State Politics

North Carolina sues operators of failed charter school

Attorney General Roy Cooper is suing the managers of a failed Kinston charter school, claiming they inflated enrollment estimates to get state money for education services they did not provide.

Kinston Charter Academy – which closed 10 days into the school year in September 2013 – got more than $666,000 in state money in August 2013, according to the lawsuit. The money was based on a projected enrollment of 366 students and was supposed to last until October.

On Sept. 3, the school had 189 students. It closed three days later. The students transferred to other schools, and the lawsuit says the state had to pay twice to educate those students for three months.

The suit, filed in Wake County Superior Court on Tuesday, claims that school CEO Ozie L. Hall Jr. and Demyra McDonald-Hall, his wife and board chairwoman, illegally obtained and misused state money. They knew the academy would not survive the 2013-14 school year, yet made imprudent or self-interested business transactions, and misled students by persuading them to enroll, the suit said.

The school also was the subject of a critical state audit released last year.

The school had a contentious relationship with the state charter school office. Hall, who is now running a different charter school, put out a statement saying the suit is baseless.

“The allegations in the complaint filed by the Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Cooper are frivolous, motivated by political ambition, and made in retaliation for my civil rights work in making complaints of discrimination against the state,” Hall wrote. “The lawsuit will be defended vigorously.”

The lawsuit seeks civil damages and asks for financial penalties.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner