Updates with McNeese statement.
The Wilson County School Board issued a public censure of board member Wayne McNeese on Monday night for what it determined to be inappropriate comments made to district staff members.
The board voted 6-0-1 with McNeese abstaining for the censure.
McNeese had two complaints against him, one by a current board secretary Sherrie Hyder and one from a former employee.
McNeese released this statement Wednesday afternoon: I have known Sherri (sic) Hyder for years and I would never say or do anything to intentionally upset her, or any woman, and I genuinely apologize to her if anything I said hurt or offended her in any way. However, I emphatically deny the allegation made by former board secretary Kelie Ford and I, along with many of my constituents, question the timing of this baseless attack which conveniently happened to coincide with the school board election."
In June, the board hired Memphis law firm Jackson, Shields, Yeiser and Holt to investigate the complaints. Debra D. Owen from the firm reported the attorney’s findings at the ethics committee meeting held Monday before the full board meeting.
“The (ethics committee) states that it is in agreement with the findings and publicly censure board member Wayne McNeese. Further, the board expects Mr. McNeese to support and protect district personnel in the performance of their duties,” Owen suggested the ethics committee write in their recommendation.
In giving the firm’s final report, Owen said that the complaint, while proper, and that they found the allegations to be “factually true,” the complaint “while offensive and inappropriate, does not constitute sexual harassment under the law.”
She continued stating that she believed, “the facts described in the complaint, occurred substantially as they were described.”
“I’ll go along with the censure,” McNeese said at the school board meeting before the vote to accept the attorney’s report. “I don’t have a problem with that, I guess. But it says that sexual harassment did not occur. Past that, I’ll hush.”
The board’s ethics committee received a complaint on May 28 from Hyder claiming that McNeese asked her for a kiss. A second complaint from a former staff member said that McNeese requested that she place him in the same hotel room as her when arranging lodging at an educational conference.
McNeese said at the time the first complaint was filed that the accusation was politically motivated because he is running for re-election this year.
The school board could have turned the matter over to District Attorney Tommy Thompson’s office for an ouster investigation or criminal prosecution. Since the matter was not a violation of state statute, and was not a criminal violation, Owen said she did not recommend that process.
She added that the board had no authority to remove McNeese from the board.
Owen added that the district needs to remind the board that, as required by state and federal law, there is not to be any retaliation against Hyder, McNeese or anyone else involved in the case.