CHILTON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — First, it was a lunchroom manager. Then, it was a bus driver. Now, it’s a nurse who transitioned into a teaching role, one who happens to be married to a sitting school board member.
Shellie Smith, wife of Chilton County School Board member Chris Smith, was sent a letter by the district asking her to repay over $33,000 they said she was overcompensated as a result of repeated payroll errors.
Smith is one of three employees confirmed by CBS 42 to have received such letters, although there may be more.
Christie Payne, a lunchroom manager at Verbena High School, was told she owes $23,465.40, dating back to the 2016-2017 school year.
“I had no idea this was happening,” Payne said. “Now I have seven days to fix a six-year mistake made by the payroll department.”
A bus driver who’s worked for the system for over 20 years was told he owes over $10,000. He said for four days after he received the letter, he woke up at 1:00 in the morning, paced the floors, and cried. He said he doesn’t plan to respond to the system’s demands.
“It’s their mistake,” the bus driver said. “Why do the little people have to pay for it?”
Board member Chris Smith said that he was not informed that the district was sending letters demanding such repayment.
“There were rumors out there that folks were being overpaid,” Chris Smith said, but he wasn’t able to confirm the rumors until two to three weeks ago.
After days of silence, Superindent Jason Griffin and the board of education released a joint statement about the issue Tuesday, saying that the system was legally required to “recoup” overpayments made to employees.
A specially called meeting of the school board had been scheduled for Wednesday, but it has since been canceled.
Board member Chris Smith said he was in favor of holding the meeting to discuss the letters being sent out by the district.
“I really don’t know why the meeting was canceled,” he said. “I was one of the ones that was in favor of continuing to have it. Other board members were not in favor and neither were the CFSO or the superintendent.”
The next regular meeting of the Chilton County School Board is May 17.
CBS 42 reached out to Superintendent Jason Griffin for comment on why Wednesday’s meeting was canceled but has not yet heard back.
If you have received a letter demanding repayment from Chilton County Schools, you can reach out to CBS 42 reporter Lee Hedgepeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.