BOE Decisions Costly Again

Last April, the Loudon County Board Of Education voted to enter into a contract with GCA Services for custodial work for all the schools. The contract was for $681,000.00 per year. At least one board member was not in favor of outsourcing the custodial services. Others also had concerns about the contracted services such as, the quality of the work, protecting the jobs of the current custodial staff and who the people who would have access to the schools and be around the students.

Less than a year later, those concerns have come to fruition. Though not yet implicated in the burglaries, keys taken from an employee of GCA Services were used to steal more than $50,000.00 in computers and equipment from a Loudon County school. This was exactly what some feared could happen with an outside contractor.

Board member, Freddie Gene Walker who opposed the contract, was told at the meeting by board member Bobby Johnson Jr. that the schools would get better service from GCA. Walker replied, "we'll see in a year from now."

Well, it's been a year now and the GCA Services contract like so many other decisions by the BOE has turned out to be a disaster. Principals have reported their buildings have gone unclean, most former county employees who were hired by GCA, have been fired of forced out and replaced with lower paid and part time employees. Now we learn of the grand thefts. Chalk this one up as another bad decision made by the board of education.

See related story below.

Missing items at area school lead to arrests
By: Brandon L. Jones
Source: Loudon County News-Herald

Despite the ever-growing need for financial support for the county’s school system, Fort Loudoun Middle School was recently relieved of roughly $50,000 in way of stolen equipment.

Hugh Bryan Clemmer, 38, of Madisonville, was apprehended June 30 in association with the theft of 26 laptop computers, two desktop computers and two TV sets stolen over the course of at least two known robberies June 5 and 11, Loudon Police Chief James “Bear” Webb reported. He said another man, Robert L. Rogers, 52, also of Madisonville was expected to be in custody by Wednesday.

According to Webb, Clemmer admitted they obtained a key from one of the custodial workers with GCA Services, the group handling the janitorial work for the county’s schools. The woman who they allegedly stole the key from is Clemmer’s aunt, who presently isn’t being held accountable for any part in the crime Webb said. “Both of them claim she wasn’t aware they had the keys,” the chief noted. “And there’s no way to prove that she did. But these keys have been missing for three weeks, you know . . . there’s just something not right about that.”

He said these men have probably had keys to every school in the county, leaving curiosity lingering whether other items will be reported missing in coming days, maybe weeks, by those from other schools. One of the problems with this particular time and this particular crime is that, since school is out for the summer, not as many people — if any — are at the schools to notice missing items. “Our midnight shift patrol officers do a great job of checking the commercial businesses and all the schools,” Webb said, “so it has just been to our amazement that these burglaries have occurred. As a matter of fact, the school administrators out there weren’t aware immediately that they had been burglarized. And they began to miss a few items here and there — some things were out of place — and they got to reviewing the video and realized that these guys were coming right in the school.”

The men, according to the information being gathered through Detective Mike Newman’s investigation, would wait for the patrolling police officer to check the school and leave before they would enter the school using the key they’d reportedly stolen. Once inside, they would lock the door behind them and by the time another round was made by the patrolling cruiser, the suspects were gone, Webb said. “Once they get inside,” the chief explained, “they’re not going to spend enough time to wait for that officer to come back again.”

The investigation has led officers to believe the motivation for these crimes was crack or to at least to get money for the drug, the chief noted. Webb said the stolen laptops were being sold for $100 apiece and that Clemmer and Rogers are apparently cooperating with investigators trying to recover as much of the stolen goods as they can, if any can be salvaged.

“Our investigation has indicated there are other individuals that have been involved with these burglaries,” Webb said, “and there’s a good possibility that others will be charged later.” The department is continuing its investigation.