Riverview school superintendent still paid despite his removal

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Riverview Gardens school district removed its superintendent three months ago, but he still earns $13,300 a month in salary and $700 a month in car allowances.

District records reviewed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch show that Henry Williams has collected more than $42,000 since his March removal, when state auditors told the district Williams had directed school money to his girlfriend, his life insurance accounts and his trips in the U.S. and abroad.

"It almost makes me ill," said Jackie Mink, a homeowner in the district. "It's absolutely shameful, a misuse of public trust."

Some board members said they would like to suspend Williams without pay before eventually firing him.

But a clause in Williams' contract -- which ends June 30, 2009 -- requires a hearing first.

That hearing has been delayed indefinitely because the district can't find documents that address charges against Williams.

"They're just not there," said Tom Mickes, the district's lawyer. "Payment schedules, advances on salary, reimbursement for expenses -- most of those documents, at least a large portion of those, are missing."

District officials said they have their suspicions but would not speak about them publicly. Williams' lawyers say they can't hold the hearing without the documents.

"It's a contractual right he negotiated," said Williams' attorney, Ronald Norwood.

Kelli Hopkins, director of education policy for the Missouri School Board Association, said the clause was unusual. She also said districts that don't pay employees on administrative leave could be vulnerable to lawsuits.

Williams, who does not have a listed telephone number, refused to talk to reporters who visited his home last week.

Boards in other cities have struggled when trying to oust Williams.

Williams had to gather community support in Syracuse, N.Y., to stop board members from removing him in the early 1990s, former district officials there said.

In 1995, the Little Rock, Ark., board voted not to extend Williams' contract. Williams requested more than $160,000 in bonus and trust fund payments and threatened to sue when the district wouldn't pay.

In 1998, the Kansas City School Board wanted to remove Williams but had to buy out his contract, paying Williams $15,000 in severance, plus the remainder of his $164,500 salary.

Riverview Gardens' reserves have dipped from $12 million to less than $2 million over the past two years under Williams, the newspaper found.

In March, state auditors reported finding that Williams directed school money to his daughter, his girlfriend and her family, as well as roughly $150,000 to his own savings plans. He spent thousands of district dollars on trips, office art, cash advances and theater tickets.

County prosecutors then charged him with stealing and tax evasion. Williams posted bail.

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Information from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, www.stltoday.com

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