The recent hiring of Superintendent Jeff Moss' wife by the Beaufort County School District is not the first time she has been hired for a high-level position in a district where her husband served in a top post, nor is it the first time questions have been raised about its appropriateness.
Darlene Moss' hiring in a newly restructured position called director of innovation is now the fourth time she has been hired by a district where her husband was a top administrator. Specifically:
• A month after Jeff Moss became superintendent in Stanly County, N.C., in 2000, his wife was hired as an assistant principal and then later became an administrator, working with new teachers and making a $48,000 salary. It is unknown whether this was a newly created position. The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette have requested that information.
• She had previously worked in Hoke County, N.C., as a teacher and human resources coordinator making a salary of $44,664, district records show. Jeff Moss also worked in Hoke County at that time, as an instructor and later as an assistant superintendent. Darlene Moss' supervisors and hiring managers in Hoke and Stanly counties could not be reached or declined to comment about her employment.
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• When Jeff Moss was hired in Beaufort County, N.C., in 2004, Darlene Moss was hired three months later in a newly created curriculum coordinator role. Minutes from a Beaufort, N.C., Board of Commissioners meeting in July 2006 detail concern over Darlene Moss' hiring during talks about the budget. Jay McRoy, then chairman of the county's Board of Commissioners, presented a PowerPoint presentation criticizing that a position had been "created" for Darlene Moss. According to McRoy's presentation, Darlene Moss' salary and benefits totaled about $70,000 per year.
McRoy, who admits to being a frequent political opponent of Moss, said last week that he saw the hire of Darlene Moss as an improper use of public funds and a case of favoritism.
"I brought it up in public meeting, yes, because it was obvious to me that he just wanted the job for his wife," McRoy said. "I was thinking it would always be a problem if she was serving under him while he was superintendent. The commissioners were not happy with him paying his own wife, among many other things."
One of those other unhappy commissioners was Hood Richardson.
"It was a judgment problem," Richardson said last week when contacted by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. "You can't have your district hire your wife. I will say I'm not surprised he did it again."
Jeff Moss' supporters, however, said they had no issue with the hiring and say Darlene Moss performed well with no issues.
"The board was well aware of Dr. Moss and his wife being hired, but it was nothing uncommon. Our present superintendent's wife is working for the district," said Mac Hodges, who served on the Beaufort County Board of Education in North Carolina when Jeff Moss was superintendent. Hodges was also a member of the personnel committee that approved Darlene Moss' hiring in 2004.
"There were some questions raised about it in committee with him as the new superintendent," Hodges said. "But we found that he wasn't going to be her direct supervisor, so it went through without a hiccup."
On Friday, Jeff Moss reiterated that he has never broken any nepotism rules and that he never secured a job for his wife nor served as her direct supervisor.
He said that he did not remember any issues in Beaufort County, N.C., surrounding a newly created position for his wife and did not receive any formal complaints from the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
He contends that the reason he and his wife have been consistently employed in the same districts is that "we're both highly regarded educators. And our resumes speak for themselves."
More recently, Darlene and Jeff Moss did not work in the same district from 2009 until last year, when she was hired for six months as a consultant for the Beaufort County School District where Jeff Moss has served as superintendent since 2013.
Darlene Moss started Monday as a full-time director of innovation for the district, earning $90,000. Subsequent reports by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette have shown that Jeff Moss recently changed the district's nepotism rules that dealt with the hiring of family members.
Following a swell of public complaints of nepotism, two board members have spoken out against the circumstances of Darlene Moss' hiring, while three others say it was appropriate. The remaining six have not taken specific public stances on whether Darlene Moss' hiring and Jeff Moss' changing of the district rules was OK.
The board has scheduled a special closed-door meeting for Monday to discuss its personnel practices in the wake of the revelations.
Asked Monday about residents expressing frustration about his wife's hiring, Jeff Moss said he had not received a single phone call or email in response. Of online commenters on The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette's website, he said several were likely holding grudges.
"I think you're trying to find something that's not there. ..." Jeff Moss said. "I would suspect when we did redistricting, some of those people felt and still feel we were wrong to draw lines where we did."
Follow reporter Erin Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_erinh.