Originally created 10/14/00

School safety director resigns

Richmond County Schools' public safety director resigned Friday per the request of school board members who voted Thursday to ask him and the assistant director to step down.

Maj. Mike Farrell had been director of the department for four years. His salary was $55,861.

"I believe I had a difference of opinion and a difference in the way I saw my duties than did the board of education," he said, "So for the good of my people and the school system I resigned because we weren't getting anywhere. I think this is the best solution."

Assistant Director Capt. Dan Parson was allowed to stay on temporarily.

Richmond County Superintendent Charles Larke said Capt. Parson - who has 10 years with the district - had begun last week pursuing disability benefits. He said the district will allow him to continue his pursuit.

Capt. Parson's yearly salary was $48,230.

Capt. Parson could not be reached for comment. The telephone number listed in the school directory was disconnected.

Maj. Farrell said he will now look for a job in the same field.

"I've got two things I can do, be a teacher or a policeman, and I think I can't be a teacher, I don't think they would hire me back," he said. "I've got 14 years police experience, and I'm retired from the Army. This is what I love."

School board member Barbara Padgett called for the resignations during Thursday's meeting. The board voted 5-4 to ask Maj. Farrell and Capt. Parson to step down.

Mrs. Padgett said the department needs more effective leadership.

Her request stems from a summer audit of the department's overtime, weapons and uniforms. Mrs. Padgett requested the audit but said answers to her questions were not properly provided and proved misleading.

The audit showed school officials paid $333,985 in overtime to 30 public safety officers from July 1999 through June.

Of that, 18 officers were paid $10,000 or more, including one who was paid $29,790 - almost as much as his $33,300 yearly salary.

The overtime payroll had to be approved by Dr. Larke.

Last month, in an effort to cut down on the amount of overtime, the board approved requests by Dr. Larke that included giving sheriff's deputies and state officers first dibs at working during ball games - at $14 an hour - and allowing the county's 911 system to take dispatched calls when schools are closed.

Dr. Larke told board members Thursday that he was working on a plan of action for Maj. Farrell and Capt. Parson but a family emergency delayed the process. He said, however, that it was not his request to fire the administrators.

ReachFaith Johnson at (706) 823-3765.


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