Request to fire Brookland superintendent fails after over 4-hour executive session

Multiple investigations surround the Brookland School District over missing items, misuse of funds

Request to fire Brookland superintendent fails after over 4-hour executive session

BROOKLAND, Ark. (KAIT) - Dozens of parents showed up to a Brookland School Board meeting Monday night looking for answers after multiple investigations from several agencies.

The meeting began at 7 p.m. and the members got through the agenda about 7 minutes later.

Region 8 News reported after 11:30 p.m., the school board came out of executive session.

School board meets amid investigation

We learned that they called for Brookland Superintendent Keith McDaniel to be fired, but that request failed to get votes.

The school board will put him on an improvement plan with monthly goals.

The board said they entered into an executive session for a “personnel” reason, but they did not elaborate further and declined comment when asked for specifics on why those two motions were presented.

“It was a gut-wrenching process,” Josh Gallion, Brookland School Board President said regarding the over four-hour executive session. “It’s all we ever discuss is the personnel, because that’s what you’re supposed to discuss in executive session.”

Gallion said that all seven board members discussed “all aspects” of the district during the session.

“The Brookland School District is the most important thing to all seven of us,” Gallion said. “It was a tough process, and we’re going to do whatever we can to get things going back in the right direction and make keep Brookland School District -- and keep Brookland School District -- the best school district in Northeast Arkansas.”

Gallion declined to comment when asked who should be held responsible for the multiple investigations into the school district.

Supt. McDaniel also declined our interview request after the meeting.

The school board unanimously approved new policies concerning the disposal of equipment and use of school equipment.

Request to fire Brookland superintendent fails after over 4-hour executive session

Below is the policy put into place by the district.

1. Disposal of Equipment

  • Timelines will be established on the physical removal & disposal of retired assets.
  • Items will not be taken for scrap disposal without prior written approval. A report will be submitted to the superintendent that shows the items to be taken to the scrap yard and the receipt from the scrap yard will be attached and submitted for deposit.
  • Retired assets will be disposed of following guidelines of removal through scrapping or selling assets through the bid process.
  • No employee has the authorization to sell or give away any equipment without written consent from the School Board.

2. Use of School Equipment

  • The Brookland School District will ensure that all school property will not be utilized by anyone for personal use. School equipment will not be taken off campus for personal use.
  • The equipment will not be allowed to leave the campus without prior written approval with a description of location and purpose of its use.
  • The maintenance and transportation vehicles will only be used during the work hours and not be taken to the individual’s home in the evenings.
  • No employee will be allowed to have personally purchased materials ordered and delivered to the school campus.

There will be a form for individuals that store school property in storage to sign and document time and date.

This will allow documentation of the last individual responsible for the stored items.

You can view the full minutes from the meeting by clicking here.

Termination Letter

Brookland School District releases termination letter for maintenance director as investigation continues

Brookland school officials have released details of a letter recommending the termination of the district’s director of maintenance as an investigation continues into missing items and possible misuse of public funds at the district.

School district attorney Donn Mixon provided Region 8 News a copy of the recommended termination letter for Brookland School District Director of Maintenance Rob Ingram through an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request.

Ingram submitted his resignation Monday afternoon following an investigation by the Arkansas Legislative Audit into missing items and possible misuse of public funds.

According to the district’s attorney Donn Mixon, Ingram was told to return and meet with Superintendent Keith McDaniel on Jan. 25 after being told to stay home the previous Friday while the district investigated “matters involving him.”

The one-page letter from McDaniel to Ingram noted that McDaniel would recommend to the Brookland School Board that Ingram’s contract be terminated, citing at least 13 separate reasons including a “lack of honesty and oversight ability needed to be a director of maintenance.”

They include:

  • You took two mixers belonging to the school district to a restaurant owner saying that they were off the inventory and to be disposed off.
  • You used another school employee to help you load the mixers and told him that the mixers were in storage, were in the way and had gone through proper channels to be removed and discarded.
  • You gave the mixers to an individual who sold them as one repaired mixer to a local business for $1,200.
  • On Aug. 24, you told two Aramark employees that you thought their mixer was not used and that you would bring it back.
  • On Sept. 17, you said that the mixer had been sold to another district.
  • You admitted telling the kitchen manager and an Aramark employee that the mixers went to another school district because you didn’t think it was any of their business.
  • You contacted a mower repair business and offered it an old Walker mower which was not in working order.
  • The Walker mower was taken to the repair shop where it was left in exchange for $250 cash.
  • You admitted giving the mower to the repair shop.
  • You did not seek, nor did you get, the permission of the superintendent to take the mixers to give away or sell.
  • Your actions reflect poorly upon the integrity of the school district.
  • You lack the honesty and oversight ability needed to be a director of maintenance.
  • Your actions are inconsistent with your continued employment in the school district.

Mixon told Region 8 News that the letter was released due to public interest in the situation and that Ingram was placed on administrative leave before the resignation happened.

