Little Rock School Board President Katherine Mitchell, Interim Superintendent Linda Watson and administrator Marian Woods did not break state law when they took part in a state Department of Education program, prosecutor Larry Jegley said today. The three were not paid with funds from the Little Rock School District as alleged, Jegley said, but state department funding when they taught summer courses to train people seeking non-traditional teaching licenses.
Jegley's memorandum, issued this afternoon, sharply criticized the circumstances that produced the complaint, originating with Mitchell critic Bob Powers.
"This office spent considerable time and resources in its ensuing review of the matter. During the course of this office's review, it became obvious from telephone, media, and other communications that there is a deep and acrimonious schism in the community served by the Little Rock School District over issues beyond the scope of our review, yet from which review the sides seem to seek some advantage, leverage, or position in regard to the others. Any public pressure, comment or input directed to this office had no impact on our review whatsoever, that review being based strictly upon the law, evidence, and reasoned analysis. That said, there is a disturbing and problematic division in this community which, if left unreconciled, threatens at a fundamental level the future viability of public education in the Little Rock School District, with corresponding negative implications for the educational well-being of students, quality of life, economic growth, crime and other vital issues in the community."
Another complaint leveled at Mitchell was that she failed to file a statement of financial interest for 2004 and her 2005 statement was incomplete. Mitchell told the state Ethics Commission, which investigated the complaint, that she thought she had filed the 2004 and she filed a corrected version of the 2005 statement. Jegley noted that the commission imposed its mildest reprimand to Mitchell. "Further sanction under the Criminal Code would be duplicitious and would not serve the rehabilitative and preventative purposes of the Arkansas Ethics Laws," Jegley wrote.