The audacity of the Johnston County school system is nothing short of shameful. School system leaders have been caught trying to feather the retirement nest egg of their good buddy, the superintendent.
And the superintendent, Ed Croom, is about to ride off into the sunset earning six figures a year for being retired. A lot of that money is going to come from the billfolds and checkbooks of grandmothers, farmers, shopkeepers and single moms in places like Cleveland, Smithfield, Clayton and Kenly.
That’s because state legislators finally realized highly-paid state employees were feathering their own nests at taxpayers expense, so they passed a law that says taxpayers in Goldsboro, for instance, wouldn’t be required to pay the extra money for a fat retirement check for, say, a superintendent in Johnston County. Instead, that money would come from Johnston County.
And Croom had the temerity to claim that he was proud of Johnston County’s transparency regarding the issue. Now, we suppose he could have meant that he was glad the school system didn’t explain itself at the time it was feathering Croom’s nest and that he’s happy that he almost made it to retirement before the public found out about the pork barrel spending that has come his way.
Or perhaps he’s proud of the fact that his boss, school board chairman Larry Strickland, has refused to comment on Croom’s pay. Of course, Strickland is seeking an office in the state legislature. We’re quite sure the voters of Johnston County are not eager to elect a politician who gets caught spending big money on his friends and then refuses to explain why he did it.
Or perhaps Croom is proud of the effort of his public information officer, Tracey Peedin Jones, who has repeatedly declined to provide the public with access to school system employees who know best where the money came from, where it went and how it impacts Johnston County taxpayers. She’s gone as far as telling one reporter it was his job to figure out how Croom’s pay was delivered.
Johnston County taxpayers deserve real transparency here. Croom is going to get his money. He’s got the county tied up in knots. But school leaders have a duty – badly abdicated thus far – to tell the public what they’ve done with their money. And county commissioners, who fund much of the local school system’s budget, have a fiduciary responsibility to demand answers from their counterparts in the school system office.
And if county commissioners can’t elicit answers and school system leaders won’t provide them to the public, voters ought to seek new leadership at every turn.