10/15/13 — Accused bus garage employees back at work

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Accused bus garage employees back at work

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 15, 2013 1:46 PM

Three bus garage employees "terminated" by the school district last month and under investigation by the Sheriff's Office for larceny of fuel returned to work Monday, with officials tight-lipped on the reason for the change of status.

Last week, the Sheriff's Office confirmed that an active investigation was under way but no charges had been filed against Michael Chase, a route supervisor hired in March 2007, and Sanford Ham Jr. and Brandon Briggs, route mechanics for the schools since 2002 and 2011, respectively.

At the time, Ken Derksen, director of communication services for the district, said that all three were "terminated by the district" on Sept. 23.

But on Monday morning, a source reported all three were back on the job.

Derksen provided few details, citing it as a personnel matter and thus he was limited in what he could say.

"At this point, their termination is no longer in effect," he said.

In a follow-up email, Derksen wrote, "Brandon Briggs, Michael Chase and Sanford Ham Jr. are back at work this morning. As it is a personnel matter, the district cannot discuss why their official termination is no longer in effect. I can say that the district administration and Board of Education have handled this matter in accordance to board policy and North Carolina general statutes."

Explaining the termination process, he said the recommendation for dismissal usually originates with the supervisor and must be approved by Dr. Marvin McCoy, assistant superintendent of human resources.

"Built into that process is an appeals process," he said. "Employees can certainly appeal that to the Board of Education."

Because the men were reinstated to their original positions, it does not affect their employment status or benefits with the state, he added. As such, they will also be paid for the three weeks they were out of work.

The investigator in charge of the case, Deputy William Kates said the investigation is ongoing and that the Sheriff's Office is aware that the men are back at work.

"I can say, like any law enforcement investigation, Wayne County Public Schools will fully cooperate with investigators until their investigation is closed," Derksen said.

Board of Education Chairman John Grantham said he was aware that a hearing was held Thursday at central office but that the full board had not been apprised of the details.

"It's still under investigation by the Sheriff's Department," he said. "They're back at work. Whether they remain at work will depend on what the Sheriff's Office does.

"I think it's safe to say they were reinstated pending further investigation."