12/14/11 — Ex-school staff plead guilty

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Ex-school staff plead guilty

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 14, 2011 1:46 PM

GREENVILLE -- Danny Lee Langley, 54, of Snow Hill and Earl Wayne Rhodes, 58, of Pikeville, former employees of the Wayne County Public Schools maintenance department, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to charges of public corruption in a bid-rigging scheme.

Langley pleaded guilty to bribery and Rhodes pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery. Sentencing has not been scheduled, but Langley faces up to 10 years in prison and Rhodes up to five years.

A federal grand jury returned a criminal indictment in the case on Aug. 16.

According to court documents, between 2002 and 2009, Langley, former director of maintenance, and Rhodes, former assistant director, helped Johnston County roofing contractor All American Roofing and Construction win bids for roofing projects with the school system.

Pamela Carol Turner, 45, of Selma, owner of All American, and David Lee Tedder, 50, also of Selma, allegedly paid Langley and Rhodes a cash percentage after the school system had paid All American for the work.

Ms. Turner was charged on July 20, 2010, and pleaded guilty Sept. 14, 2011, to structuring transactions to evade a reporting requirement. Her sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 30, 2012.

Tedder was charged on April 1, 2011. He pleaded guilty on June 14, 2011, to conspiring to commit bribery concerning local programs receiving federal funds. His sentencing is set for Monday.

To carry out the scheme, Langley and Rhodes would give All American the price it needed to bid to win the contract, court documents allege. As part of the scheme, Tedder and Ms. Turner sometimes would submit fake, complementary bids to lend legitimacy to what was otherwise a corrupt bidding process, according to court documents.

Also as part of the scheme, All American employees falsely accounted for the cash payments to Langley and Rhodes as "job materials" -- as a cost of goods sold.

According to court documents, Wayne County payment records show a significant growth in business awarded to All American over the time period involved.

In 2002-03, 0.3 percent, or $2,400, of the school system's roofing budget was paid to All American. Beginning in 2004-05, the business awarded to All American dramatically increased to 61.1 percent of the roofing budget, with total payments amounting to $482,145.

In 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09, All American was paid $724,745, $500,506, and $313,845, respectively.

"Corruption in our government is a particularly offensive form of criminal conduct. It wastes precious taxpayer money and resources. This office is committed to combating those types of criminal acts," United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker said.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represents the United States.

The investigation was initially launched in June 2009 and became public in December. School officials today said they were approached by federal, state and local investigators about allegations of illegal conduct in the district's maintenance department.

"The WCPS administration worked openly and fully cooperated with investigators, giving them access to files, databases and staff as needed," said Ken Derksen, public information officer for the district. "As a result of the ongoing investigation, on Oct. 7, 2009, Danny Langley, the district's maintenance director, was placed on administrative leave.

"Wayne Rhodes, the former assistant maintenance director, was another person of interest in the investigation. Mr. Rhodes retired Sept. 1, 2009."

Another central office employee was also linked to the investigation but has not been charged. Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services at the time, was placed on administrative leave with pay effective Dec. 17, 2009. A short time later, he retired from the district.

Officials refrained from making comments about Hill, referring any inquiries to law enforcement agencies handling the investigation.

"It's the district's understanding that the Sprunt Hill investigation is a separate investigation," Derksen said.

He said the school system holds all of its employees to the highest standards and was disappointed at the latest announcement concerning its two former staff members.

Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor, expressed appreciation to the U.S. District Attorney's Office as well as local, state and federal investigators "who had a role in bringing this two-year investigation to a close."

"Wayne County Public Schools works diligently to be fiscally responsible and to maintain the highest integrity in all areas of school operations," he said. "Since this investigation began, the district has been vigilant in strengthening fiscal safeguards and increasing protocols for department operations. In addition, we have hired an internal auditor, who works directly with the fiscal services department to advise and ensure fiscal policies or procedures are being appropriately followed by all of our district employees."