Muscogee County school transportation director fired

The superintendent has asked the Muscogee County School Board to hire a new transportation director because the previous one was fired.

Notice of Frank Brown’s departure hasn’t been included in any of the personnel reports on the board’s monthly agenda and hasn’t been publicly discussed during any board meeting, including Monday evening’s work session. But through emails exchanged with Muscogee County School District administrators Monday and in interviews after the work session, the Ledger-Enquirer has learned that Brown was fired Aug. 19 after a monthlong MCSD investigation determined he violated the district’s ethics and purchasing policies.

“Specifically, purchasing limits and approval procedures were not followed, and Mr. Brown failed to report that his son had ownership in the business in which these violations were involved,” said MCSD communications director Valerie Fuller.

MCSD human resources chief Kathy Tessin and operations chief David Goldberg said the district didn’t spend any money with the business in question, but Brown did try to get his son’s company the district’s contract that included sanitizing buses, they said.

“There was no purchase before we caught the issue,” Tessin said.

Brown’s termination came three days before the Aug. 22 single-vehicle crash that killed bus driver Roy Newman and sent all seven passengers to a hospital. Newman was driving a replacement bus after his original bus broke down that morning, but the crash and Brown’s dismissal aren’t connected, Tessin said.

Brown directed the transportation department for four years and was assistant director for six years, Tessin said. Goldberg is supervising the department until a new director is hired, Fuller said.

Superintendent David Lewis has recommended the board hire former Columbus TV newscaster John Lyles as Brown’s replacement. Lyles has nearly 15 years of work experience in public transportation, including with MCSD and the Columbus Consolidated Government, according to his resume. He lists two current job positions: president and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Internet Transportation Solutions LLC (also known as iTrans) since June 2010 and owner of Columbus-based JR Construction Inc. since June 2005.

Lyles’ previous jobs include: assistant superintendent for operations in the Liberty County (Hinesville, Ga.) School District from August 2013 to June 2014, transportation director for Atlanta Public Schools from December 2010 to August 2013, transportation director for Clayton County (Jonesboro, Ga.) Public Schools from December 2005 to December 2010, transportation specialist for the Muscogee County School District from September 2003 to December 2005, transportation services manager for the METRA transit system in Columbus from March 2001 to September 2003, the owner of a Subway sandwich shop franchise in Columbus from January 1998 to January 2004, senior news anchor for WTVM in Columbus from November 1994 to March 2001, bureau chief and news reporter for WLOS in Asheville, N.C., from November 1992 to November 1994, government reporter for WLTZ in Columbus from November 1991 to November 1992.

Lyles earned a master’s degree in business management from Troy University in 2006 and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Columbus State University in 1999.

The only questions from board members during the work session about this agenda item came from District 2 representative John Thomas, who asked whether the vacancy was posted and how many candidates applied, and District 1 representative Pat Hugley Green, who asked about the salary. Tessin said the vacancy indeed was posted and attracted 10 applicants, including three MCSD employees. The salary range is $76,000 to $90,000, Tessin said.