I’m rooting around in Huntsville’s backyard again following that embarrassing incident on May 24 when Washington County sheriff’s deputies discovered Huntsville School board member Duane Glenn and former Superintendent Audra Kimball (now transferred to a new district administrative position) parked beneath a rural bridge at 10 p.m. after Glenn said they shared a dinner in Rogers.
Ellen Kreth, publisher of the Madison County Record, the other day called for both to resign their district positions. Kreth has been on this story from its origin months ago, using the Freedom of Information Act to gain facts and police videos of the incident. No journalist I know understands it better.
So today I’m taking a slightly different tack in this space I’m allotted and reprinting, with permission, her editorial calling for the resignations. I’d rather handle it this way than repeatedly quoting from her outstanding work in the lengthy and ongoing Title IX cases filed against the district that sprang from junior high school student athletes hazing some of their counterparts in sexually related locker-room incidents they called “bean dipping” and “baptisms.”
Kreth’s editorial, published in the June 30 edition, reads:
“Huntsville School Board member Duane Glenn and Director of Personnel and Compliance Audra Kimball have brought enough disrepute to the Huntsville School District and should step down.
“They have made themselves and the district they claim to love into a laughingstock. It would be selfish for them to stay.
“Glenn was caught with his pants down with Kimball by Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies standing on the passenger side of his truck shortly before 10 p.m. on a stormy night under a bridge off Highway 74 near Elkins.
“This incident is just another in a long list of inappropriate actions by Kimball and Glenn involving Title IX investigations into alleged sexual assault by members of the boys’ basketball team.
“Out of those investigations have come two lawsuits and, according to Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett, two criminal investigations, including one alleging that Kimball did not contact the child-abuse hotline immediately after learning about the allegations. No charges have been filed yet.
“Several reasons exist as to why this latest debacle is a community concern.
“On May 19, Kimball pulled a quick switcheroo with Jonathan Warren by asking the board to transfer her from superintendent to director of personnel and compliance, and promote Warren, who was director of personnel and compliance, to superintendent.
“Without taking applications, advertising the positions or waiting for new board members elected just four days later to decide, the board placed Kimball–who admitted to not complying with the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act several times–into a compliance position.
“Election day–the same day three board members in contested races lost in a strong public rebuke–Warren signed his superintendent contract.
“That night, Kimball was discovered with Glenn. The next day, she signed one of two new contracts, one paying her $83,795 per year.
“A contract that pays $9,608.35 for work between May 20 to June 30 was also drawn up May 24, but wasn’t signed by Kimball until May 31 and the board until June 20.
“Glenn did not recuse on the May 19 vote and says he will neither recuse from future votes involving Kimball nor will he resign, saying he won’t be ‘bullied’ off the board.
“Another reason the incident is of public matter concerns a Title IX lawsuit, which was filed by a parent of one of the victims of the alleged abuse. Glenn and Kimball’s actions have compromised that case.
“Let’s evaluate a possible witness list for that Title IX case, beginning with Kimball. In addition to being the subject of Durrett’s criminal investigations, she botched the Title IX investigations by not notifying the press, and thereby the public, of disciplinary hearings; by going into executive session during those hearings; by ignoring a court order concerning board training; and now being caught with Glenn creating a conflict of interest in the midst of a lawsuit concerning alleged sexual abuse.
“Let’s consider as a witness former board president Danny Thomas, who not only voted to throw out punishment for some students involved in the sexual abuse but also to lessen the punishment for those students who admitted placing their bare genitals on teammates’ faces. After the public outcry, Thomas lashed out at parents and the press, stating that if someone gives him a black eye, he punches back, and preaching to people that if they could do a better job, then they should run for school board. They took him up on that offer.
“At the recent board meeting, and Thomas’ last after coming in fourth in a four-person race, we had hoped Thomas would at least discuss ‘bridgecapade,’ showing a bit of transparency. Instead, he spent his time seated next to his buddy Glenn lecturing the new board on how to be effective. Oh, the irony.
“Glenn would also be a less-than-effective witness. First, he compromised the second Title IX investigation by sending decision-maker Brian Hogue a text telling Hogue if he didn’t punish the kids to the max there would be trouble for the district. Hogue had to abruptly recuse, costing the district more time and money.
“And now Glenn has created another conflict by being discovered with Kimball the day before she signed one of her two contracts. Glenn said he and Kimball had eaten in Rogers that night and, on the way home, he needed to use the restroom, so he pulled under the bridge. He said he was never on the passenger side of the truck. Deputies’ body-camera videos show a different story.
“A settlement hearing in the case is scheduled for September and a trial is scheduled for February 2023. Durrett has said he will decide whether or not criminal charges will be filed within the next few weeks.
“The district is in need of healing and needs to move forward. It has a lot of problems to solve and doesn’t need any more conflicts of interest or black eyes.
“Six new board members and Glenn–who ran unopposed–will hold their first meeting on July 11. The new board’s job of providing transparency and building back community trust would be easier without Glenn and Kimball.”
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master’s journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].