LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former eastern Kentucky schools superintendent assigned his wife to an administrative job with an inflated salary, costing the Martin County district an extra $200,000 over four years, the state auditor said Tuesday.
The review found that former superintendent Mark Blackburn's wife was paid $50,000 more per year than her predecessor in her role as the district's parent involvement coordinator, state Auditor Adam Edelen said. The job, which was funded by federal grant money, has since been abolished by local school officials.
Edelen's office said those findings were referred to the state Department of Education for further investigation.
The review also found that a local needs-based scholarship administered by the ex-superintendent had benefited two of his children, as well as children of other Martin County school district personnel, Edelen said. His office said district staff had little or no knowledge of the selection process.
The auditor said the review of the Appalachian district along the West Virginia border found lax oversight by the local school board. Edelen also said the former superintendent's contract contained redundant or unclear benefits.
"This examination once again demonstrates the need for boards to get engaged and properly oversee the activities of their superintendents," Edelen said.
Blackburn served as superintendent for eight years until the school board declined to renew his contract. Blackburn was a teacher for several years before becoming an administrator, and he now teaches in an elementary school in the Martin County district due to the tenure he gained during his previous stint in the classroom.
His wife also was reassigned and teaches at an elementary school in the district, but not the same one where her husband works.
Blackburn said Tuesday that he was "disappointed in how the wording of that audit was portrayed to the public."
He said he's limited in what he can say because he's involved in litigation with the school board over matters unrelated to the audit.
Blackburn said he did not personally award the scholarships that went to his children as well as to other students. He said that role went to the school board.
Blackburn said his children earned the scholarships on their own.
"Being the superintendent's children did not eliminate them from the opportunity to get the scholarship," he said.
Current Martin County schools Superintendent Steven Meadows said the district will use the auditor's report as "a learning opportunity" to improve its operations.
"If we need to create or firm up existing policies, then we'll do so," he said.
Meadows, who took over as superintendent last July 1, said district officials are reviewing all jobs to make sure their pay is commensurate with assigned duties.
The auditor's office recommended that staff assigned to duties similar to the role Blackburn's wife had should be given specific job expectations and required duties. Such staff should be required to document what they do on the job each day.