“Mr. Ingram was suspended on a Friday with instructions to come back at 1 p.m. on Monday to meet with the superintendent to receive the consequences of his actions. When he appeared at that hour on that date, he handed the superintendent the resignation,” Mixon told Region 8 News. “This was while the superintendent had his recommendation for termination in hand.”

Mixon also said Ingram’s resignation was final and cut off any hearing that could have been held before the Brookland School Board to appeal the superintendent’s decision.

Ingram was also notified of his right to seek an opinion from the Arkansas Attorney General’s office on the release of the FOI request Friday, Mixon said, noting Ingram was given three days to refer it but has not notified school officials that he has sought the opinion.

Last week, we reported the Arkansas Legislative Audit was investigating the district for possible misuse of public funds after several items reportedly came up missing.

It started with a Brookland Police Department investigation that was later turned over to the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office because of a conflict of interest.

Chief Jon Moore said the district’s director of security, Doug Formon, contacted his office on Sept. 22 regarding the possible theft of a Hobart 20-quart commercial-grade stand mixer and stainless steel table valued at $5,500 from the Pre-K kitchen area.

At that time Ingram told Moore that “other food mixers had been taken out of service several years ago,” but he was unaware that the Pre-K still had a mixer in service.

Ingram added that the equipment had been “dispositioned,” meaning they had been taken off the books and given to Danny Hathcoat, a part-time Brookland police officer.

Moore stated in a Jan. 19 news release that Hatchoat told him the “school was looking to give [the equipment] away because they were taking up space in storage,” and that no money was exchanged.

After getting the mixers, as well as a deep fryer, Hathcoat said he sold one to Mr. Jim’s Pizza in Brookland.

Mr. Jim’s Pizza Manager Wade Shapp told Region 8 News, “We were caught off by this situation. We were shocked and not contacted by any law enforcement agency or school administration.”

He wasn’t sure what the next steps with the mixer would be, but Shapp said they would “cross that bridge when it comes.”

“The issue or concerns is all on the school’s hands,” Shapp added. “They need to do their due diligence to solve the problem.”

“Danny said the others are still in storage at his barn,” the police report stated. “I informed Danny to not dispose or move any of the property that Rob had given him until this investigation has finished.”

Moore stated that the missing mixer was not the one given to Hathcoat.

“Upon learning the above information and after a meeting with school auditors, I decided it best to ask an outside agency to take over the investigation,” Moore said. “I later met with Craighead County Chief Deputy Justin Rolland to formally request this, at which time he agreed to take on the investigation.”

When the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office took over the investigation, more items came up missing and used by private individuals, which is against the Arkansas Constitution.

During the course of the investigation, Investigator David Vaughn was made aware of several school property items, missing, or sold, or being used for personal use by individuals.

In October, Investigator Vaughn was made aware of the missing mixer, but also about:

  • A school-owned mower that was sold to Sharpe’s Small Engines a “couple of years ago,” for $250 cash. Brookland School’s Maintenance Supervisor Rob Ingram told Sharpe that the money would be used to, “feed the guys.” In Dec. Ingram later denied he delivered the mower and denied accepting any money from Sharpe.
  • An old gas pump from the school that was now at Ingram’s personal shop at his home.
  • A shower stall was removed from the school’s science lab and reportedly installed at Ingram’s hunting cabin.
  • A load of lumber was bought under the school’s account for Ingram’s personal use. Vaughn was told the “school would handle that issue.”
  • Two or three trailers were taken off school property by Ingram and not returned.
  • Ingram and Anthony Hunt, the Brookland School District Transportation Director, reportedly were seen on camera taking items from the “team store,” at the football stadium. The manager of the team store told the investigator that it was normal for them to take some items from the annual sale and that all items were eventually paid for after a few days.
  • A witness said that Hunt loaded a barrel of oil in his school owned truck and leave campus on May 30, at 4:45 p.m. and never return with it.
  • The school’s welding trailer and welder had been off-campus for ‘some time,’ and that Hunt was seen returning the trailer after questions were raised at the school board meeting.
  • A school-owned excavator was missing from campus from the time school was closed by the pandemic, until after school restarted in Aug. 2020. The excavator was reportedly seen by the school’s SRO in the Bono area being pulled by a school owned truck.
  • The witness also told Vaughn that Ingram and Hunt took several times from campus like coolers, scrap aluminum, and other items.

A few days later during more interviews, another maintenance employee told Vaughn basically the same information as the previous witness, and another employee said he, “didn’t want to talk much because he was the low-man on campus and needed to keep his job.”

Investigator Vaughn then interviewed Brookland School Director of Security, Doug Formon.

Formon told Vaughn that the school’s security video doesn’t go back far enough to see what happened to the Pre-K mixer, but that he did speak with Ingram about the lumber.

