A former assistant school superintendent has admitted he accepted gifts and favors from contractors while on the job.
Sprunt Hill pleaded guilty today in Wayne County Superior Court.
Hill was assistant superintendent for auxiliary services in Wayne County from 2000 until 2009 when he was placed on administrative leave. The 61-year-old Mount Olive man was arrested just last week on the charges.
The joint FBI/Wayne County Sheriff's Office investigation began four years ago and resulted in the arrest and convictions of three people.
Deputies say Hill's arrest was connected to a school roof bid-rigging scheme that landed a former school maintenance director and his assistant in prison along with several contractors.
Hill was given a 45 day suspended sentence, placed on 12 months supervised probation, fined $5,000 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service.
Sheriff Carey Winders says the administration of the school system fully assisted with the investigation which he says is now closed.
Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said he was disappointed to learn that Hill admitted to illegal conduct while a school system employee. "Personally, I am deeply saddened that a trusted colleague would exercise poor judgment in carrying out the responsibilities and duties of his position,” said Taylor.
Taylor and the assistant superintendent for accountability and student services, Dr. Craig McFadden, recently announced their retirements. “It is ludicrous to suggest or speculate that our retirements are somehow connected to this investigation," said Taylor. "Dr. McFadden oversees testing and our Exceptional Children’s Department and has absolutely no dealings with facilities and maintenance bids or contractors."
The superintendent says for himself, he is finishing 34 years in his public education career. "With this case officially closed, with regard to Wayne County Public Schools, I will retire with a clear conscience knowing that no other employees were involved and that my efforts from the very beginning of the investigation and throughout will help deter and prevent this type of criminal behavior from occurring within our school district again,” said Taylor.
School System News Release
WCPS Statement Regarding Sprunt Hill
“Wayne County Public Schools holds all of its employees to the highest standards,” states Dr. Steven Taylor, WCPS Superintendent. “It was with great disappointment to learn this morning that former assistant superintendent, Sprunt Hill, pleaded guilty to illegal conduct while employed by the district. Personally, I am deeply saddened that a trusted colleague would exercise poor judgment in carrying out the responsibilities and duties of his position.”
Since 2009, the district administration has fully cooperated with this investigation as needed and requested. It is important to note, maintaining the public trust and the fiscal integrity of school operations has always been a top priority for the district. After this investigation began, the district administration implemented new fiscal safe-guards, increased protocols for department operations, and hired a fulltime internal auditor.
“After more than three years, I am pleased to see this investigation brought to a close. I appreciate the efforts and support throughout this case by all of the investigating agencies,” adds Dr. Taylor.
Recently, Dr. Taylor and Assistant Superintendent for Accountability and Student Services, Dr. Craig McFadden, announced their retirements. The district would like to make it clear that the timing of the announcements is nothing more than coincidence and completely unrelated to Mr. Hill’s case. It is also worth noting that the Wayne County Board of Education asked both administrators to stay following their announcements.
“It is ludicrous to suggest or speculate that our retirements are somehow connected to this investigation. Dr. McFadden oversees testing and our Exceptional Children’s Department and has absolutely no dealings with facilities and maintenance bids or contractors. Further, he has spent the past 38 years pouring his heart and soul into helping our district raise student achievement across all levels and would never in any way put himself before the children of this county. His character is above reproach and I have never met a man with more attributes of integrity and honesty,” states Dr. Taylor.
“For me, I have dedicated the past 34 years of my public education career to educating students and preparing them for college, the military, or work. With my staff, we have accomplished much over the past 13 years during my tenure as superintendent, leading over 3,000 staff in a unified and forward moving effort to offer the highest levels of education and opportunity to the more than 19 thousand students enrolled in our 31 schools. With this case officially closed, with regard to Wayne County Public Schools, I will retire with a clear conscience knowing that no other employees were involved and that my efforts from the very beginning of the investigation and throughout will help deter and prevent this type of criminal behavior from occurring within our school district again,” adds Dr. Taylor.
Investigation Timeline: In 2009, the district was approached by federal, state, and local investigators regarding allegations of illegal conduct in its Maintenance Department. The WCPS Administration worked openly and fully cooperated with investigators, giving them full access to files, databases, and staff as needed. As a result of the ongoing investigation, on October 7, 2009, Danny Langley, the district’s Maintenance Director was placed on Administrative Leave. Wayne Rhodes, the former Assistant Maintenance Director, was another person of interest in the investigation. Mr. Rhodes retired Sept 1, 2009.
In late 2009, the district learned a separate investigation was being conducted regarding allegations of illegal conduct by Sprunt Hill, who served as the Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services at the time. As a result of that investigation, on December 18, 2009, the district placed Mr. Hill on administrative leave. Mr. Hill retired on March 1, 2010.
In August, 2011, both Mr. Langley and Mr. Rhodes were charged with illegal conduct. In December 2011, both pleaded guilty to a bid rigging scam and were sentenced in federal court in September 2012. On April 24, 2013, Mr. Hill was charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor for unlawfully accepting gifts from contractors. On Tuesday, April 30, Mr. Hill pleaded guilty and was sentenced in district court.
Deputies said they joined with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to arrest a former public school system assistant superintendent.
Wayne County deputies said they arrested 61-year-old Sprunt Hill of Mount Olive for unlawfully accepting gifts and/or favors from contractor or suppliers.
The Sheriff's Office said the charges are from July of 2007 until the end of June in 2009, while Hill was employed as the assistant superintendent for Wayne County Public Schools.
The school system says Hill was assistant superintendent for auxiliary services and was placed on administrative leave with pay on December 18, 2009. They say he retired on March 1, 2010.
Hill had worked for the school system as a teacher, assistant principal and principal since August 1977. He was promoted to assistant superintendent in 2000.
He was put in jail under a $2,500 bond and has a court date set for April 30th.