkboard, decorative columns, urns and pedestals. A note on the purchase order said the items were for a “math field day.” However, the person in charge of that event never ordered the items.
The purchases were traced back to Phyllis Doty during her tenure as Logn County Superintendent of Schools. The items were used for her son’s wedding.
At the time, Logan County’s new School Board President Paul Hardesty told me, “It’s embarrassing, but we have to get it cleaned up. We can’t spend taxpayer dollars to subsidize a private wedding.”
We didn’t hear much more about the errant spending… until last week when a federal grand jury indicted Doty on five charges—two counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and one count of mail fraud. Doty faces up to 70 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
The grand jury indictment covers the taxpayer paid wedding decorations, but also includes the improper purchase of Apple gear. According to the indictment, Doty ordered over 350 iPods and iPads for her county, but skimmed off at least 20 that she either sold on eBay or gave to family members.
In one instance, the indictment alleges, Doty bought six Apple iPads for nearly $4,000 that she said were for school board members, but four of them “were registered with Apple to members of defendant Doty’s family.”
Federal agents also contend that once Doty learned of the investigation she attempted to cover up the fraud by asking the school purchasing director to “remember” that he authorized her to buy the Apple devices.
The indictment is only a list of allegations and Doty enjoys a presumption of innocence. She is contesting the charges and will get her day in court. Additionally, the total amount of taxpayer dollars spent on personal items is no more than $15,000.
However, public corruption is not just about the dollar amount, said U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart. “There is no such thing as a little bit of public corruption. Standing in defiance of public corruption is a fundamental priority for this United States Attorney and the United States of America.”
Southern West Virginia has a well-documented history of shenanigans by public officials. It’s no wonder that some who have been handed the public trust also have the warped belief that it is their right to skim a little off the top for themselves.
The only way to break that cycle is to hold the scofflaws accountable.