04/30/13 — Ex-school chief takes plea

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Ex-school chief takes plea

By John Joyce
Published in News on April 30, 2013 1:46 PM

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Sprunt Hill, a former assistant superintendent of the Wayne County Public Schools, is seen in Wayne County District Court today. Hill pleaded guilty to unlawfully accepting gifts or favors from a contractor. He received a 45-day suspended sentence and was fined $5,000.

Sprunt Hill, former Wayne County Public Schools assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, pleaded guilty today in Wayne County District Court to unlawfully accepting gifts and/or favors from a contractor/supplier as a government employee.

He was sentenced to 45-day suspended jail sentence, 12 months of supervised probation, a $5,000 fine plus court costs and 50 hours of community service. Once the fine and costs are paid, the probation can become unsupervised.

A special prosecution team from the state Attorney General's Office and officials from the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave background on the charges.

Among the incidents described were:

* GMH Electrical, which did electrical work for the school system, also provided work at Hill's home and barn at or below cost, including the installation of a flat-screen television and surround sound system. Hill also received gifts of alcohol and golf clubs. In return, Hill paid $2,475 and gave the owner a painting by his wife of his dead dog.

* Best Sand and Gravel, which had a $134,000 contract for a dirt/rock/paving road for the school system, also installed a $10,000 circle drive for Hill's home. For that service, Hill paid $1,900 originally in 2003. Then, once under investigation, he paid an additional $1,500 in 2009.

* R.N. Rouse, which has had a multimillion-dollar contract with the school system, also performed roofing, siding and interior work for Hill at or below cost.

* When a 404 Farmall tractor owned by the school did not sell at a surplus auction, Hill took it to Southern Wayne High School for it to be renovated and restored by the students as part of a class project. When they were done, he took it home and used it for more than a year. When he came under investigation, he took it back to the school.

* The owner of Campus Concepts, which has a state contract to provide furniture to the school system, allowed Hill and his family to stay at his beach house for four consecutive summers at no cost, except utilities. In return, Hill gave him a gift card (amount unreported) and a painting his wife had done.

Law enforcement officials said the companies involved, however, are not facing any charges of wrongdoing as there had been no money exchanged for the contracts themselves, describing the services rendered as the result of personal relationships between Hill and the owners. Additionally, they noted that all of the work done at the schools was done to or above satisfaction.

Allegations against Hill first surfaced in December 2009, he was placed on administrative leave and became the subject of an investigation that later resulted in four people pleading guilty in a bid-rigging and bribery scheme.

In March 2010, officials announced that Hill had retired from the school system where he had served for more than 32 years.

Two others from the district also departed. In October 2009, Danny Langley, director of maintenance, was placed on administrative leave and later charged, along with Earl Wayne Rhodes, also of the maintenance department. Rhodes had retired from the school system in Sepember 2009.

Langley and Rhodes pleaded guilty in federal court in December 2011 to charges of public corruption in the bid-rigging scheme. Langley pleaded guilty to bribery, and Rhodes pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery. In 2012, Langley was sentenced to 84 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised probation. Rhodes received a sentence of three years in prison, followed by three years of supervised probation.

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 company was paid by the school system for its work.

Ms. Turner was charged on July 20, 2010, and pleaded guilty Sept. 14, 2011, to structuring transactions to evade a reporting requirement. In September 2012, she was sentenced to 20 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised probation.

Her former husband, Tedder, was sentenced to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervised probation. Tedder, Rhodes and Langley were also ordered to make restitution to the school system in the amount of $124,074.

News-Argus Staff Writer Phyllis Moore contributed to this report.