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Education

FBI sought CMS documents after former superintendent Wilcox’s departure, officials say

 

The FBI contacted Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools seeking documents after former superintendent Clayton Wilcox resigned under pressure last year, current school board chair Elyse Dashew and former school board chair Mary McCray said Thursday.

In response to questions from the Observer, Dashew said the district received a federal summons for documents after Wilcox left. Federal investigators were checking whether federal funds had been misused, she said.

Wilcox served as the superintendent for two years before he was suspended by the board in mid-July. He resigned in August without any public explanation for his departure.

Reached by phone, Wilcox referred a request for comment to his attorney, Meg Maloney.

“That happened after Mr. Wilcox’s resignation,” Maloney said in an email. “He knows of no basis for such an inquiry. During his tenure, he expected his staff to comply with all state and federal laws.”

The FBI generally operates in concert with federal prosecutors. Asked if there was an ongoing probe of CMS, a spokeswoman for the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray of Charlotte, said, “We do not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.”

Federal investigators asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to provide documents related to Wilcox’s resignation, according to an August subpoena issued by the United States Attorney’s Office.

The subpoena, obtained by the Observer under a public records request, asked the district to produce all documents — including correspondence, contracts, meeting minutes and reports — relating to Wilcox’s departure, dating back to June 1, 2017.

McCray, who retired in December, said the FBI contacted CMS and spoke with the legal department, and that the board was kept out of those conversations in case it would have to take later action on any related issues.

The district was told that it was a routine matter, Dashew said, one conducted when officials leave public office. She said she was not aware of any other contacts from the FBI since then.

Both McCray and Dashew said they did not know what specific information or documents the FBI was seeking. Dashew said the district complied with the request for documents.

Since Wilcox’s departure, former and current employees have alleged that he helped a company that employed his son secure a deal with CMS, and that he sought to become the CEO of another tech company after he successfully lobbied CMS to pay for its software.

An Observer report last Friday revealed that Wilcox had multiple contacts with the founder of Centegix, the company that manufactures the crisis alert system CMS purchased. On Friday, Superintendent Earnest Winston said that the system was not functioning properly, and that CMS would give the company 30 days to fix the issues.

Wilcox and Centegix’s founder, Daniel Dooley, were in contact around the time the district was considering whether to spend money on the crisis alert system. The contacts were a departure from normal practice in which officials generally do not communicate with companies seeking business with the district, unless designated to do so.

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