The two sexual harassment cases against Wilson County School Board member Wayne McNeese will be investigated by a Memphis law firm that the WCS board has hired.
The WCS ethics committee, consisting of Chairman Linda Armistead, Secretary Bill Robinson and Kimberly McGee, agreed to allow the firm of Jackson, Shields, Yeiser & Holt to meet privately with the complainants, witnesses and McNeese in its investigation.
WCS board attorney Mike Jennings is not available to advise the ethics committee because he may be called as a witness in one of the cases.
The ethics committee considered the options of having the law firm conduct the investigation in private, with the records becoming public record at the end of the investigation, or to hold a public hearing as allowed under board policy.
The three members all agreed, without a vote, to allow the attorneys to investigate, conduct interviews, then make legal recommendations to the committee. The fee announced at a previous committee meeting was $195 per hour, although the law firm will not charge for travel costs.
There is no actual timeline or deadline for the investigation. The attorney handling the case for WCS was out of the office on Friday. McNeese’s attorney, with McBrien Law Group of Lebanon, was unavailable for comment.
Armistead said that the law firm, working with WCS Human Resources Director Rebecca Owens, will provide a legal opinion for WCS to proceed at the end of the investigation.
“The facts are in dispute,” she said. “We will learn whether this is a violation of the WCS code of ethics or state statues.”
She said that an “associate” of Owens in the HR department will take notes during the interviews.
“If there are questions,” Armistead said. “You will have a copy as to what has been said.”
Robinson’s said that he had no problem “turning this over and allowing the attorneys to do the investigation, but I want to make sure the public is made aware of what’s going on as far as people questioning this and that. I want to be fair to everyone and do what’s right.”