SCS leaders silent about why investigations were left out of open records requests

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County Schools refuses to answer our questions about transparency as we learn about a second investigation involving the interim superintendent.

SCS spokesperson Natalia Powers was the only person at the school board meeting Tuesday night who took our questions, sort of.

"It has to be off camera," she said.

"That's how we get any answers?" WREG asked.

"Right," she replied.

WREG pressed for answers after we learned a second investigation wasn't handed over in our open records requests.

State law gives the public the right to access government documents and public records.

We asked for all of Dr. Ray's files in February, because we always investigate people who step into leadership roles.

It wasn't until we submitted a second request on April 4 asking for "any files, documents, disciplinary actions or complaints" involving Dr. Ray that we received a memo.

It was sent to us April 18 and outlines a sexual harassment claim against him. A law firm determined it was unfounded last fall.

But buried in that report is a brief mention about the second investigation from 2007 involving Dr. Ray and "improper and unethical hiring and misuse of school funds."

It states an internal audit showed it was unfounded.

But WREG wants to know why the district didn't give us any information about that investigation in either request?

We tried asking Dr. Ray and the school board chair about it, but after the meeting they went to a part of the building we couldn't access.

"The superintendent has other obligations," said Powers.

SCS officials said they would let us know the 2007 investigation wasn't given to us in either request. We'll let you know what they say.

In a statement Tuesday, the district stated:

"When matters are investigated externally, there are different processes that are followed regarding the housing of a file. There are several factors that may become apparent upon receipt or during the course of investigating a complaint that may also determine the best course of action in ensuring a thorough, fair and impartial investigation into the complaint.  Those factors vary and include, but are not limited to, the nature of the complaint, the multiplicity of similar complaints, any legal implications that may impact employees beyond the scope of the investigation, and the sensitivity of the allegations.  When some or all of these factors exist, SCBE may escalate a matter to the legal department for handling in order to preserve the integrity of the matter’s investigation until it is concluded."

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