Third Judicial District Attorney General Berkeley Bell told the Times-News Monday that a school official brought him the allegations last week, and he has since requested the TBI investigation.
As of Monday, TBI agents had already been to the school system’s central office in Rogersville gathering records.
There are at least 17 full-time Hawkins County school employees who are also “full-time” school bus drivers, including three maintenance workers, a bus mechanic, the bus shop secretary, a school secretary, a high school bookkeeper, a high school assistant principal, a data entry clerk, a custodian and seven teachers’ aides.
“The allegation is that they’re getting paid for work they’re not performing,” Bell told the Times-News Monday. “In essence they’d be stealing from the county. They’d be getting paid for two jobs during that time driving the school bus while only performing one job.”
Among the school maintenance employees under investigation is Hawkins County Commissioner Darrell Gilliam, who also drives a school bus.
Gilliam told the Times-News Monday that he can’t speak for the other employees who drive a bus, but he knows the TBI will find no wrongdoing on his part.
“It’s just a big mix-up, really,” Gilliam said. “I drive a school bus and work in school maintenance. They pay me from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. to work in maintenance, and I’m there from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. They’ve already checked me. From what they told me they’re checking them all.”
Gilliam added, “I can assure you that I haven’t done anything illegal, but they are checking. I drive a school bus (in the morning), and by 7:30 a.m. I’ve got that bus parked and I’m in school maintenance. I’m off the clock at 3 p.m. and I’m back in the school bus.”
Gilliam said he has driven a school bus and worked in the maintenance department for the entire 14 years he’s worked in the school system.
Full-time Hawkins County school bus drivers get paid $46 per day for 180 to 195 school days per year.
An ongoing topic of discussion on the Board of Education in recent years has been the difficulty in finding school bus drivers to hire.
“I’ve done it all these years as a favor to the school,” Gilliam added. “Nobody enjoys driving a school bus.”
In regard to the investigation, Director of Schools Charlotte Britton said, “Hawkins County Board of Education is fully cooperating with the office of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Any information requested by the TBI will be presented to their office. We are making all efforts to assist their office to ensure all questions are answered in a timely manner to resolve any pertinent issues. At this time, I cannot respond with details while the investigation is under review.”
Bell said there was no timeline for completion of the investigation.