Grand Jury hands down report of information of impeachment on county BOE board member

Published 2:50 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

An Escambia County Grand Jury handed down a report of information of impeachment and prayer of removal involving an Escambia County Schools board member during its October session, according to court records.

District 6 Board Member Sherry Digmon is charged with willful neglect of office, corruption of office and committing a crime of moral turpitude.

According to court records, Digmon allegedly committed willful acts of misconduct and/or corruption that she should be impeached and removed from office, pursuant to provisions of Article 7, Section 175 of the Constitution of Alabama, and Section 46-11-1 of the Code of Alabama.

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In charge one of willful neglect of office, Digmon is accused of failing to comply with the requirements of The School Board Governance Improvement Act of 2012, Section 16-1-41.1 of the state code, which states that each elected or appointed member of the board of education shall be required to affirm certain principles of the School Board Governance Act, including each decision, action and vote taken solely meets the needs and interests of students or the system; no decision, action or vote should be taken or made to serve or promote the personal, political or pecuniary interests of the member; each decision or action should be based on the interests of the system as a whole; the superintendent’s views shall be considered by the board before taking action on any measure or proposal; and that each member shall attend scheduled meetings and actively participate in school system functions, activities and training programs.

The court records, which were made public Monday, outlines the improvements Superintendent Michele McClung initiated to improve the system as a whole, including capital improvements to facilities, remodeling and improving classrooms, starting a Pre-K program at A.C. Moore, Chromebooks for students in grades 2012 and implemented literacy and math camps, to name a few.

According to court records, McClung’s contract came up for a vote on Sept. 26, 2023, and Digmon failed to attend the meeting, and that phone records indicate that she allegedly had extensive communications with other board members before and after the September meeting. A quorum wasn’t established as at lease three of the four who failed to show at the meeting allegedly communicated with Digmon.

During the Oct. 12, 2023 meeting, Digmon voted not to renew McClung’s contract, and allegedly ignored positive things the superintendent accomplished to improve the school system for the students, according to court records. Digmon’s decision was made contrary to her oath and the provisions of The School Board Governance Improvement Act of 2012, the court records state.

The court records indicate that, based on McClung’s evaluation scores, her contract should’ve been renewed and a vote to not renew the contract was not in the best interest of the students or the school system as a whole.

Additionally, the court record stated that McClung previously questioned payments to Digmon’s business, “and it is the position of the Grand Jury based on testimony given, that Digmon allegedly turned against McClung because she questioned payments made to her business from the Escambia County Board of Education, and she based any subsequent decisions out of spite for McClung and not for the children or the best interest of the system as a whole.”
Additionally, the court record alleges Digmon violated her duty as a school board member by refusing to publish articles, which promoted the school system and the superintendent, which were written by a contract writer for the school system.

According to the court record, Digmon did not provide any basis for her no vote on Oct. 12, except to say she was concerned upon being contacted by employees, which reflected a lack of concern for the children, given the progress the school had made for the benefit of the children.

The court record also outlines charge two, corruption in office.

According to Atmore Advance archives, an indictment was returned by a grand jury, charging Digmon on the offense of using her position and materials for personal gain.

According to the indictment and court record, count one alleges Digmon used her position as a school board member for personal financial gain by selling ads in a publication, Atmore Magazine and/or Grace Publishing LLC, which she has a financial interest in and which received a financial gain in excess of $2,500, in violation of Code of Alabama 36-25-5(a).

Count two of the indictment alleges Digmon did in the course of her position as a school board member solicit a thing of value U.S. currency for payment of advertising, from a subordinate, Superintendent John Knott and/or Chief School Financial Officer Julie Madden, by soliciting ads for the financial benefit of a business, to-wit: Atmore Magazine and/or Grace Publishing LLC, which she has a financial interest in and having a financial gain in excess of $2,500, in violation of Code of Alabama 13A-25-5(d).

Based on the evidence given, Digmon solicited her subordinates to purchase ads for her Atmore Magazine and/or Grace Publishing LLC, of which she has an ownership interest in, the court record stated.

According to court records, charge three, a crime of moral turpitude, alleges Digmon willfully and deceitfully solicited expensive ads for Atmore Magazine from former Superintendent John Knott and Chief Schools Financial Officer Julie Madden, both of whom were her subordinates, and without board knowledge or approval. She also never acknowledged to the board that the ads were purchased nor did she abstain from voting on the payment of these ads, according to the record.

McClung confirmed Monday that Digmon is still a board member.