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Ky. Attorney General investigates allegation against Clark County schools board member

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The Kentucky Attorney General’s office is investigating a complaint that a Clark County Schools board member violated state law by engaging in business dealings with a school either as a vendor or subcontractor and her company was paid $85,335.

“Our office is reviewing this matter,” Elizabeth Kuhn, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office said Thursday of the Feb. 22, 2021 complaint first reported by WLEX-TV.

Tim Crawford, an attorney representing the Clark County schools board member Sherry Richardson, said he couldn’t discuss any details about the substance of the investigation.

But Crawford said, “ I can confirm that my legal research which I supplied to the Attorney General’s Office indicates she did not violate any school board eligibility laws which would prevent her from serving on the Clark County Board of Education. “

Clark County School Board Attorney Brian Thomas submitted the complaint to the Attorney General. He told the Herald-Leader Thursday he could not comment because of attorney-client privilege.

The complaint to the Attorney General’s Office obtained by the Herald-Leader includes the following details:

Richardson took office in January 2019.

During 2019 and 2020, the Clark County Board of Education was involved in the construction of two development projects -- the George Rogers Clark High School Gymnasium and football stadium.

The bid for the construction of the projects was awarded to the contractor, Rising Sun Developing Company.

“Howard’s Overhead Doors was apparently a subcontractor to that contract and agreed to supply the supplies, materials and services for the project for the installation of certain overhead /garage style doors,” the complaint said.

Since Richardson and her husband were officers in the company and since she was majority owner of Howard’s Overhead Doors, the relationship violated state law, the complaint said. The violation was not only because of her position with the company, her ownership interest in the company, but also with her husband and son’s relationship with the company, the complaint said.

It was not immediately evident through documents that there was a relationship between Rising Sun and the overhead door company, the complaint said, and the only person who was aware of the contract was Richardson.

The complaint said an Accounts Payable sheet from Rising Sun showed that Howard’s Overhead Doors received payments under invoices totaling $85,335. The complaint says that as of February 2021, there still remained unpaid invoices in the sum of $5,653 so that Howard’s Overhead Doors has or will benefit to the amount of between $91,000 to $139,000 in a 20-month period.

According to the complaint, Richardson voted to approve each of the pay applications to Rising Sun which resulted in approval of payments of the invoices submitted to Rising Sun and distribution of school funds to Howard’s Overhead Doors. The complaint said the approval of the payments would be a violation of state law.

“What should happen is that Mrs. Richardson should be disqualified as a board member of the Clark County Board of Education pursuant to the statute,” the complaint said.

Crawford, Richardson’s attorney, told the Herald-Leader that the door company was paid by Rising Sun, not the Clark County Board of Education.

Crawford said after Rising Sun was awarded the contract, some of the supplies they bought came from Howard’s Overhead Doors “of which Mrs. Richardson and her husband own.”

Rising Sun purchased goods from the door company, not the Clark County Board of Education, he said. Rising Sun, not the Clark County Board of Education, paid the door company for the goods that they purchased.

At no time did Howard’s Overhead Doors have a contract with the Clark County Board of Education, said Crawford.

Rising Sun paid Howard’s Overhead Doors for goods but Howard’s Overhead Doors had no control over where Rising Sun used or installed those goods, Crawford said.

Crawford said there was an old Attorney General Opinion out of southeast Kentucky where a sitting school board member sold coal to some coal companies who ended up getting contracts with the board of education that that board member sat on.

The Attorney General at the time said the fact that it was a third party who purchased the coal and a third party who paid for the coal was not a conflict of interest for a sitting board member, Crawford said.

Crawford said Richardson currently remains on the Clark County board.

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