As a crew worked to look at possible changes to the roof at Armuchee high school they came upon several large pieces of ventilation equipment that had never been hooked up.
The air filtration and ventilation unit had been purchased some time ago and placed on top of the school. However, the work to hook it up had never been done.
This was one of several times Floyd County Schools Superintendent Jeff Wilson said they’ve run across issues which likely began under a former maintenance director now facing criminal charges for defrauding the school system out of over $6 million.
Since Wilson’s tenure began in 2018 they’ve found a number of issues stemming from the time period when Derry Richardson, who resigned in 2015, was the school system’s maintenance director.
The ventilation system had been purchased to make sure the air in the school didn’t have any particles, like mold or asbestos, that could harm students or staff. Since that system had never been hooked up, they initially had some concern.
The case was expected to move forward quickly this year, outlined under a scheduling order put in place by Floyd County Superior Court Judge Jack Niedrach. That is until many court proceedings were halted by an emergency judicial order issued in March by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton.
The order halted many court functions deemed non-essential during a statewide shelter in place order.
In an email correspondence, filed as part of the court record, the judge told attorneys involved that he expected to file a new scheduling order after getting guidance from the Georgia Supreme Court next week.
The current emergency judicial order pushes back at least one set of hearings scheduled and, as the letter stated, assuming the order does expire on May 14, those hearings will need to be rescheduled.
In the previous scheduling order the judge stated hearings would begin in April and a trial to at the end of July.
Also pending is an appeal concerning Judge Niedrach’s ruling to allow the district attorney to dismiss two flawed indictments in the Floyd County Schools’ RICO case is still awaiting a ruling in the states appellate court.
That appeal concerns a ruling that allowed the district attorney to drop two previous indictments. Attorneys for defendants in the case argued the court should have thrown out both indictments.
This year on Jan. 31, the 13 defendants were indicted for a third time. The indictment contains over 300 counts ranging from racketeering to conspiracy to theft.
According to the indictment, Derry Richardson and several others are accused of using his position as maintenance director in the school system to steal millions of dollars from the school system.
Conspirators are accused of creating inflated, and in some cases completely fraudulent, invoices for both construction and maintenance projects.
While a majority of those accused were arrested in 2016, the criminal case only began to move forward in 2018 after a civil case wrapped up.
Among the items expected to be heard in the case are motions to completely end the criminal case.
They argue that the statute of limitations has expired for all of the charges. In another motion, several defendants, are asking the court to be tried separately.