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 State Still ‘Negotiating’ with Smith and Son

February 14, 2007 - More than a year after the Indiana Attorney General’s Office asked a local school administrator and her son to repay more than $30,000 in grant money they received from a Henry County nonprofit agency, the state has yet to take any legal action to recover the money.

Patricia Smith, the former curriculum director for the Charles A. Beard Memorial School Corporation, and her son, Clint Childress, both received letters from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General in January 2006 formally demanding that they pay the state $22, 496.40 and $10,208.34, respectively. The demand letters were based on the results of a State Board of Accounts audit that had concluded that pair should repay grant money they had received in connection with work they were supposed to do for ARIES/Heny County LCC, an area nonprofit that used grant money from the state’s share of settlements reached with tobacco companies to fund efforts to reduce and prevent use of tobacco products.

In letters dated January 5, 2006, Deputy Attorney General LeGrand Clark advised Smith and Childress that the state was “prepared to institute legal proceedings” against them if they did not remit payment within 30 days. Although more than 12 months have passed since the demand letters were sent out, the IAG’s office still has yet to sue Smith or Childress in an effort to recover the money.

Late last week, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter confirmed that his office “still in negotiations” with respect to the cases involving Smith and Childress. Although neither Smith nor her son have made any payments toward what they are said to owe, Carter said his office has not yet initiated any legal actions to recover the money.

“It’s not extremely unusual,” Carter answered when asked about the length of time that has gone by with no further action from his office. “It may be a little longer than average, but we have a lot of cases that go longer than average,” he said. “We’ve got to balance the cost of pursuing litigation with the possibilities of success, or at least partial success, through negotiation, and that’s still where it is.

“If we feel negotiations are not going to be productive at all, then we’ll litigate the case,” Carter continued. He declined to say, however, how much more time his office is prepared to allow for negotiations before beginning legal proceedings against Smith and Childress.

 In materials submitted with a February 3, 2006, letter to Clark, New Castle attorney David Copenhaver, who represents Smith and Childress, indicated that Smith was only willing to repay $6,871.40. He said Childress was not willing to repay any amount.

“In short, we believe as to many of the issues, once all of the testimony is given, and all documents reviewed, Mrs. Smith and her son would be exonerated,” Copenhaver said in his letter. “Nonetheless, my clients do not want to proceed further with this matter. They are prepared to make certain payments to the State in order to put this matter behind them. They will not pay the entire sum proposed by the audit. To do so simply would violate their conviction that they performed good and valuable services for the wages they received. We have ample evidence that supports their position.”


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