Gary B.: Following the Susi Epperson stories in Daily Guard

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It is an interesting story I am following in the Batesville Daily Guard about a grant writer and the Cedar Ridge Public School System.

It has been a page one story for two days about Susi Epperson

And a state audit.

Epperson is considered by many in this area of Arkansas to be the supreme grant writer, particularly when it comes to educational grants.

She recently told a gathering that she was now a grant writing consultant after working eight years for Cedar Ridge as a grant writer and elementary principal.

Lacy Mitchell in her Guard article mentions that Epperson resigned her position with Cedar Ridge School last August, just before school started. Apparently, Epperson and the district’s superintendent, Andy Ashley, clashed on more than one occasion.

Epperson, in the article, said she filed an ethics complaint to the Arkansas Department of Education on Ashley for not following equal opportunity employment laws, and said she had worked in a “hostile environment.” Apparently, that accusation was not upheld by the board that heard the complaint, but another complaint on a worker’s compensation claim was upheld in Epperson’s favor. Epperson has said the allegations against her in audit findings are the result of her turning in Ashley to the Professional Licensure Standards Board on ethics violations.

The audit findings said alleged discrepancies were found in 25 grant applications written by Epperson. There were accusations of fabrications in letters of support; pledges of volunteer in-kind hours and services without knowledge of the pledges by the people and cities involved; applications written for entities such as a school campus where none existed; and, according to the audit findings, inaccurate information found in many grant sections.

Holly Meyer, prosecuting attorney for the 16th Judicial District, receives audits from the state and reportedly told the Guard there could be criminal activity revealed by this audit, and she has asked the Arkansas State Police to investigate.

It is the procedure of the state police to review the prosecutor’s information, then get back with the prosecutor and acknowledge they would or would not investigate. Apparently, Meyer is waiting on their reply.

Epperson has said through the newspaper articles that she had not previously been questioned about any of the grant information and met with the auditor to find out what is being questioned, saying she could answer any of their questions.

Epperson has publically said that she is running for an office, and these allegations could ruin her effort as well as ruin her business. She said people have the tendency to first think you are guilty even before facts in the case come out.  Prosecutor Meyer also said everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

I will continue to follow this story and see where it goes.  You may want to as well.

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