Special to the Ocracoke Observer
As reported in the Rappahannock Record with additional reporting by Connie Leinbach
LANCASTER, Va.–The trial in a lawsuit by Lancaster County, Va., against Hyde County Schools Superintendent Dr. Randolph H. Latimore Sr., has been postponed to Aug. 17.
Lancaster County is seeking to recover $208,261.04 from Latimore, a former school superintendent there, which was reportedly authorized by then Lancaster County School Board Chairman Don McCann without the school board’s knowledge.
According to the county’s March 2008 lawsuit, after Latimore’s contract was not renewed in 2007, he requested payment on accumulated unused leave and sick days that amounted to 300 days more than he had previously certified he was due or that his contract allowed.
Events leading to the lawsuit began June 29, 2007, one day prior to Latimore stepping down as superintendent after the board voted not to renew his contract.
Latimore claimed to have accumulated 491.75 days of unused sick and leave time over his years of working in the Virginia school system as a teacher, principal and superintendent.
After then school finance director consulted with the school attorney on wording of Latimore’s contract, the board chair at the time authorized the finance officer to cut a check to Latimore for the full amount without consulting other members of the school board.
Apparently, the other school board members were not aware of the payment until auditors uncovered it during the annual audit and notified the board in September 2007.
The discovery prompted the Lancaster County Board of Supervisors to investigate and audit the school budget and the appropriation, as well as make a claim for recovery of public funds.
In an earlier opinion, Circuit Court Judge Harry T. Taliaferro III, who is presiding, noted that eight months prior to the termination of Latimore’s contract on October 26, 2006, “…Latimore certified…to the auditor that he had accumulated 40 days of annual leave and 140 days of sick leave. Latimore’s accumulated unused leave time as then reported was contrary to the provisions of his employment contract because the leave hours reported exceeded those agreed to in such contract.”
The day before Latimore’s employment ended, he and (the finance officer) obtained the $208,261.04 payment.
“This exceeded the maximum number of days allowed in the employment contract,” the judge wrote. “Despite this error, Latimore accepted the payment which both he and (the finance officer) approved by signing the (transmittal) form. The school board did not approve the payment prior to it being made.”
The jury trial had been scheduled for March 3 to 5.
After serving as principal of Mattamuskeet School for a few years, Latimore became superintendent of Hyde County Schools in November 2011.
David Tolson, the Hyde County school board member from Ocracoke, confirmed that the board had known about Latimore’s troubles in Virginia.
“He explained it to us and even had his lawyer talk to us,” Tolson said in an interview. “Yes, the board members were concerned about this (lawsuit). It was a mark on his record, but we thought he was what Hyde County needed at the time.”
While he can’t comment on the pending lawsuit, Tolson said that compared to the other applicants, this incident did not override Latimore’s qualifications and his professional demeanor.
“We interviewed him thoroughly,” Tolson said. “He’s done a good job and he’s a good, decent man.”