Formon told investigators that Ingram told him that he had the lumber delivered to the school for convenience and that he paid for it himself. Formon said he called the lumber company who said it had been billed to the school’s account and that, “Ingram had already called them to correct the billing.”

Formon said the rest of the equipment and items were before his time with the school.

Brookland School Superintendent Keith McDaniel interview with investigators:

Investigator Vaughn then interviewed Brookland School Superintendent Keith McDaniel.

McDaniel told Vaughn the missing mixer was installed when the Pre-K building was built and that the mixer wasn’t listed as a separate item on inventory.

McDaniel said he was aware of the two mixers that were sold to a part-time Brookland Police officer. McDaniel said the two mixers had been, “dispositioned,” and that the school was unsuccessful in trying to sell them.

McDaniel said, “before he became superintendent, things were not always dispositioned through the school board.”

McDaniel said he was unaware of the oil barrel missing.

As for the welding trailer and the excavator, McDaniel said Ingram and Hunt were seen “recently” returning the items to school grounds.

McDaniel said until recently, the school would let employees borrow equipment for short periods of time and also that they would loan equipment to other schools and borrow from other schools as well.

McDaniel said they no longer allow employees to borrow equipment.

When Region 8 News asked McDaniel and the school’s attorney Donn Mixon about the Arkansas Constitution Article 14 Section 2 that states, “No money or property belonging to the public school fund, or to this State, for the benefit of schools or universities, shall ever be used for any other than for the respective purposes to which it belongs,” we’ve yet to receive an answer.

The school sent KAIT this response:

The Brookland School District became aware of some equipment matters which caused concern. The Brookland Police Department was notified and began looking into the matters. At some point, the Police Department decided it had a conflict and turned the matter over to the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office interviewed some individuals and, apparently, closed its investigation. After consulting legal counsel the School District decided that the investigation was not complete and that other inquiries needed to be made. Doug Formon, head of security for the School District, has been assigned the task of completing the investigation into this matter.
Donn Mixon, Brookland School District attorney

Brookland School Maintenance Supervisor Rob Ingram’s interview with investigators:

On Dec. 17, Brookland School Maintenance Supervisor Rob Ingram was interviewed after being read his Miranda Rights and agreed to speak without a lawyer.

Ingram told sheriff investigators that the missing mixer at the Pre-K was installed by the builder and that there was “no serial numbers recorded.” Ingram also said he had no knowledge of a missing mixer until it was reported.

Ingram said the two mixers that were given to part-time Brookland Police Officer Danny Hathcoat had been off the books for “some time.” He also reportedly told school employees that the mixers were given to another school because “He didn’t think they needed to know that Danny had them.”

As for the mower sold to Sharpe’s Small Engine, Ingram said the money from the mower sale was “supposed to be put in a fund to use for a pot luck, or coon out for the employees during the summer, but were no longer allowed to do that.” Ingram said, “any cash that he takes goes directly to administration now.”

Ingram said he didn’t use the excavator for personal use, but was allowed to use it to, “clean his property after the March tornado, but that it was allowed by the school at that time.”

Ingram told investigators that Anthony Hunt told him the excavator was at a Nettleton school and that, “he does not know anything about it being pulled through Bono late at night by a school truck.”

Ingram stated, “he feels like someone is wanting his job and telling all of this stuff about him to get him fired.”

Brookland School Transportation Supervisor Anthony Hunt’s interview with investigators:

On Dec. 18, Brookland School Transportation Supervisor Anthony Hunt was interviewed by investigators.

Hunt told deputies that he didn’t know anything about the missing Pre-K mixer and that the only knowledge he had of mixers were the two given to part-time Brookland Police Officer Danny Hathcoat.

Hunt said he sold a loader attachment, but the check was written to the school and turned into the administration.

As for the mower, Hunt said he remembers it going to Sharpe’s Small Engine, but thought it was “part of the deal when he purchased two new mowers from Sharpe.” Hunt said he didn’t deliver the mower, and that Sharpe never paid him any money.

Hunt said the missing oil barrel was empty, and that he “takes empty barrels to use for horses running barrels as well as some for burn barrels.” He said he doesn’t have a need for diesel oil.

Hunt confirmed that he used the school’s excavator at his personal land in Bono, but that it was allowed by the Superintendent at the time.

Hunt said when he did borrow the school’s excavator, he pulled it with his personal truck.

Hunt also told investigators that Nettleton, Valley View, and Brookland borrow equipment from each other when needed.

Hunt said he had used the school’s welder on several occasions, but “returned it to the school when finished each time.”

Brookland School Board reaction:

  • Josh Gallion, Vice President - “No comment as this is an ongoing investigation.”
  • Scott Gibson, Secretary - “I can not comment on the ongoing investigation at Brookland School.”

Legislative Audit:

The Arkansas Legislative Audit is investigating the Brookland School District for possible misuse of public funds after the investigation into missing and misused items.

Region 8 News will have more details as they become available.

Copyright 2021 KAIT. All rights reserved.