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Retired superintendent Alexander criticizes firing of Elizabethton athletic directors Pless and Wilson

John Thompson • May 17, 2018 at 8:37 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton Board of Education continues to hear comments about the action of Director of Schools Corey Gardenhour to fire longtime school employees and athletic directors Eddie Pless and Mike Wilson in April.

Both the men were fired after an internal investigation into a financial matter, which was turned over to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office for further investigation. Pless addressed the board last month about the matter.

During its meeting Tuesday, the board heard from retired superintendent of schools Ed Alexander during the time allotted for citizens to address the board.

Alexander said one of the benefits of being retired was that he no longer had to worry about personnel issues, but he felt this was a matter about which he needed to speak out.

He said Gardenhour occasionally calls him to talk, and he did so prior to firing Wilson and Pless. Alexander told the board he advised Gardenhour about “the seriousness of the action” and asked if there was not any other action which might be taken.

Continuing with his discussion of his conversation with Gardenhour, Alexander said he told him he could not agree with the decision to terminate Pless and Wilson and warned him there “would be an enormous amount of blowback from the community.”

Alexander said he understood the matter stems from allegations of fraud from another employee who was not related to Pless and Wilson. He asked what has been done with that employee and why hasn’t the name of that employee been released to the public? He asked why were Pless and Wilson fired prior to the completion of the Comptroller’s investigation?

“These two men have records of 30-plus years of service. They are people with whom I have worked closely on a daily basis for decades … both have worked beyond any normal expectation in very difficult roles, spent their own money, and did whatever the school system needed. They definitely helped this system’s reputation be what it is,” Alexander said.

Alexander said that by releasing the names of the two men, their entire families have been publicly humiliated. He said the action reflects employee mistreatment and poor judgment.

Alexander said he did not believe the men took money at the expense of the system. He asked the board to “publicly restore the integrity of Mike Wilson and Eddie Press and to closely examine the manner in which the system is being directed.”

The board did not comment on Alexander’s remarks.

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