AG’s office finds there are no ‘sufficient grounds’ to remove Sherry Richardson

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office announced it found “no sufficient” grounds in its investigation of Clark County Public Schools Board of Education member Sherry Richardson to remove her from office on Monday.

In February after an internal investigation, school board attorney Brian Thomas forwarded allegations that Richardson’s family business, Howard’s Overhead Doors, made more than $85,000 from sales of good and services to a district-funded construction project, the athletic complex at George Rogers Clark High School, which led to the investigation by the attorney general’s office.

Under Kentucky law (KRS 160.180) it specifies that a person from is disqualified from serving as a school board member if they have have an “interest” in the sale of goods or services to the board.

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In a letter sent to Board Chair Ashley Ritchie, Assistant Attorney General Jeremy Sylvester wrote, “Here, it does not appear that Mrs. Richardson had the requisite knowledge of Howard’s sale of the maintenance shop door and remotes to CCPS to render her ineligible for membership on the Board under KRS 160.180.”

Sylvester wrote that the investigation found no “evidence tending to suggest that Rising Sun and Howard’s had a secret profit sharing arrangement.” During the investigation, the attorney general’s office found that Howard’s provided estimates to the project’s general contractor, Rising Sun Development, in 2017 and the Board approved the contract and the project soon after that. Rising Sun was under no obligation from the Board to subcontract with Howard’s. This was all done before Richardson began her term of office in 2019.

Furthermore, the investigation found that in her role as treasurer, Richardson “handles accounts payable, payroll, taxes, and financial reports.”

In the letter Sylvester wrote that Richardson’s husband, Will, “has primary responsibility for customer service and sales” and “he wrote the work orders and generated the invoices for the maintenance shop doors and remotes and remitted them to CCPS for payment.” He also wrote that Richardson stated she had no knowledge of the business dealings until the compliant about her came forward and she was not aware the Board had approved the invoices.

Richardson’s legal counsel, Corbin attorney Timothy Crawford, had this to say: “Mrs. Richardson and I are pleased with the thorough investigation conducted by the attorney general’s office and we are also pleased that they agreed with our legal analysis that she had not violated any of her ethical obligations or any of the eligibility requirements to serve as a school board member. She is happy and pleased to continue serving the students and parents of Clark County.”

In recent weeks, Richardson led charge for the Board to hire new legal services which culminated in a 3-0 vote last Friday to terminate the business relationship it had with Thomas’ firm Grant, Rose & Pumphrey, despite the firm submitting a bid that would have charged the Board an hourly rate $120 cheaper than the Mount Sterling firm that the Board voted to hire.

Several parents in attendance at Friday’s meeting admonished the Board for how it handled the issue.

Ritchie and Board Co-Chair Bill Taulbee recused themselves from the interviews and votes concerning legal services. Both claim they were excluded from conversations about what day and time the meeting would take place.