Eric Davis renews call for outside review of Heath Morrison’s departure from CMS

Heath Morrison
Heath Morrison

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Eric Davis renewed his call Tuesday for an outside attorney to review the process that led former Superintendent Heath Morrison to resign last month.

Davis said the public feels that questions are left unanswered and the uncertainty could make it more difficult for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to recruit talented superintendents.

“These concerns are not just mine; they are our tax-paying, bond-approving, voting constituents’ concerns,” Davis said. “And we have a duty to address them.”

Morrison announced he would step down from his role in early November and said it was to take care of his ailing mother.

The Observer later reported that school board general counsel George Battle III had presented a report to the board days before that outlined allegations that Morrison bullied staff members and misled the board on the cost of a project at UNC Charlotte.

The board ultimately voted 6-3 to accept Morrison’s resignation. Davis has since expressed his support for Morrison and voted against accepting his resignation.

Battle and several school board members have offered more detailed accounts on what triggered the investigation into Morrison.

Battle has said he received several allegations about Morrison’s conduct that led him to begin the investigation in early October. One came from Kevin Bringewatt, a real estate lawyer who has worked with CMS for two decades, who spoke of ethical concerns.

Battle later conducted numerous interviews with CMS administrators. Battle met with school board members individually, and at least several told Battle to keep digging. The full school board was not presented with the findings until Oct. 28, when the investigation was nearly complete.

Davis said Tuesday that the public has still not received an answer on what role the board should play in authorizing an investigation of the superintendent and overseeing it.

He also asked what effect that uncertainty has on the working relationship between superintendents and general counsels going forward.

“Superintendent candidates are asking these questions,” Davis said, adding that avoiding the questions would make it harder to recruit a good candidate and make the next superintendent’s job to unite the community more challenging.

“Learning from this experience is my primary objective,” he said.

Board member Mary McCray said at the end of the meeting that Davis’s statement made a lot of sense and said she hoped it could be discussed at a January retreat.

The board provided no further information Tuesday on how it would search for Morrison’s replacement.

McCray said at a meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club in west Charlotte late last month that the school board might hold several special meetings in December to discuss the timeline for a search. None has been scheduled.

Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark is leading the district, but has not been granted the title of “interim superintendent.”

The board may wait until it names a replacement for board member Joyce Waddell, who must resign her position to join the N.C. Senate in January. She did not offer her resignation during Tuesday’s meeting.

After Waddell steps down, the board will appoint a successor for her seat. School board vice chairman Tim Morgan has said he wants the new board member to have a say in who will be the district’s next permanent superintendent.