CLANTON, Ala. (WIAT) — Seven school board members walk into a courtroom.
It’s not a joke, but the intended result of a judge’s order in Chilton County.
According to court records dated May 25, every member of Chilton County Board of Education has been ordered to appear in a Clanton courtroom related to a lawsuit over letters sent to employees that demanded they repay thousands of dollars to correct years-long accounting errors.
The lawsuit against Superintendent Jason Griffin, filed by the Alabama Education Association on behalf of two employees, claims that Griffin’s demands that the employees pay thousands to correct the payroll errors amount to an “illegal act.”
Christie Payne, a lunchroom manager at Verbena High School represented in the lawsuit, was told she owes $23,465.40, dating back to the 2016-2017 school year.
Shellie Smith, the wife of school board member Chris Smith, is the other employee represented in the suit. She said that opening the letter from the school system demanding payments was “sickening.” The letter sent to Smith and signed by the superintendent demanded that the employee of 19 years repay over $33,000 they said she was overcompensated as a result of repeated payroll errors.
Now Payne and Smith have sued, and Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds has already granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the school district for garnishing or changing pay until the case is resolved.
While Payne and Smith are the only employees named in the lawsuit, CBS 42 has spoken to others who received similar letters from the school system. One of them, a bus driver who’s worked for the district for nearly two decades, said he doesn’t plan to pay the money or respond to the district in any way.
“It’s their mistake,” he said. “Why do the little people have to pay for it?”
A hearing on Payne and Smoth’s lawsuit is set for May 31 on the issue, and every member of the board of education is now expected to appear in the case.