fairfield tower


FITSNews – December 10, 2007 – It’s been nearly two months since we were first introduced to the rock ’em sock ’em world of Fairfield County politics … and if things stay this interesting, we may not cover anything else.

It all started back in early October, when an anonymous source contacted FITSNews with a “hot tip” about an alleged scandal involving the local school board chairwoman, Annie McDaniel. Knowing our proclivity for exposing educrat waste, we were urged by this source to investigate claims that Ms. McDaniel had taken an unauthorized trip on the taxpayers’ dime back in August of this year – to a sorority party in New Orleans, of all things.

Well, as we do with all tips, we did investigate – but it didn’t take long before an entirely different story emerged. Not only did Ms. McDaniel’s “sorority party” actually turn out to be a legitimate education seminar, but her trip was authorized in advance by some of the same people who then turned around and accused her of “abusing the public trust.” On top of that, we learned that the Chairwoman’s chief detractor, Fairfield Superintendent Samantha Ingram, had a rather large axe to grind given that Ms. McDaniel was evidently pushing her to improve on the 786 average SAT score the district produces with the $50.6 million (or $13,777 per student) we pour into its schools each year.

Anyway, if that abysmal performance wasn’t enough, now Superintendent Ingram has another reason to be on the defensive. That’s because according to last Thursday’s edition of the Mobile (AL) Press-Register, one of Ingram’s top Fairfield County lieutenants faces an investigation by the Alabama Attorney General after that state’s Ethics Commission unanimously forwarded a complaint alleging that she illegally solicited money from vendors with business before Ingram’s former school district.. From the Press-Register story

The Alabama Ethics Commission decided Wednesday to forward a complaint about former Mobile County schools Assistant Superintendent Annie Crandle to the Mobile County district attorney for “further review and possible prosecution.” The complaint … concerns Crandle’s alleged involvement in soliciting money from vendors who did business with the schools. Crandle, who now works in South Carolina, could not be reached for comment …

Superintendent Ingram brought Crandle with her to Fairfield in June of this year when she was hired to run the county’s school district. And while none of the South Carolina news coverage of Ingram’s announcement referenced the Alabama allegations, they were widely-known in Mobile according to Thursday’s Press-Register story:

According to a Press-Register investigation (in 2006), Mobile County school officials solicited thousands of dollars in donations from textbook publishers and other companies between 2004-06. The officials used that money to host staff luncheons, a Christmas party with Wal-Mart gift certificates given out as door prizes, another party featuring a disc jockey and other events.

Ingram’s boss in Alabama, Mobile Superintendent Harold Dodge, told the Lagniappe Mobile in May of 2007 that he had spoken with “at least two” Fairfield County School Board members, and had spoken with one in particular about “some bad press” that Ingram had received in the wake of the solicitation allegations. Dodge also said he spoke with the second Fairfield board member about another publicized incident involving Ingram’s improper communication with an impeached school board member named David Thomas.

Thomas, who was indicted in 2005 for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident after running over a young girl’s foot with his Land Rover during Mardi Gras, participated in at least 200 phone conversations with Ingram following his impeachment, conversations which Mobile’s District Attorney has said were in violation of a judge’s order. Ingram, incidentally, was the only person to testify on Thomas’ behalf during his impeachment hearings, according to the Lagniappe Mobile.

“I told at least two (Fairfield) school board members that she did some truly innovative things,” Dodge told the paper back in May. “One asked about some bad press and I said I never saw anything that would indicate she had some personal gain. Another asked me about the phone calls, but among our staff, there was some confusion about that.”

While Ingram is clearly front-and-center in Fairfield’s school system as Superintendent, Ms. Crandle is not listed on the District’s administration and staff webpage, although she does appear in the district’s online directory as Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement.

Stay tuned to FITSNews for more on this developing story …